Book Reviews, Historical Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Fiction

Shadows of Swanford Abbey, by Julie Klassen — A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney teases Catherine Morland’s overactive imagination with a ghostly tale that, among other things, suggests that “the part of the abbey you inhabit is undoubtedly haunted.” Such is the brooding tone and setting of the atmospheric romantic mystery Shadows of Swanford Abbey, by popular Regency romance author Julie Klassen.

After two years traveling the country as a lady’s companion, all the while longing for home, clergyman’s daughter Miss Rebecca Lane has returned to her hometown in Worcestershire to aid her troubled younger brother John. Their housekeeper’s chilling warning—“Your brother’s behavior has grown more alarming. I fear what he might do.” (Loc 70)—occupies her every thought. A gifted yet unsettled writer, John had become increasingly erratic following the deaths of their parents, and his temperament had grown even more volatile after an unfortunate incident involving his first book.

Rebecca’s arrival prompts John to insist that she present his latest manuscript to a famous author staying at the nearby abbey-turned-hotel, hoping for a path to publication. “The medieval stone abbey—the setting of many childhood nightmares” (Loc 286) was the last place she wanted to go. “Local children still considered Swanford Abbey haunted, inhabited by the spirits of long-dead nuns.” (Loc 290) With an uneasy yet familiar guilt spurring her to help her brother however she can, Rebecca reluctantly checks in to the hotel as a guest and looks for an opportunity to approach the man she seeks. Unexpectedly, though, she encounters the last man she wishes to see again. “Recognition jolted her. Not him. Not here. Not now. She swiftly turned her face away, praying he had not seen her. Too late.” (Loc 341)

Sir Frederick Wilford, recently widowed and long-ago jaded, fondly remembers his innocent friendship with the lovely clergyman’s daughter. Yet when a fellow hotel guest is murdered, Sir Frederick must put aside his affinity for Miss Lane and step into his role as local magistrate to investigate the crime. Suspicions abound as suspects are sought, and Miss Lane’s questionable conduct is not excused from the scrutiny. Will the childhood friends ever be able to step out of the distrustful shadows of their pasts?

The shadows depicted in this story are nuanced and numerous. It is a sensitive yet realistic depiction of mental health struggles, not only as a result of grief—from death, self-inflicted guilt, and estrangement—but also as a result of what today would be called a traumatic brain injury.

I have read at least a dozen of Julie Klassen’s books over the years, all of them enjoyable in their own ways, and this story was no exception. My only complaints are the slow pace of the story as the mystery unfolds and the subdued romantic elements; however, I appreciated the several unforeseen twists and the likeable protagonists. I particularly enjoyed the historical details woven into the narrative, and the gothic feel of the haunted abbey setting.

Romantic mystery fans are sure to relish the haunting ambience as secrets are revealed in Shadows of Swanford Abbey.

4 out of 5 Stars

  • Shadows of Swanford Abbey, by Julie Klassen
  • Bethany House Publishers (December 7, 2021)
  • Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (416) pages
  • ISBN:   978-0764234248

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.

Cover image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers © 2021; text Katie Jackson © 2021, Austenprose.com

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Holiday Reading, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

A Hopeful Holiday: A Pride and Prejudice Novella, by Heather Moll — A Review 

From the desk of Sophia Rose: 

What if Lady Catherine never makes her infamous visit at Longbourn? What if Mr. Darcy never returns to the neighborhood? Can Jane Austen’s most iconic pair still discover a way to ‘only remember the past’ with pleasure together? It might take a bit of yuletide mischief and interference orchestrated by a talented writer, Heather Moll, whose tales I have enjoyed in the past.

A Hopeful Holiday opens with Elizabeth Bennet looking forward to the holiday season with a tired, dreary spirit. Her family has noticed and happily encourage her to accept Charlotte Collins’ invitation to visit Hunsford. Elizabeth accepts and is full of regrets over the outcome of her last visit and the heated speech she delivered to Mr. Darcy having no idea at the time that her feelings would be quite the opposite a half year Continue reading “A Hopeful Holiday: A Pride and Prejudice Novella, by Heather Moll — A Review “

Austenesque, Book Previews, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Carolyn Korsmeyer

Happy Black Friday, dear readers! Here is a new Austenesque book to pull you away from your online holiday shopping featuring one of Jane Austen’s most pragmatic minor characters from Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas.

Author Carolyn Korsmeyer’s new novel, Charlotte’s Story, was released last month by TouchPoint Press. It gives us an insider’s view of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of the Charlotte Lucas. An unmarried spinster at the beginning of the novel, she soon after agrees to marry the Bennet’s odious cousin Mr. Collins. Along with heroine Elizabeth Bennet, we cringe at her choice of husband and don’t have much hope for her. It will be interesting to see how Korsmeyer continues her life, and hopefully gives her some happiness.

The author has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt to give our readers a peek inside the story. Enjoy!

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and are enjoying the leftovers from your turkey dinner! Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Charlotte’s Story: A Novel from the World of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Carolyn Korsmeyer”

Austenesque, Book Reviews, Holiday Reading, Pride and Prejudice Sequels

His Perfect Gift, by L.L. Diamond — A Review

From the desk of Katie Jackson:

Sometimes all that is required to convince a person to pursue their heart’s desire is to present evidence that it is not, in fact, an impossible achievement. In His Perfect Gift—the latest Pride and Prejudice variation from prolific Austenesque author L.L. Diamond—our hero considers the possibility of becoming the kind of man who is capable of pleasing a woman worthy of being pleased and earning her esteem.

Fitzwilliam Darcy has escaped Hertfordshire with great haste, along with his friend Bingley, following the ball at Netherfield, keenly feeling the danger he’d been in and hoping to soon forget the cause: the enchanting Miss Elizabeth Bennet. “Was there nothing that would spare him the torment of her memory?” (Loc 84) In an attempt to lighten Darcy’s dismal disposition, his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam persuades him to journey to Cheapside for Continue reading “His Perfect Gift, by L.L. Diamond — A Review”

Book Previews, Regency Romance

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Kingscastle: A Classic Regency Romance in the Tradition of Georgette Heyer, by Sophia Holloway

Happy Friday, dear readers. Fall is an exciting time for book lovers with so many new titles being released before the holiday season. It’s always a challenge to narrow down our options. I was struck by the gorgeous cover of Kingscastle, a new Regency romance by Sophia Holloway. Yes, I am shallow and freely admit to being swayed by a beautiful book cover.

Kingscastle was released yesterday by British publisher Allison & Busby. Holloway is the author of two previous historical novels set during the same time: The Devil You Know, & Bless Thine Inheritance. The subtitle of Kingscastle states that it was written in the tradition of Regency romance queen, Georgette Heyer, meanwhile, the book description proclaims that Bridgerton fans will take it to heart. I found this marketing pitch and mixing of styles within the genre interesting and I had to check it out for myself. If you are curious to learn more, please return on December 27, 2021, for our full review.

The publisher has kindly offered an exclusive excerpt for our readers. I hope it gives you a feel for the author’s style and the tone of the novel. Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Kingscastle: A Classic Regency Romance in the Tradition of Georgette Heyer, by Sophia Holloway”

Book Previews, Regency Romance

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of A Reason for Romance: The Merry Romances (Book 2) by Rachel Knowles

Happy Friday, dear readers. Autumn has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. The leaves are vivid with color and the temps are dropping. I am rushing to finish garden projects such as planting spring bulbs and laying down mulch. It seems that there is never enough time to put the  garden to bed for the winter.

I am pleased to feature author Rachel Knowles at Austenprose today. We are showcasing her second novel in The Merry Romances series, A Reason for Romance. This Regency romance is an inspirational fiction story set in 1810 that can be read as a standalone in the series.

Rachel runs the delightful and inspiring blog, Regency History, and is an authority on the era. She has also penned The Perfect Match (2015), the first book in The Merry Romances series, and the nonfiction book, What Regency Women Did for Us (2017), if you would like to delve deeper into the times that Jane Austen lived and publisher her books in.

Curl up with a cup of tea and enjoy the exclusive excerpt from A Reason for Romance which Rachel has generously shared with us today. Continue reading “A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of A Reason for Romance: The Merry Romances (Book 2) by Rachel Knowles”

Austenesque, Book Lists, Contemporary Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Holiday Reading, Jane Austen Sequels, Northanger Abbey Sequels

7 Spooky Jane Austen Inspired Novels to Read this Halloween Season

Happy Friday, dear readers. All Hallows Eve is this weekend. Have you chosen a costume and stocked up on candy yet? I don’t have trick or treaters visiting me in the country, however, that has never stopped me from celebrating the holiday by decorating with pumpkins and eating candy corn!

If you are seeking recommendations for great Jane Austen-inspired reading to put you in the mood for the spooky season, look no further. Here is a short list of six novels and one adaptation to help you become as addicted to Gothic fiction as heroine Catherine Morland in Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  Remember, it’s never too late to seek adventure abroad!

JANE AUSTEN’S NORTHANGER ABBEY (MARVEL COMICS), adapted by Nancy Butler

Continue reading “7 Spooky Jane Austen Inspired Novels to Read this Halloween Season”

Book Lists, Editor's Picks, Historical Fantasy, Paranormal & Gothic Fiction, Holiday Reading, Regency Romance

7 Historic Romantic Suspense Novels with a Gothic Twist

As All Hallows Eve approaches on October 31st, tis the season to discover new and recent Gothic fiction in the historical suspense, romance, and mystery genres.

We can thank English writer, art historian, and politician Horace Walpole (1717-1797) for creating the Gothic fiction genre. After having a terrifying nightmare, Walpole was inspired to write The Castle of Otranto. Published in 1764, it combines many of the elements we see in Gothic novels today: an atmospheric isolated estate, a puzzling family mystery, and a heroine in peril from evil forces. Other classic authors of the genre include Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, the Bronte sisters, and Daphne du Maurier. Continue reading “7 Historic Romantic Suspense Novels with a Gothic Twist”

Book Reviews, Editor's Picks, Regency Romance

With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 3), by Ashtyn Newbold — A Review  

From the desk of Katie Patchell:

When I was younger, I hated Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte’s tale of passion and self-discovery seemed a wasteland to my teenage self—bleak in Yorkshire moor and stark in romantic love. I watched every adaptation and read the novel countless times, but the results were the same. Until one day, in the midst of 2021, I was stunned to encounter colorful beauty where once I saw only monochrome. Evil cousins and madness in attics no longer reigned. What captivated me as never before was the magnetism of Rochester and Jane’s equal meeting of heart and mind. Enter With Love, Louisa, Ashtyn Newbold’s latest Regency novel. A tale set in the open skied Yorkshire moors that Charlotte Bronte loved. This novel champions another couple who stand side by side as equals.

When her sister marries and moves away, leaving her as the sole guest of a bachelor friend, Louisa Rosemeyer knows the time has come to leave Larkhall. Her two options are to marry without love or to request the status of ‘companion’ to her unknown elderly relative. Louisa votes for love and family. Continue reading “With Love, Louisa: A Regency Romance (Larkhall Letters Book 3), by Ashtyn Newbold — A Review  “