From the desk of Katie Patchell:
Women writers in the 21st century are accepted and praised for their ability to write great literature. Their books are proudly published alongside the books written by men, and literature today is not judged by the gender of the author but by the quality of the content. But it wasn’t always like this. Female authors in the Regency underwent many struggles that are not experienced or understood today. Society in the 1800’s rarely accepted female authors, and it was the exception, not the norm, that guaranteed a woman protection from society after publishing under her own name. So if society frowned upon female authors, then how would an authoress even go about finding and meeting with a publisher? How could she recover from public knowledge of her authorship? What was the consequence of daring to become an author? And what were the pros and cons of remaining anonymous? Julie Klassen answers these questions and more in The Girl in the Gatehouse, a Regency novel filled with romance, intrigue, and a mysterious authoress.
After a terrible indiscretion ruins her in the eyes of polite society, Mariah Aubrey is sent by her father to live in an abandoned gatehouse on the edges of her aunt’s estate, accompanied only by her loyal servant, Miss Dixon. Ignored by her aunt and scorned by all of her loved ones and past acquaintances, Mariah plans to spend the rest of her days living quietly and going unnoticed by all, supporting herself anonymously by writing novels. But when Captain Matthew Bryant moves into Windrush Court after the death of her aunt, Mariah discovers that her heart isn’t as closed up as she thought. But could Captain Bryant ever love her if he knew what had happened in her past? When a house party hosted by Captain Bryant includes many guests who are from Mariah’s previous life, can she protect herself from them and keep them from revealing her secrets, past and present?
With a fortune in prize money and the title of Captain, Matthew Bryant leases Windrush Court, with the hopes of eventually buying it and securing his status as a gentleman. With unshakable determination, he plans on wooing Isabella Forsythe, the woman who rejected him before he left for the navy. But to Matthew’s bewilderment, his future plans start to lose their excitement as he spends more and more time with the mysterious Miss Aubrey. Her conversation and inner beauty attract him, but with the hoped-for future Mrs. Bryant coming to his house party (who happens to be arriving with her fiancé), Matthew keeps Mariah at a distance, telling himself that surely the woman he loves is the dazzling Miss Forsythe, not the puzzling Miss Aubrey. When the truth comes out, will Matthew discover who it is he truly loves, and will Mariah and Matthew both be able to forgive their own past mistakes in order to save their future?
As with Klassen’s other Regency romances, The Girl in the Gatehouse is filled with many different characters and plot twists that all added to the overall story and the overarching mystery. Untangling the multiple mysteries kept me turning page after page, and all the characters (main and secondary) were so interesting. The Girl in the Gatehouse is reminiscent of Downton Abbey—not in the time period or plot, but because of the in-depth look at all the characters and their back-stories, from the two elderly Merryweather sisters to Mariah Aubrey’s aunt. Rather than the story just being focused on Mariah Aubrey and Captain Bryant, The Girl in the Gatehouse was really about more than ten different characters, whose storylines (and personal mysteries!) all came together at the end to make a delightful and satisfyingly happy ending.
Something that I found very interesting in The Girl in the Gatehouse was the role-reversal of the hero and heroine regarding their placement in the love triangle. As I’m sure many readers have found, many romance books nowadays have a love triangle, and in all the ones I’ve read it is between one woman and two men. The Girl in the Gatehouse is different because it occurs between one man and two women. To be completely honest, it took me a while to get past this, as I kept thinking that, while Captain Bryant behaved honorably to both, it shouldn’t be fair that he has two women waiting for his decision to see who he preferred. But then, how is this any different than what happens with the typical heroine who has two men dangling after her, just waiting patiently for her to make her choice? Once I got past this role-reversal (and, I admit, the love triangle itself; I’m not a fan of love triangles, no matter if it’s the male of the female doing the choosing), I was able to like Captain Bryant, as he reminded me very much of a certain enigmatic Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
The Girl in the Gatehouse is not the type of mystery novel with poison, kidnapping, or murder—rather, it’s an enjoyable romance that involves many thrilling mysteries, entertaining characters, interesting historical facts, and the fascinating themes of loss, forgiveness, and the meaning of true love.
4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars
The Girl in the Gatehouse, by Julie Klassen
Bethany House Publishers (2011)
Trade paperback (400) pages
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Cover image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers © 2011; text Katie P., Austenprose.com