The Secret of Pembrooke Park
By Julie Klassen
Genre: Christian, Regency, Historical, Romance, Fiction
Point of View: Third Person (The Prologue and Epilogue are First Person)
Back Cover Summary:
Abigail Foster is the practical daughter. She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.
Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll’s house left mid-play…
The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor’s past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.
This catches Abigail’s attention. Hoping to restore her family’s finances–and her dowry–Abigail looks for this supposed treasure. But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn’t the only one secretly searching the house.
Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past.
As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks…or very real danger?
Faith and Trust in God, Trusting Friends, Friendship, Forgiveness of Self and Forgiveness of Others, Loving One’s Self, and the Past Affects the Present if it is not Settled.
This book review will have NO SIGNFICANT SPOILERS. Those of you who have followed my blog know that I have mentioned Julie Klassen, for she is one of my favorite authors. Julie Klassen’s writing style is easy to read and understand; her writing transports readers to the Regency Period in England. I have all of her books (except one). Therefore, upon completing my previous book review, I knew it was time to do a review on one of Julie Klassen’s books that has been on my bookshelf, but I had not read yet.
The Secret of Pembrooke Park did not pull me in fully until chapter eight, for that is the chapter where some significant foreshadowing happens concerning the secret linked to Pembrooke Park. Throughout the book, the past continues to linger in the present. Even though, the main character, twenty-three year old Abigail Foster has no idea what happened at Pembrooke Park, (at the start of the book), she too has trouble ensuring that the past does not affect her present. Notice how the back cover summary stated, “the one man [Abigail] thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.” That experience involving Gilbert Scott emerges early on in the book in 1817. Fast forward, to chapter twenty, at least ten or eleven months later (1818), and there is another man that she cares for—twenty-five year old William Chapman. When William meets Abigail’s sister, this is what it says at the end of the meeting.
He looked at [Abigail], verses of confusion and apology passing behind his blue eyes. Though perhaps she was only imagining it, and he was simply smitten and perhaps embarrassed at his reaction. And perhaps already regretting the warm words… he’d bestowed on the pretty girl’s older, plainer sister” (304).
Regardless of the time span, ABIGAIL’S FEELINGS ABOUT HERSELF REMAINS THE SAME. I said, “Herself” because Abigail’s negative, internal dialogue came from COMPARISON. Is this sounding familiar to any of you? While the setting of Abigail’s private, feelings about herself is the Regency Period, comparing one’s self to another occurs in the twenty-first century as well. Thusly, this is why from the first few pages of the book, I found Abigail relatable.
Appearance is not the only way one compares his or her self. School performance in comparison to your siblings or friends, comparing your stage of life to someone else’s stage of life, career, parenting, all are among the many ways one does comparisons. The danger with comparing yourself on any level is that it creates a false, internal narrative about you.
For Abigail, her internal dialogue had become this replayed narrative that no one will look at her the way so many men look at her sister. Moreover, that no one will choose her when her sister is seen as the preferred choice. The truth was that yes, several men found her sister pretty, but Abigail had something long lasting and more beautiful than her sister did INNER BEAUTY. In 1 Peter 3:3-4, Peter discusses which “beauty” is most valuable to God. Peter writes,
3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
Each of us at some point compared ourselves to someone. It is important that, during those moments, we recognize it and understand that we are all different. We have different gifts, and different purposes to utilize those gifts. Nevertheless, we share one important resemblance; we were all created by God. Genesis 1:27 says it this way, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Instead of looking at each other wishing we were more like another person, embrace that no one on this earth looks exactly like you or thinks exactly like you. Let us rest in that amazing fact.
Given that romance is among the book’s genres, and Abigail is the main character, you can expect to see a romantic relationship. What I appreciated most was the slow burn romance between Abigail and one of her two love interests, which began as a FRIENDSHIP. One of the aspects that stood out to me concerning their friendship was how it highlighted a desire/dream in Abigail’s heart, which was referenced in the prologue. Abigail pondered, “No, I didn’t want a marriage like my parents’. But a life… working side by side with the one you loved… Yes, that seemed ideal” (10). Whom Abigail winds up with meets that desire/dream. This is a reminder that we should NEVER SETTLE FOR LESS than our desires. Because, if it is from God, it will happen and it will be far better than we imagine.
As I finished the book, I did feel that the conclusion wrapped up too quickly. However, it did not overshadow my reflection of another relationship that affected Abigail in a positive way. I loved the genuine friendship between Abigail and twenty-eight year old Leah because of the way it progressed, which was also a slow burn. A slow burn friendship is a contrast to when we’re children; at a young age, we tend to become fast friends with someone we just met. Yet, as we get older, it takes time to become close to someone and consider him or her a close or best friend.
As Abigail and Leah became closer, their trust in one another increased. They leaned on one another for support; they were vulnerable with one another; they encouraged one another; they served in church together. Their friendship is such a beautiful illustration of Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Allow this to be an important reminder that we all need at least one friend in our lives who sharpens us, and we need to be that friend who sharpens our friend(s). If you do not already have a friend who is, ask God to lead you to someone who can be that friend for you. In addition, if you are not a friend who sharpens your friends, ask God to show you how to be the kind of friend who does sharpen.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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All Bible Verses are from Holy Bible: New International Version and New Living Translation