The Tutor's Daughter is Julie Klassen's best novel yet. Not only is it a puzzling suspense rich in historic detail, but also a believable love story.
Klassen addresses several common practices of the regency era - education by a tutor, wreckers scavenging and profiting from shipwrecks, and sending away handicapped children to foster families. Her note at the end of the novel adds additional detail about Cornwall's history of shipwrecks and Jane Austin's own family - one of her older brothers was sent to a foster family due to his mental or physical affliction.
One of the things I like best is that there is no sudden, inexplicable attraction that Emma feels toward Henry, like in so many novels where the hero and heroine are at odds from the start. While Henry appears to have been attracted to Emma from their first meeting nearly a decade ago (and promptly showed it in typical schoolboy fashion through insults and practical jokes), Emma's attraction is based on slowly getting to know him as a man who cares for people and his home. Yes, she is incredibly suspicious of him at first - and who wouldn't be after years of practical jokes? - and as long as she suspects him of his old tricks, she really does not feel any attraction toward the man. However, as he proves himself time and again to be a mature and compassionate man, her heart changes toward him. It is a much sweeter and more realistic (and healthier!) love story than most romantic novels can boast, be they secular or Christian.
While the book is not full of scripture quotes or zealous characters, Klassen still weaves in a good message. Throughout the book Emma grows from a very regimented girl who prefers to order her life in the safest and most predictable way possible to an open woman who refuses to let fear and order imprison her. In opening her heart to Henry and God, she opens her heart to pursuing her own dreams. I especially liked that Henry cares enough about Emma's spiritual state to make sure Emma turns to God with her whole heart, and that it is not just in the heat of the moment because she is about to die.
Five out of five stars!