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The Bridge to Belle Island Paperback – December 3, 2019
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On Belle Island, Isabelle feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee's murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man's death. Or is it a memory? She had been furious with him, but she never intended . . . this.
When a second person dies and evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn't know who to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on the island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.
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From the Back Cover
On Belle Island, Isabelle Wilder feels safe and leads a productive life, but fear keeps her trapped there. When Mr. Booker arrives with news of her trustee's murder in London, Isabelle is stunned. She has not left the island, yet she has a recurring dream about the man's death. Or is it a memory?
When a second person dies and the evidence shockingly points to her, Isabelle doesn't know whom to trust: the attractive lawyer or the admirer and friends who assemble on Belle Island, each with grudges against the victim. Can she even trust her own mind? While they search for the truth, secrets come to light and danger comes calling.
"A lawyer and the prime suspect in a murder investigation come to trust one another in this gratifying romance from Klassen set in 19th-century London. . . . With its subtle faith elements, Klassen's evocative romance will appeal to fans of Jody Hedlund."--Publishers Weekly
This Regency novel is essentially a clever mystery with a subplot of sweet romance between the two protagonists. Klassen piles up clues, teasing us with a multitude of suspects with motives. . . . Throw in laudanum, dangerous smugglers, shady dealings, a flood, a violent storm and voilà: adventure. The action-packed climax had me on the edge. The reveal of the killer came as a complete surprise."--Historical Novel Review
"A lawyer is sent to a secluded island to investigate a murder in this 19th-century-set gothic that will appeal to fans of Jane Eyre and Jane Austen."--Library Journal
Praise for Julie Klassen
"Klassen spins a tale of secrets and deception, coupled with unexpected plot twists and a swoon-worthy ending."--Library Journal starred review of The Painter's Daughter
"This mystery romance . . . is a gem for Regency and inspirational readers alike."--Bookpage on The Secret of Pembrooke Park
"A clever book that incorporates what readers love of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey and even a bit of Jane Eyre. The novel offers everything a historical romance reader looks for."--Historical Novels Review on The Maid of Fairbourne Hall
About the Author
- Publisher : Bethany House Publishers (December 3, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0764218190
- ISBN-13 : 978-0764218194
- Item Weight : 12.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #176,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Benjamin, Isabelle, and the other characters are three-dimensional and memorable, particularly Isabelle. Her characterization and situation are unusual not only for her era, but for most eras and people. She acquits herself beautifully as mistress of the island, and while she suffers from panic attacks, she never comes across as a victim. She instead comes across as one of my favorite character types, a person who has made the best of a bad situation and become strong by necessity.
Benjamin, too, is interesting and an unusual type of hero, although perhaps not as well-developed as Isabelle. For instance, I would've liked to see more of his struggles with vertigo, his father and their relationship, and so on. However, what exists rounds him out well, winning sympathy and empathy. He becomes a good match for Isabelle through perhaps not ideal circumstances, but certainly page-turning ones.
Speaking of page-turning, the Belle Island mystery is certainly that. As more than one character says, everyone is a suspect. Of course, Bridge to Belle Island is not the only mystery novel in which this is true; mysteries tend to turn on that trope. Here however, the trope works a lot better than I usually see, because I quite literally suspected almost everyone at one time or another, even though certain people turned out not to be involved at all. (Benjamin and Isabelle were the exception because they are the heroes, but I fully expected Isabelle to have to work her way out of a sticky situation, which she and others did). The mystery also works because several people played small parts in the murders at hand, but you never knew until the end who was completely, ultimately responsible or why.
Speaking of the who and why of the murders, the villain here is great. He makes perfect sense once you see him, but also functions as a good example of someone you don't look at too closely. The red herrings put in place to make this happen are a bit confusing at first, but work well once you have all the pieces. I also appreciated how the villain played an unexpected role in helping Benjamin learn some difficult truths about his father and himself.
Julie continues to tell instead of show, especially regarding emotions, which I can't stand. Don't tell me someone is nervous (or show me and then tell me). Let me see their clammy hands, their tugging of hair or jewelry or cravat. Don't tell me someone has a bad relationship with someone; let me see them argue and misunderstand each other. Also, if you're going to let a character have something like vertigo, PTSD, or panic disorder, let them work through it. Don't just mention it where convenient.
As noted, the characters may also have needed a little development, especially in the romantic department (I understand a murder investigation eclipses romance, but I'd have liked more trust, sooner, between our lead couple). Overall though, Bridge to Belle Island was a page-turner and made me excited for Julie Klassen's books again.
The victim, Mr. Norris, has served as trustee of the Wilder estate in a way which increasingly worries and angers his charge Isabella. He is trying to use his power to pressure Isabella into allowing a shipbuilding company onto the beautiful and secluded Belle Island. For the last ten years she has not left the island even once because she believes in a curse on her family. She is adamant on keeping everything as it is, stay on the island and run her willow basketry business as usual. Only trouble is, she has this strange and vivid dream of being present in the Wilder’s town house at the time of the murder.
When Benjamin arrives at Belle Island, he is eager to both please his employer, Mr. Hardy, and regain confidence in himself after a very public and humiliating loss in court. He is trying to quietly dig up additional evidence in the murder case and figure out what Isabella has to do with it all. Could it be she or another family member is the actual murderer?
Isabella’s niece Rose Wilder is betrothed to Christopher Adair. He lies about his whereabouts at the time of the murder. He acted entitled and arrogant, and I disliked the way he tried to cover up and obstruct the investigation.
Evan Curtis is Isabella’s childhood friend and youth love interest. He was sent away to the most dangerous of war zones because it was in Mr. Norris’ best interest as trustee that Isabella didn’t marry. He is very angry with Mr. Noris and suspects him of picking the most dangerous posting of all hoping he would be killed in the Peninsular war. I found him odd and secretive, maybe even dangerous with his experience of weapons and war. Why is he back a Belle Island after so many years?
Dr Theodore Grant also Isabella’s childhood friend. Even though he is a very talented doctor meant for big things in some city, he stays on as country doctor. Isabella expects him to propose to her at some point. She waits, but nothing happens. Instead he seems to act over-protective, possessive and patronizing towards her. She considers him a friend, but has no real feelings for him. A strange display of reactions show everything is not as it seems with him.
The vivid writing of this story draws me into the plot. It feels like I’m actually there in the beautiful English hamlet Riverton with the old village church, thatch roofed cottages and the Thames River lazily floating by. I love the descriptions of life on the river at the time. A lot of activity seemed to be going on with fishing boats and net makers trying to make a living.
Weeping willow trees and lush greenery add to the lovely nature scene. I can almost hear birds chirping in the trees and feel the sun on my face, while I visualize the story. Who could imagine bad things happen in a beautiful place like this.
I found the menu descriptions of the dinner party at Belle Island as thorough as they were impressive. People really did know how to eat and party at the time. The dancing part an issue in it’s own right.
This plot had great build up of tension. I was kept busy suspecting a number of characters of some kind of foul play throughout the story. The relationship between Isabella and Ben I felt grew slowly but surely amidst all the drama in a way that complimented the story without overpowering it.
The Bridge to Belle Island is recommended for fans of Julie Klassen’s other works and for readers of historical fiction.
My rating 5 stars / 5
(All opinions in this review are my own)
"Stay at home! Stay safe!"
Her mother's last words . . . . forever etched in her brain; compelling Isabelle Wilder to remain tethered to her beautiful home on Belle Island. And now, unfortunate suspicions are swirling about her trustee's untimely death; murder they say . . . . . and somehow she is connected, albeit impossible, because she never travelled to London on that fateful night. However, she does remember having a troubling dream.
Attorney Benjamin Booker has been assigned to investigate the Wilder case; the murder of Percival Norris leads him directly to Belle Island, where a lovelier-than-expected young woman turns out to be his person of interest. The case poses so many unanswered questions and supplies so many people who refuse to answer them that Ben finds it hard to truly suspect anyone, unless he suspects everyone. The longer he remains a guest of the island, the harder it becomes to think that Isabelle Wilder is capable of inflicting harm on anyone, but regrettably Ben has been wrong about attractive women before.
Beautifully written, the author creates a scenario swirling with intrigue and curiosity, before placing all the pieces of the puzzle in exactly the right places; carefully allowing her readers to savor a slow burn romance, while carefully tucking in valuable faith lessons that will undoubtedly outlast the pages of her book.
"State what you suspect as fact with confidence, and nine times out of ten people will believe you in possession of the evidence and respond accordingly."
Top reviews from other countries
In questo caso la scrittrice si cimenta in un autentico "giallo" storico in cui, benché gli omicidi avvengano a Londra, la soluzione si trova in una vasta isola sul Tamigi di proprietà della famiglia Wilder e dove da 10 anni l'ultima esponente, Miss Isabelle, non si mai allontanata perché preda di attacchi di panico, dopo la morte assurda in un incidente di carrozza dei genitori e della sorella.
Quando il tutore legale di Isabelle e della nipote Rose muore assassinato, ovviamente i sospetti ricadono sulle due donne che mal sopportavano il loro guardiano, soprattutto Isabelle che ha già da tempo superato la maggiore età.
Il giovane avvocato Benjamin Booker, a seguito di uno sfortunato errore di giudizio, viene inviato a Belle Island per parlare con la sua proprietaria e farsi un'idea sul movente e sull'opportunità.
Sfortunatamente erano molte le persone ad avere poca stima di Mr. Norris quindi la vicenda si dipana lentamente fra possibili sospetti e molti moventi, con qualche elemento aggiunto per confondere le tracce.
Ho trovato molto belle le descrizioni dell'isola sul Tamigi e ho scoperto che ve ne sono molte di notevoli dimensioni, alcune delle quali ospitano magioni di grande bellezza. E' evidente che la Klassen ha fatto le sue ricerche attente in questo campo.
Il mistero è un pochino complicato ma i lettori attenti non faticheranno a individuare il colpevole.
Per parte mia, ho preferito l'attenzione che l'autrice dedica ai personaggi, che vengono approfonditi nella loro distintiva personalità e risultano davvero ben delineati.
Se vogliamo, il ritmo è un pochino lento, ma in fondo ci sta: questa è una indagine più psicologica che di azione. Solo le ultime scene accelerano la vicenda e portano alla giusta conclusione.