About the book: Just months away from her 25th birthday, when she will receive a large inheritance, Margaret Macy must flee London. Her stepfather—a greedy, calculating man—has ordered his loathsome nephew to marry Margaret ... using whatever means necessary to convince her.
Armed only with her wits, a wig, and some borrowed clothing from her own maid, Margaret secures a position as an housemaid—unaware the position is at Fairbourne Hall, the home of Nathaniel and Lewis Upchurch, brothers who both courted her in the past.
As Margaret adjusts to working for the first time in her life, she also finds herself drawn to Nathaniel, whom she assumed to be the inferior of the two brothers. However, Nathaniel sees her as the maid "Nora," and Margaret knows that revealing herself would only enable her stepfather to find her. Whom can she trust, and will she be able to make it to her 25th birthday without being discovered?
My take: I loved this book! Though it is not a perfect book—the beginning (before Margaret leaves London) drags on a bit, and the threat of the Poet Pirate seems almost an afterthought—once I started reading, I couldn't stop! I'd read the first 50-or-so pages earlier in the week, and I picked up the book again at 10:00 last night to read a couple chapters before bed. The next time I looked at the clock, it was after midnight ... and I still wanted to keep reading. I read until I finished the last page at 2:30 a.m.! It has been a long time since I've done something so irresponsible when it comes to sleep. So I'm dragging today ... but I'm also happy to have read this fabulous book!
One thing that I loved about the book is the setting—an English manor. Though it takes place a full century before the events portrayed in Downton Abbey, the similarities in the running of the households are striking. (There's even a footman named Thomas ... though he's not quite as evil as Downton's Thomas, I pictured Rob James-Collier every time this Thomas made an appearance.) While I'm certain I would have enjoyed this book no matter what, I think I loved it all the more because of my love for Downton ... and when Klassen mentioned words like "dowager countess" and "lady's maid," I knew exactly what she was talking about!
I also loved the characters—especially Margaret and Nathaniel. The changes in Margaret from the beginning to the end of the story are striking yet believable. And what girl wouldn't want Nathaniel Upchurch to fall in love with her? The chemistry between the two is palpable, yet the romance doesn't hijack the plot. Klassen did a masterful job with this story!
This is easily the most engaging historical fiction I've read in a long time. I especially recommend it to Downton or regency romance fans, but I think any historical fiction or romance lover will enjoy it. 4-1/2 out of 5 stars! The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
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. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011), which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit www.julieklassen.com.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers through their book reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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