Book Review – “Secret of Pembrooke Park” by Julie Klassen

  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?

I was thrilled to receive this book for review, as I have always enjoyed Julie Klassen’s books. The premise sounded exciting and unique, unlike anything she has written before, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed the mystery and suspense elements of this story.

The one thing about this book that I genuinely did not like was the pacing. I felt like everything moved REALLY slowly, to the point where it took me a few weeks to read a book that I would normally read in a couple of days because I struggled to enjoy the pacing. There seemed to be a good many scenes that weren’t really necessary to the plotline. But the premise and execution were excellent.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery of the book, particularly because this one had me stumped at some points, while giving me some good clues at others. I guessed some of the major reveals before they happened, but they were done in such a way that the sense of shock was still there. I enjoyed the romance as well, though I felt like some of the scenes between Abigail and William were a bit out of place considering the time period. Especially the scene at the spring. A young woman of proper standing and a young, single minister would likely not spend the amount of time alone that these two did. But the romance was relatively chaste, and nothing inappropriate took place, so I can’t really complain.

I enjoyed the characters, though I had to keep a running list of who was who in a notebook so I didn’t lose track. Particularly when it came to the various Pembrookes. There were a lot of names thrown at me at any given point, so it was sometimes difficult to keep up. And some of the characters seemed pretty useless, as if they were there for the sake of adding more unneeded padding. One character in particular I thought was an odd choice for a major reveal, as she hardly made any appearances in the book until the reveal happened. I did like Abigail. She was intelligent and kind, and refused to allow her circumstances to get the better of her. William was a good choice for a main male character, and I liked the parts of the book where he preached his sermons, as they were deep and well thought out.

Overall, this is a good book, though it’s not something that a casual reader wants to pick up on a whim. This one requires some serious dedication to get through. And the end is a little bit off putting. It doesn’t really resolve the story well, and leaves me feeling like the author forgot to add another paragraph to the story. But despite this, I give “Secret of Pembrooke Park” 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to 15 and up!

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