Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review and GRAND GIVEAWAY: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

Pages: 460
Pub. Date: December 1, 2014
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her--a longtime friend--has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, 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 . . .  The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure.  Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?"
Abigail Foster has always been in the shadow of her younger sister who captivates many suitors with her charm and good looks. At this point in her life, Abigail should be married, but she has never found the right man; in fact, she has been holding out for her childhood and family friend, Gilbert. On the night before Gilbert is leaving England to study abroad in Italy, she finds him sharing what appears to be a romantic moment with her sister, Louisa.  This breaks Abigail's heart as she always thought they shared something special.  To make matters worse, her father is suffering from financial ruin, thanks to a bad investment; however, the family receives an offer to move to an abandoned manor house, Pembrooke Park, which is owned by a distant relative.  Of course they take this serendipitous offer and move into the grand estate, except that the estate has been left abruptly by the previous owners many, many years ago. The table is eerily still set for dinner, tea still pools in the tea cups, furniture and clothing is still in the house just as it was eighteen years ago.  It's all very strange and Abigail was hoping to find answers from her neighbors, including the town curate, but everyone is evasive and no one seems to explain Pembrooke Park's strange past.  There are rumors of murder, secret rooms and even treasure hidden within the house.  One thing is for sure: this is very different than Abigail's life in London.  Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park is a charming read. Fans of Jane Austen and Regency novels will savor this book.

Abigail Foster, or Abby, is a likable character in The Secret of Pembrooke Park. I wanted her to have more confidence, but it seems that living under Louisa's shadow has taken its toll on her. It doesn't help that their parents dote on Louisa and favor her, so this has chipped away slowly at Abby's self-worth.   To top it off, Abby's father blames her for the family's financial ruin, which is absurd, but this also makes Abby feel guilty and less than in the eyes of her father.

Abby moves to Pembrooke Park with only her father due to the fact that it's Louisa's Season in London.  The house is very eerie and when her father has to return to London for business, Abby finds herself stuck there with only the servants and the creepy sounds in the night.  The more Abby learns about the history of the house, the more she is intrigued, but she realizes that it has a dark past. To top it off, she starts receiving mysterious letters in the mail about Pembrooke Park's former residents. 

Abby's relationship blossoms into something more with William, the town curate, but in the back of her mind, she is always wondering about Gilbert. They exchange letters with Gilbert, but she also finds that he is writing her younger sister too.  The ultimate question is can she let go of Gilbert enough to appreciate William? Will her father approve of her courting a simple town curate or is she destined to remain unmarried?

Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel and other Regency works. It's quiet, slow in all the right areas, and the romance is sweet. The days revolve around the mysterious manor house, Abby's blossoming love life, various dinner parties and new aquaitances that Abby comes across. Of course, things heat up a bit when Gilbert reenters the picture as well as when they receive a new houseguest claiming to be a distant relative. Sometimes Regency novels can be a bit bland for me, but Klassen's incorporation of the mystery surrounding Pembrooke Park kept me glued to the pages.

Sometimes you need a story like this: one that is sweet, very PG, and is perfect a cold winter's night. I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret of Pembrooke Park; it reminded me so much of Jane Austen's novels.  I plan on checking out the author's work in the future, especially when I need my Jane Austen fix.

Now onto the GRAND GIVEAWAY. You guys, I am part of the promotional blog tour for this book and the giveaway is so very awesome.  In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, there will be four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered. Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Please refer to my giveaway rules. Good luck to all!

I can't wait to read everyone's comments and don't forget to visit the other tour stops!

February 16 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 16 vvb32 Reads (Excerpt)
February 17 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)
February 18 Addicted to Jane Austen (Review)
February 18 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)
February 19 Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
February 19 Living Read Girl (Review) 
February 20 My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)
February 20 Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Review)
February 20 Laura's Reviews (Guest Blog)
February 21 Confessions of a Book Addict (Review)
February 21 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 21 Romantic Historical Reviews (Excerpt)
February 22 Reflections of a Book Addict (Review)
February 23 Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog)
February 23 Peace, Love, Books (Review)
February 24 vvb32 Reads (Review)
February 24 Poof Books (Excerpt)
February 25 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
February 25 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
February 25 Luxury Reading (Review)
February 26 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Review) 
February 26 More Agreeably Engaged (Excerpt)
February 27 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Interview)
February 27 Booktalk & More (Review)
February 28 Laughing with Lizzie (Spotlight)
February 28 The Calico Critic (Review)
March 01 Leatherbound Reviews (Excerpt)
March 01 Delighted Reader (Review)
March 02 CozyNookBks (Review)
March 02 Laura's Reviews (Review)


  1. I am going to have to look for this at the library. I know we have a copy as she is a popular author here.I've read a few of her other books. I like the idea of the mystery combined with the historical romance. It does sound like a good book for winter reading :)

  2. I love Julie Klassen! Cannot wait to read this book!

  3. Ok, Julie! What about a shopkeeper (even thought the Apothecary's Daughter was somewhat like that...). It would be fun to have a dressmaker/shop owner have an earl or duke come in to order something for his mother and fall in love with her. He would have to keep coming up with excuses to enter into a millinery type shop to see her.

  4. I don't think my comment worked! I will post again:

    Ok, Julie. How about having a book about a shop/millinery owner. A duke, or earl, or someone fancy like that comes in to order something for his mother and falls in love with her. He, then, has to make excuses to continue going into the shop. It would be so fun!!

    1. Thanks! I have an idea similar to this brewing for a village series I'm working on. Glad you think something along these lines will be fun!

  5. Fab!! Love reading Austen inspired literature & these sound great xx

  6. Love anything Austen these sound wonderful.

  7. I'm a Jane Austen fan, too, so I'm sure I'll love this book as well!

  8. I loved the romance in this book! Great moments between William and Abigail. At first I wasn't sure who she would choose but I knew who I was rooting for! :)

  9. Very exciting! I would love to read this book.

  10. Great review!
    I have read all but one of Julie Klassen's books and have yet to be disappointed. :)

  11. I loved the gothic feel to The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Northanger Abbey has always been one of my favorite Austen novels.

  12. She has written several books that are on my TBR list. This one is wonderful!

  13. I've read almost all of Julie's books and have enjoyed them. I am just getting ready to start reading "The Secret of Pembrooke Park" and look forward to a great read. 😃

  14. I have tried a few books that were supposed to be "reminiscent" of Austen's works and enjoyed most of them so I have high hopes for Klassen's books.

  15. I enjoyed this post. Thanks for being part of the book tour.

  16. Great book! Love the tasteful romance!

  17. I can't believe you've already read and rated this novel. That's great! I love the fact that her novels have no sex scenes. I can hardly wait to read this novel.

  18. Love all of Julie Klassen's books. Cannot wait for the next one to come out this summer!! :D

  19. Thank you for sharing your review with us, Christina! I enjoyed visiting your blog and I am looking forward to reading The Secret of Pembrooke Park. ~ Blessings, Juli

  20. I didn't realize she would be alone in the house - no wonder things get creepy! ;)

  21. I loved this book! It was so good

  22. I love Julie's books and really want to read this latest one too :)

  23. thanks for sharing julie's newest book. love the cover

  24. Always a fan of Julie's books - can't wait to read it! truckredford(at)gmail(dot)com

  25. Lovely review. I look forward to reading this book very soon!


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