Author: Julie Klassen
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Published: December 2nd 2014
*THE NEXT REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
First of all, I owe the reading of this book to my friend Brittany, who outdid herself sending it to me, and though a year has passed since I read this amazing book, and perhaps I can't remember all the little details in it, I want to leave my opinion here. How couldn't I? After all, it was my first book by this great author, and the one that made me say YES to the rest of them. Back then, as it was the only book I had ever read by Julie Klassen, I didn't have any other to compare it with. But now, even when I do, I don't want to compare it. This book is unique to me.
Abigail Foster is the eldest daughter in a family with financial troubles, who has almost given up the hope of ever getting married. She's been in love with a family friend, Gilbert Scott, since she can remember; she pictured their life together, in their house and with their children, and thinks he returns that love, until she discovers he favors her beautiful younger sister, Louisa, who has half the brain she has. In addition to their broken heart, her father looses a big amount of money, and they need to leave the house and rent it if they don't want to end up destitute. And it is there when they receive a strange, mysterious offer, from a distant relative of Mr. Foster, to take Pembrooke Park as a temporary home, a house which has been mysteriously abandoned, and by the looks of it, abruptly, and has old rumors of a treasure swirling around it.
I loved Abigail. She's a smart, practical young woman, capable of all the accomplishments expected from a lady, but also ready to roll up her sleeves, and work to get things done. And William, oh, I fell in love with him since the first moment I met him. He falls in love hard and fast, he is completely enchanted with her, and wants her to notice him, but at the same time, he knows she's been in love for years with another man, and can't understand how he overlooked her beauty, her intelligence, and all of her charms, when he's so completely smitten with her. Their love story is so great! I found myself eager to get scenes with them together, telling William to step ahead and steal a kiss, even when she still wasn't sure about her feelings for him (and the first kiss, oh! I re-read that scene a thousand times!). They both team up when the mysteries start to mount, willing to solve them, and finally put to the rest the ghosts that still haunt the family, and the house.
The mystery had me at the edge of my seat, and all those unexpected twists and turns made me gasp and left me openmouthed more than once. The noises in the house at night, the rumors of a secret room no one was able to find, with the rumor of the treasure inside of it, and even more creepy, the pages of a diary she receives on the post every day, written years ago, but mirroring her own questions, about the house, its former occupants, and the murders that stain its history with blood, figured out from the mumblings of an old woman to whom no one pays attention, but who used to be Pembrooke Park's housekeeper, and witnessed all those moments that defined both the house and the Pembrooke family.
The historical accuracy is awesome, and worthy of applause. It is a pleasure to read something so wonderful and fully researched, and get details about the traditions of an era that it is gone. I loved the masked ball scene, and how the way women were considered is depicted. Spinsters at the age of twenty-three, and more or less worthy according to her dowry or the money and prestige her family could have, even above her personality, her talents or her heart (something it is very well seen on Leah Chapman's character). And of course, the dresses, the masks, the music, and everything.
All the characters are well depicted, with its own personality, and are lovable, though some of them truly deserve a punch in the face, like Louisa, the biggest flirt in all London who isn't aware that she can endanger her family's reputation with her attitude towards all the suitors and admirers her stunning beauty attracts; and Miles, who, in despite of all the difficulties he went through, with his siblings and his parents, never understood that clinging to material things would never bring him the peace of mind he needed.
The Secret of Pembrooke Park it is a fun, great read, and I wish I could do justice to all its wonderfulness. I couldn't put it down, and at the same time, I didn't want to read it too fast, wanting to relish in every page and enjoy each little detail, after longing to read it for so long! I fully recommend it to anyone who loves the genre (and doesn't know this author), I promise it doesn't disappoint!