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.
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