Blue stained wood with crimson carnations

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book Review: The Governess of Highland Hall

Warning: Some spoilers!

Well, I'm back again with my second review for Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers! This time around I'm reviewing 'The Governess of Highland Hall" by Carrie Turansky.

    Widower Sir William Ramsey is in need of a number of things, one of them is a governess for his two young children plus the two elder cousins he now finds himself in charge of since their father's death. Julia Foster is also in need. She has spent most of her years as a young woman on the missionary field with her parents in India. After a illness in the family forces their return to England she must find a job to support their little family until they are able to return to the work they hold dear. Another thing that Sir William needs is an infusion of cash if he doesn't want to loose his newly inherited home to the payment of heavy death taxes that are looming. As it seems that a single man- even with the sole possession of a lovely home- must be in want of a wife William finds himself the target of his meddling relatives plans to revive the estates fortunes through good ol' fashioned American money via an American bride. The only problem is that he does not want to get remarried. So the question is then why does he find himself increasingly drawn to the penniless governess?

     The plot line of this story holds much promise. To the keen eyed reader many of the story's parts will be familiar- there are elements of Jane Eyre, The Sound of Music, and Downton Abbey woven together to form a whole. Being someone who enjoyed all of those stories I hoped to enjoy this one too- the problem with this story however, is that it tries to be all things to all people and in attempting that it becomes an unhinged mess.
     This story is not told from the main/two main character's prospective but instead bounce distractingly from Julia, to Sir William, to William's sister, the gardener, the housekeeper, the maid, and the adolescent cousins perspective- and I'm sure in there somewhere that I've left at least one other out! It was not easy to follow the story with this type of storytelling and I think it really hampered the storyline as it doesn't let you get particularly close to any of the characters. It frustrated me to- several times- find that Turansky had 'left out' whole scenes that would have greatly helped to connect the main characters- only to find her telling me later 'oh, they had a lovely conversation last night that drew them closer- but I'm not going to put you there to listen in- lets just move on with the plot'! Another time something similar happens is when after a fight Julia writes a letter of apology to Sir William and hand delivers it to the estate but when she finds him he is in the midst of dealing with a health crises with the children he tucks away her letter promising to read it at a more appropriate moment-  I kept waiting and waiting but that letter never surfaces again and instead of helping to bring healing and understanding the incident goes from epic to glossed over and Julia is accepted back into the house without another word.
     The worse fault of this author is really that she breaks the first rule of writing- 'show don't tell'. This phrase means that during the course of the narrative that the author should be using description and dialog in order to unfold and reveal the past, present, and future of the characters through their own discovery- not stopping the narrative to break in and explain it to you or give a 'just the facts ma'am' style of description. It's one of my writing pet peeves and I find it difficult to be positive about a book when I encounter it.
     The one redeeming point of the book is undoubtedly Julia herself. From the minute she walks on to the page I found her interesting, and spunky; as time went on I found her to also be principled, faith-filled, unfailingly kind, and very relatable. It's just a shame for me that she did not get to tell her story and we did not get to get to delve deeper into her.

     In the end, I felt that while the general story line could have been a great read I found myself wondering why Sir William and Julia even had feelings for each other when they never had one conversation that didn't directly relate to his children or estate! I may not be an expert in love but I thought it was customary to share something more than deep stares across the room before you consider marrying someone! By the last two chapters I had to restrain myself from throwing the book across the room as I didn't know what good reason the characters had for being together!! Anyway, If you like any of the formerly mentioned works that this story is amalgamated from you might indeed enjoy this book but I found it terribly disappointing.

Final rating: 1.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.