Thursday, March 3, 2016

CBR 8 Review 3 : The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

“How pleasant to escape for an hour or two into the company of a treasured friend.”

Today's lesson, children, is in carefully researching your next book. It is not enough to have something recommended and throw it on your GoodReads account, oh no. You need to make sure you pay close attention to things like genre. And, reader beware, GoodReads does not show you genres on it's app. You must do your due diligence! Go forth to the GoodReads website and really look at that right hand column.  Otherwise you'll end up like me.

Yes, children, I read a piece of Christian fiction.

To start, let me say that I did not hate this book. In fact, I didn't realize that aught was amiss for quite some time. When writing Regency styled fiction, some religion comes with the territory, and until Abigail starts settling into the titular estate, it all works ok. Then she meets the local parson and suddenly DING DING DING - it's Jesus time. I was raised Catholic, and I have retained some facets of my faith over the years. That said, I generally skip Christian lit because I *HATE* being preached to. A lot. So this book had some flaws.  Let's dig in.

This book is the story of Abigail Foster, a young, capable woman who gets her family involved in a bad investment that costs them their home, though not their social standing. When she is offered the opportunity for her family to take up a tenancy in Pembrooke Park, which has remained vacant after some scandalous happenings several decades prior. Wanting to redeem herself in her family's esteem, Abigail works diligently to restore the home. In the process, she grows close to the neighboring family, the Chapman's. This includes their son, William, who is the parson of the local parish. Abigail, in leaving London, also left behind a broken heart after her childhood love seemed to prefer her sister. William starts to look like a way to heal that heart. But the house comes with some ominous tendencies - sounds in the night, warnings of unsavory types, and a mystery at the heart of it all that Abigail is trying to solve.

As far as Regency romance goes, it was fine. I bought into both of Abigail's ties, to childhood sweetheart Gilbert and new flame William. I also really loved her friendship with Leah. I had no problem envisioning the estate, and the way things ran seemed accurate to the things I know of the period. The mystery left me a little cold - it was fine, and I suppose it was logical, but I didn't care all that much about it. But nothing left me colder than the sermons.  When I say that, it's not an exaggeration. The curse of William's chosen profession is that it leaves the author with plenty of opportunity to not just worm theology into conversation, but to literally preach sermons from a pulpit. I skipped several pages in a go every time mass was attended. Or whenever William's solution to anything was based in faith. Which was more and more as the book went on.

Basically, what I'm saying is, this book is fine, but nothing special. And just how much you enjoy it may be related to how much religion you can tolerate in your fiction. 

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