Monday, December 15, 2014

"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" by Julie Klassen - a decadent, complex mystery

The Secret of Pembrooke Park
Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park is like a rich dessert in which one cannot help but indulge.

After an investment gone wrong, Abigail Foster and her family are forced to retrench. When a distant, anonymous relation offers an opportunity for them to let a mansion abandoned under peculiar circumstances, they take up the offer. Abigail, the practical, older daughter, is in charge of preparing the house while her lovely sister finishes her season. She makes friends with William Chapman, the handsome, local curate, and his family, who know more about the mysterious mansion than they are willing to share. Rumors claim a treasure is hidden in a secret room of the house, but soon Abigail discovers she is not the only one looking for it. Will ferreting out the past prove the key to the future, or will it bring danger upon them all?

I think one of the most difficult aspects of a regency is making a convincing hero - a man who is a gentleman, but a man who is undeniably masculine. Clergymen heroes are often portrayed as incredibly good, sweet men, but they often lack vibrancy. William blows the stereotypes out of the water. He may be a preacher, but there is nothing weak or namby-pamby about him, not physically, not mentally, and not spiritually. He is everything a hero should be - not perfect, but a powerful man of God. 

Abigail is an easy character to relate to. In the course of little over a year, all her plans and expectations for her life are destroyed, leaving her with a wounded self esteem and strained relationship with her family. While the people who love her aren't setting out to hurt her, inconsiderate actions on their part only serve to reopen the wounds. Who hasn't felt that? All those insecurities from lies we believe about ourselves?

I like how the author blends the mystery - and quite a complex one, at that - with Abigail's everyday life, so that while the mystery is an important aspect of the story, it is by no means the whole story. Touches of suspense liven up the relaxed, country atmosphere. Decadently long and rich with Klassen's characteristic period detail, The Secret of Pembrooke Park is a complex mystery to savor. 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House for providing a free copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

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