Publication Date: December 6, 2022
About the Author: Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Midwest Book Award, the Minnesota Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award, and been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards and ACFW’s Carol Awards. She blogs at http://www.inspiredbylifeandfiction.com.
Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
When their father dies of an apoplectic attack, the four Summers sisters along with their mother must find a way to earn an income if they are to avoid descending into utter poverty. The gentlewomen have the blessing of owning their own large house in the ocean village of Sea View, and at the prompting of their managing older sister Sarah, they resolve to become a popular seaside boarding house. Pretty Emily uses her clever pen to write advertisements. Rambunctious Georgie gives up her room to move to the attic. Industrious Sarah develops her culinary skills to save on the baker’s bill. But Viola, bitter at life due to a birth defect of a harelip, refuses to help in the endeavor.
Required to earn income another way, Viola begins to read to invalids and others who need a companion. She makes the acquaintance of Major Hutton, a soldier who was badly burned during heroic action in India, and discovers that their scars–both literal and metaphorical–forge a friendship between them that may grow into something dearer. Meanwhile, Sarah slaves away taking care of the needs of their various boarders, dealing with each idiosyncrasy and special request. But when the handsome widower Mr. Henshall starts snooping around the house in the dark of the early morning, she must put her foot down and intervene to discover what secrets he is hiding. Emily, the most attractive of the sisters, draws suitors like flies to honey, but she must learn through difficult circumstances what kind of man is worth having and why the Summers sisters’ reputation has been mysteriously damaged in polite society.
The boarding house guests, from Mr. Gwilt with his stuffed parrot to Mr. Stanley with his flirtatious teasing, are all drawn with humorous skill. Ms. Klassen even includes a pair of larger-than-life characters from one of Jane Austen’s novels (no spoilers, but I will tell you that you’ll enjoy them immensely!). The relationships between the sisters themselves are depicted with great insight as each contends with a lack of contentment about the circumstances in which they were placed. The book has nods to Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and also Pride and Prejudice.
Ensemble casts can sometimes make a novel feel like a thrown-together patchwork of pieces, but Ms. Klassen weaves an intricate tapestry that provides a complete story for this first book and still leaves threads to follow for future books. A deft tribute to Austen with memorable characters of its own, The Sisters of Sea View is a delightful start to a new Julie Klassen series.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
The older woman carefully fingered the lace sprigs. “I made these birds. My sister, this edging of leaves. My mother, the flowers. And my aunt did the sewing, joining the pieces together. It’s as I told you, no finished piece is the work of one person.” She stared at the shawl, eyes misty with memory. “A solitary soul can do little. But together . . . what lasting beauty we create.”The Sisters of Sea View, by Julie Klassen