Abigail Foster and her family face financial ruin when a family investment goes wrong. Abigail, always the practical one, takes it upon herself to find a new, affordable home for the family and makes sure her younger sister can still have a Season. Then, a mysterious offer arrives: the family can live in Pembrooke Park, a manor from distant relatives which has been abandoned for 18 years. Abigail, not seeing a better alternative, takes the offer and moves to the village of Easton. She enjoys living in the large old house and makes friends with the local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah. But there are many rumours about the previous inhabitants of Pembrooke Park and a possible hidden treasure. Then,letters without sender reach Abigail and she becomes more involved than she bargained for.
Julie Klassen has been one of my go-to authors for the past years. She was one of the first authors who re-popularized Regency within Christian fiction and I was so pleased to find interesting novels set in one of my favourite time-periods. The Secret of Pembrooke Park is her 8th and last novel, but also unfortunately my least favourite so far.
This has nothing to do with the historical background, which is rich and well-researched as always. I follow Julie Klassen's blogposts and even had the opportunity to meet her once and it's clear she takes historical research very serious. Also Pembrooke Park paints an interesting picture of the everyday life and the social structures of the Regency.
No, what was dissapointing to me was how much this was a mystery/suspense story and how little character-driven. I see a trend that more and more Christian historical novels (and Regency especially) 'have' to have a mystery component. I'm just not a fan of this, especially when it takes over the whole story and gets 'in the way' of character and relationship development. What I would like to see in a Regency novel is balls and relationships crossing class-divides and young women learning to be themselves. What I got in Pembrooke Park was secret rooms and hooded figures in the night.... Also, one of the last chapters of this novel was just so typical of a mystery story (and remember, I've seen and read very few of those!) that I rolled my eyes and thought: don't tell me she's going thát route!
So in short, I'm sure there are many readers who will enjoy The Secret of Pembrooke Park very much as it ís a well-written novel overall. I just hope that Julie Klassen (and other authors of historical fiction) remember that not all their readers are fans of suspense. I'll definitely not stop reading Julie Klassen's novels, but I'll maybe be a bit more critical on which one I pick up in the future.
I received an ebook version of this novel from NetGalley and the publisher Bethany House in exchange for an honest review