I read my first Julie Klassen regency a little less than two years ago, and since then, I’ve completed every book in her canon. I love how she is able to write “inspirational” fiction by incorporating Christian themes with clever storytelling. I love how well-drawn her antagonists and secondary characters are, and I think this has to do with her evangelistic message–villains are never two-dimensional in Klassen, because they are not two-dimensional to God. They have their own background, their own motivations, and their own chance for redemption.
Klassen’s novels also have a strong mystery element, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park is no exception. When Abigail Foster’s family faces financial ruin, they accept a strange offer to go live at the abandoned home of a distant relative. Abigail discovers a legend of treasure hidden within the walls of the house and, eager to improve the fortunes of her family, initiates a search. She starts receiving anonymous letters that help her and reveal the sad past of the family that once lived there. The good-looking curate with a church near the estate introduces her to his family and shows increasing interest, but he also seems to be hiding secrets of his own. When Abigail’s childhood sweetheart shows up in the neighborhood, he and the curate vie for her attentions, and she must discover what direction her own heart will take her.
As rankings go, I thought this book was one of Klassen’s best, right up there with The Tutor’s Daughter. I had one minor complaint at the beginning–the idea that Abigail was being blamed for the family’s “ruin” since she had advised her father to invest in a venture that had gone belly up. The concept served to create a good deal of guilt for Abigail throughout the book, guilt necessary to the plot, but it also seemed a little contrived–I’m not sure a spinster daughter’s investment advice would have that much impact on a father in Regency society. But over all, it was a great read, and one that I’m happy to own instead of just borrow from the library.