Publication Date: December 7, 2021
About the Author: Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Approaching the age of spinsterhood and relegated to reduced circumstances, Rebecca Lane serves as companion to an eccentric old lady. When her moody brother John needs assistance, she travels home to assure her mind that all is well. Irritably, John demands that she help him get his new novel published by putting it in front of a famous author who is staying at the nearby inn, Swanford Abbey. Reluctantly, Rebecca removes to the haunted abbey to make her brother’s appeal, only to discover that her childhood sweetheart, Sir Frederick, is also staying there with his brother.
When murder is done amidst the ghostly corridors of the abbey, Rebecca struggles to know what to share and what to conceal. Appearances are not always what they seem, and Frederick (as local magistrate) must decide whether to put his faith in the ostensible clues or in what he knows of Miss Lane’s character.
Klassen’s novels are always shot through with strands of mystery, but this is the first one that I remember being a straight-up murder mystery. Although this story was set in the 1820s, the general milieu of the book felt later, almost Victorian or Edwardian. The atmospheric Swanford Abbey with its ghostly legends is almost as important as the characters in the story.
Sir Frederick was a solid hero, with a good mix of principles, propriety, and affection. Rebecca held an unenviable position, caught between her duty to her irascible brother, her attempts to conciliate her employer, and her latent affections for Sir Frederick. The romance between them was simple and authentic, without any of the hyperbolic passion often found in historical romances. In the end, a commitment to truth proves the most important for all involved as deeds done in the darkness are brought into the light.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.