Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Girl in the Gatehouse

Mariah Aubrey lives in seclusion with her secrets.  Will an ambitious captain uncover her identity... and her hidden past?

Banished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how—by writing novels in secret.

When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are many things he doesn't know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans—and his heart—for a woman shadowed by scandal? 

Intriguing, mysterious, and romantic, The Girl in the Gatehouse takes readers inside the life of a secret authoress at a time when novel-writing was considered improper for ladies and the smallest hint of impropriety could change a woman's life forever.

A quality piece of work, all the way around...

This is the first Julie Klassen book I have ever read, and I assure you it will not be the last.  I was a little iffy about plucking a book from a shelf of Christian fiction because the few inspirational romances I have encountered in the past struck me as too heart-wrenchingly tragic, which is really not the kind of thing I enjoy reading.  But the cover of this book caught my eye and the back cover blurb (above) really sounded appealing.  So I gave it a whirl...

When Mariah is cast out of her family's home, she moves into the gatehouse on the property of a distant aunt to live a spinster's life with her companion, Dixon.  Shortly after her arrival, Mariah's aunt becomes ill, leaving the manor to pass to her stepson, Hugh.  Suddenly Mariah faces harassing visits by Hugh, as he searches high and low for an unknown treasure that he is sure exists.  But Mariah has bigger problems now that Hugh has ownership of the property.  In no time, Mariah's free rent has been increased and now she must find a way to make the payments.

Mariah also learns that Hugh has leased the manor to a Captain Matthew Bryant, who is trying to use the appeal of the manor and his wealth from the war to attract the attentions of a Miss Forsythe, a woman who had once refused him.  Hoping to prove himself worthy of her, he hosts a house party.  But when Captain Bryant's party learns Mariah is living on the property, the secrets behind her banishment are finally revealed, leading Matthew to discover the truth about the woman he's trying to impress and the woman living in the gatehouse.   

This book had a bunch of things going on (and I do mean a BUNCH!), which is not necessarily a bad thing because it keeps the pages turning, although keeping some of the characters straight may test your memory.  Mariah's gatehouse gate is kept locked, which is just one of the little mysteries within the story.  She also befriends several people at the local poorhouse down the road and even pens a theatrical for the poorhouse children's entertainment.  In addition we meet Martin, a manservant with a hook hand, and Captain Bryant's friend Mr. Hart, who we see fall for a sweet girl from the poorhouse.  Of course we see a strong attraction develop between Mariah and Matthew, but does Matthew's determination to stay the course on his mission for Miss Forsythe blind him from the woman right under his nose? 

This is truly an excellent tale about love and forgiveness with a great ensemble of characters whose individual stories all weave together perfectly over the course of the book.  Excellent story aside, I highly praise this book as being one of the most refined and polished selections I have read since Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey Series.  The writing is excellent, the storyline beautifully constructed and the entire trade paperback package (with the exceptionally beautiful cover) exudes excellence in quality.  I also enjoyed the discussion questions and the author's note included at the back of the book.  May I also point out that I think this is one of few books I have read where my critical eye did not find a single typo?  Bravo! 

I highly recommend this book to ANY reader who enjoys reading Regency romances.  Trust me, even if you don't normally read inspirational romance, please do give this one a try.  I did not find this book to be "preachy" in the least and the inspirational/spiritual tones that did surface were minimal and did not overpower the excellent story.  I look forward to reading Klassen's other Regency books which I have included below. 

My rating:  8 - Definitely on my keeper shelf

No series here, but these are Klassen's other Regency books in print order...

1 comment:

  1. I was very excited to read The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen. I'm a huge fan of Regency era novels. I could not wait to dive into this one. The book begins with the main character, Mariah being sent away. There is a lot of mystery and suspense surrounding the reason behind this exile. Julie Klassen did a great job giving you just a lit bit of information here and there. Mariah is taken in by an aunt whom she's not had contact with in a long while. The aunt sets her up at the gatehouse.