Believing herself guilty of a crime, Olivia Keene flees her home, eventually stumbling upon a grand estate where an elaborate celebration is in progress. But all is not as joyous as it seems.
Lord Bradley has just learned a terrible secret, which, if exposed, will change his life forever. When he glimpses a figure on the grounds, he fears a spy or thief has overheard his devastating news. He is stunned to discover the intruder is a scrap of a woman with her throat badly injured. Fearing she will spread his secret, he gives the girl a post and confines her to his estate. As Olivia and Lord Bradley's secrets catch up with them, will their hidden pasts ruin their hope of finding love?
Julie Klassen has become one of my new favorite historical fiction writers. Her books bring to life Regency England and make reading history fun even for those who normally hate reading history. In this book, we meet Olivia Keene, a young woman escaping her past who is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. She becomes injured and cannot speak and is placed on the staff at an estate. There she meets Edward, who is the heir of the estate who has his own secretive past. The two soon find out that they are connected because of this past and seek to find out why all the secrets had to exist.
This book totally plays out like a gothic romance or something akin to a Jane Austen novel. Klassen brings to life both the aristocrats and the servants by allowing to reader to see behind the scenes of life at an estate. I enjoyed reading about what it was like to be a governess in that time period and the solitary lifestyle they were supposed to live was sad. It was different from the life of a teacher because you were there 24/7 and had no contact with the outside world or even the adults in the house. My favorite part of the book was the transformation of Croome throughout the story. I was convinced from the beginning of the book that he was a dodgy character that was up to no good and could be potentially harmful to both Olivia and Edward. As the story progressed, we see that armor that's been protecting him all these years begin to chip away slowly to reveal a character that's not what he seems. It was definitely one of the best transformations in a story complete with heartache, humor and joy.
What I like best about Klassen's books is that she weaves a mystery inside all her historical tales. They are done extremely well, to the point where (and shame on me) I HAVE to peek at the end to find out what really happens. This is no fault to the author as the storyline is written very well. I'm just very impatient and want to find out the ending very quickly. I was pleasantly surprised with the ending on this one. It was not what I had expected and I had to flip back to see what I had missed. Also there is not a heavy focus on romance. While the subject is there and a good deal of the plot is focused on it, the story is not a regency romance and more attention is paid to the mystery. There are a few slow sections in the book that do drag on a little, mainly because the action does not take place in the central location. They are not really a bother, but I did find myself wanting to get back to the heart of the story.
Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. The storyline is intriguing, the characters engaging and the setting just sumptuous. I can easily see myself transported back to this time period and living among the characters. Julie's books have been a delight to read and I eagerly await her next offering. If you are a big fan of Regency novels, this is a must read.
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen is published by Bethany House (2010)
This ARC was provided for a blog tour with the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance