into almost-spinster Abigail Foster's life.
Reaching an age where all other men have passed her over Abigail doesn't mind terribly because she is comfortable and confident in the intentions of her best friend from childhood Gilbert Scott. Until that is, she is brought to the crushing and disappointing revelation that Gilbert and her younger and prettier sister have been developing their own tender relationship. Adding to Abigail's burdens and falling fast on the heals of her first, personal, disappointment it is learned that catastrophe has struck hard at the whole family and due to some bad investments they have lost the majority of their fortune.
Being the family's pillar and guide Abigail is tasked with downsizing and relocating everyone. When an offer almost too good to be true comes from a mysterious distant relation for the twelvemonth use of an abandoned family property Abigail makes a blind faith-filled leap into the shelter it offers her and her family. While her family remains in town for the season she goes about the restoration of the house- strangely abandoned in the middle of daily life. Hearing whispered secrets she begins to poke about and dig up rumors about the house's previous tenants and the reported treasure that lurks somewhere in the mansion.
Along the way Abigail befriends the family of the estate's crusty caretaker, forming friendships with both his elder and younger daughters, and their handsome brother William, who turns out to be the curate of the little chapel in the Park. As Abigail and William live and work side by side and search out the mysteries- and odd occurrences like anonymous letters and the appearance of a strange hooded figure in the night- she begins to wonder what she's gotten into coming to this strange old house and if the treasure she seeks to restore her family's fortunes is really the treasure she desires to have.
"The Secret of Pembrooke Park" is a regency novel set in the standard issue Jane Austen world of balls and bonnets, stately manor houses and even statelier manners. But beyond the standard issue backdrop is a deeper world of family secrets and mystery and treasure hunting that is rarely seen in this type of book but turns out working really well! I loved mystery novels as a kid and am well versed in them so it was really cool to see a genuine mystery plot running throughout this book and keeping me guessing! One of my favorite things in a book is to have a deep, meaty story- one that takes time to tell and time to read, and I have to say that I really did enjoy the long read as I sat in bed sick over Christmas! I also like a story that has things really hidden and kept over till the reveal at the end and this book really followed through on those things as well. At 460 pages there is definitely a lot of story here with lots of twists and turns, there was also plenty of surprises left over for the end, and a nice wrap up at the end where everyone's due came to them!
Klassen has paid close attention to details in researching her settings and it shows. From the descriptions of the architecture and windows to the people and places all rings true for a regency novel. One thing that bothered me a bit, if I were to get picky, was some of the personal contact that William and Abigail have. One on one time together was really never heard of for a couple of the time period and in the book you will find several occasions of this occurring- be it an innocent 'we were both caught in the rain' or a slightly less innocent 'I was sitting in the dark thinking when you came for a midnight dip in the lake'. Typically I avoid anachronisms like the plague but here I felt Abigail's honest, steady, self-deprecating character had already been shown and that was reason enough for her to act the was she allows herself to. After all, she is quite grown and is expected by her family to be the one who takes charge of everything- she is used to being left to know her own mind and make decisions accordingly. Both the above mentioned scenes and other scenes in the book where the couple have a romantic moment are simply that, sweet moments where she begins to allow herself the prospect of a future.
Overall I appreciated the heart and the humor, the secrets and surprises, and the really charming step back into Regency England that "Pembrooke" offers. I was pleased to see that Klassen continues to improve by leaps and bounds as a writer as time goes on and I'm quite sure that with writers like her proffering clean romantic novels like this that the Regency novel market- nevermind the Christian literary market will be all the better for it- and you the reader all the more satisfied after finishing this delightful book!
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.