Bewitching in Mystery, Fostering in Message
The Secret of Pembrooke Park
by Julie Klassen
Publication Date: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
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Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play…
As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light.
Abigail Foster convinced her father to invest in her uncle’s business venture, and her advice almost ruined them. The family will have to leave their stylish London home and lifestyle behind. Ever the dutiful daughter, Abigail forfeits her own dowry so that her younger sister might still have a season of her own to find a match.
Abigail and her father receive a letter from a solicitor offering them the chance to live at Pembrooke Park, a manor house that has stood empty for nearly two decades. The manor is shrouded in mystery and seemingly haunted by more than dust and disuse: “[the front door] looked like a gaped mouth, and the windows above like frightened eyes.” Surrounded by whispers, rumors, threats, and other dangers, Abigail will have to piece together clues and decide in whom she can trust if she’s to discover the truth of what happened at Pembrooke Park.
This is my first time reading a Julie Klassen novel, and it will most definitely not be the last. What a delight! Ms. Klassen has a sensibility somewhere between Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. The Secret of Pembrooke Park is equal parts Regency Romance and Mystery, with the stately yet scary manor house supplying just enough gothic flavor to up the creepy quotient. Expertly plotted, the novel will hold your attention and interest throughout with such a tight grip you’ll be tempted to go without eating or sleeping in order to continue to unravel the threads of this tightly woven mystery. Klassen has crafted a full cast of well-defined characters, giving even her secondary characters their moments to shine.
While never heavy-handed with its theology, this is a Christian novel. It’s interesting to see English customs and mores of the Regency era through a Christian lens. Thematically, one of the novel’s focal points is self-worth as measured through means other than material wealth. A step removed from the influence of fashionable society, while Abigail investigates what happened at Pembrooke Park, her experiences cause her to reflect on the things that really matter. Indeed, where does one’s treasure lie: in glittering gold or in immeasurable riches like faith, family, and friends?
— Dawn Teresa
4.5 of 5 Hearts. Bewitching in Mystery, Fostering in Message.
With The Secret of Pembrooke Park, award-winning author Julie Klassen strikes a delicately perfect balance between romance, mystery, and edification. Reading a Klassen novel is as refreshingly restorative as a garden stroll!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”