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.
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?
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Abigail Foster is the daughter every parent wants to brag about: responsible, honest, dependable, and remains within the rules of society. Her entire life she has understood what her role in life was and she hopes that by following the rules she will be rewarded with a good marriage. When the one man available to her appears to turn his attentions elsewhere, she suddenly feels her world shift. Life becomes even more uncertain when her father invests in a bank which leads to even more bad news.
Abigail handles each downturn in their circumstances with enough grace that even Jane Austen would be proud. Just so you know, Jane Austen is a pretty high standard. I grew to like Abigail more and more from page one. She is a resourceful and self sufficient woman, especially given the time era. We don’t read a lot of books from this era where women are given as much freedom as Abigail, but that is part of what shapes her personality. She is very much a loner. She doesn’t mind the time spent with books or taking long walks. In that sense she reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Bennett. I don’t think she wanted to be like that, but it was life circumstances which shaped her.
When she meets William Chapman her heart slowly begins to open to new possibilities. I appreciate that Julie Klassen doesn’t write it as love at first sight. It was a friendship that slowly blossomed into something more, but in the beginning Abigail isn’t sure if she can trust him. After all, someone is sneaking about the house at night and she thinks it could be him. Distrust colors her opinion of her new acquaintances, as she learns about her new home. The tension and mystery kept me up turning pages well past my bedtime, in fact, more than once I thought I had it figured out only to discover a new twist.
I loved how Klassen handled the secret room and treasure. She weaved together a story of mystery and love, but slowly unwrapped each part. Leading us on a journey, not rushing us, but allowing the reader to savor the time period and experience the characters. It was an experience I hope you enjoy as much as I did.
I was provided with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.
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