From the desk of Katie Patchell:
A manor filled with secrets, frozen in time. Rumors of hidden treasure. Whispers of murder. Stubbornly silent local residents. One newly arrived and extremely curious heroine, a young woman who will stop at nothing to discover the secrets of Pembrooke Park. Whether or not the heroine prevails can be discovered in Julie Klassen’s latest Regency novel, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, a novel that delves into the darkness that resides in all human souls.
At the age of twenty-two, Abigail Foster believes that her future is secure: after building the house that she and her childhood friend, Gilbert Scott, designed, he will propose, Abigail will say yes, and they will happily spend the rest of their lives together. But when Abigail witnesses a loving interaction between her younger sister, Louisa, and Gilbert, she realizes that her dreams may never become a reality. With her father’s shocking news of a failed investment and significant loss of wealth, Abigail begins her search for a small place in the country for her family to reside, and is stunned by the generous offer given by a mysterious solicitor on behalf of an unknown distant relation: to live in Pembrooke Park, a manor that has been uninhabited for eighteen years. When Abigail arrives at the large country manor house, she opens the front door to an eerie sight—everything inside had been left in a state of disarray, preserved as if the last residents had suddenly fled.
Soon Abigail begins receiving letters containing old diary entries from an anonymous sender that tell of hidden treasure, murder, and secret rooms, and she resolves to piece together the puzzle of Pembrooke Park and uncover the manor’s secrets one by one. When Abigail hears strange sounds in the night and catches glimpses of a caped man haunting the halls, she turns to her new local friends for help, including William Chapman, the attractive young curate who loves to tease her…but can she trust them completely when it seems that everyone has a secret tangled up in the great mystery of Pembrooke Park?
As Abigail and William race to discover what and where is the true treasure of Pembrooke Park, can they uncover the secret before their dangerous opponent does? And when visitors from her own past and from the murky past of Pembrooke Park return, can Abigail separate truth from lies in time to save not only her family and friends but her heart and future as well?
While The Secret of Pembrooke Park did have an intriguing mystery and plenty of action and romance, it took me some time to become attached to the characters and see some of the many different storylines start to connect. It was only around pages 100-150 (out of 450 total pages) that I started to get into the novel. In these pages, the various mysteries and sub-plots were slowly set up and the many characters were introduced, but all of this information as to the connections between the characters and complexity of the mystery confused me. However fellow readers, don’t let this prevent you from continuing reading The Secret of Pembrooke Park if you have the same initial experience that I had. As with all of Julia Klassen’s Regency romances that I’ve had the pleasure to read, the slow beginning and build-up gave the characters a 3-dimensional quality (with their desires and motives alternatively heartrending and touching, and always relatable) and added to the intricate storyline.
The romance (no spoilers!) was lovely, the middle section engrossing, the mysteries and their revelations truly superb, and the ending well worth the wait. Kind and cruel families, faithful and unfaithful friends, humor and tension, secrets and discoveries, love, forgiveness, and hate, and the search for lasting treasure—these are all found within the pages of The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Yet again, Julie Klassen has written a well-crafted, engaging Regency novel, with a blend of romance, adventure, and thrilling secrets that is sure to please mystery lovers and romance readers alike.
5 out of 5 Stars
The Secret of Pembrooke Park, by Julie Klassen
Bethany House (2014)
Trade paperback & eBook (464) pages
Cover image courtesy of Bethany House © 2014; text Katie Patchell ©2014, Austenprose.com
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