The Secret of Pembrooke Park Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Abigail Foster fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry to improve her charms and the one man she thought might marry her - a longtime friend - has fallen for her younger, prettier sister. When financial problems force her family to sell their London home, a strange solicitor arrives with an astounding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned for 18 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 to know something about the manor's past, the only information they offer Abigail is a warning: Beware trespassers who may be drawn by rumors that Pembrooke contains a secret room filled with treasure. Hoping to improve her family's financial situation, Abigail surreptitiously searches for the hidden room, but the arrival of anonymous letters addressed to her, with clues about the room and the past, bring discoveries even more startling. As secrets come to light, will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks.... or very real danger?
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|Listening Length||18 hours and 3 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 12, 2014|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #33,509 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#70 in Christian Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#118 in Christian Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#193 in Regency Romance
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Top reviews from the United States
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The characters are all three-dimensional, such that Abigail and William, while wonderful, don't stand out as the most developed the way a lead couple normally does. Don't get me wrong, though--they work great as a couple. I like how Abigail's practicality and acceptance of spinsterhood made her more open to William, a curate she might not have considered if she'd had the opportunities other ladies her age did. William, as a parson, has a strong faith of course, but Julie did well at making it an organic part of his character, while still making clear he and Abigail were attracted to each other. The romance isn't steamy, but Julie does go some unexpected places with it--read the sickroom scene for a daring example. However, what's even better is, Abigail and William come to love each other based on trust and friendship, not only attraction.
As noted, the secondary characters pop like nothing I've seen in a while. They also give Julie the opportunity to play with some tropes not always found in Regency fiction. For instance, I never doubted Abigail would choose William over Gilbert, but I liked the conflict and the way they were able to maintain friendship. Sometimes I wanted to shake my head, pat Gilbert on the shoulder and say, "She's just not that into you, dude," which again, normally doesn't happen with Regency women because their time period practically forces them to be desperate for marriage. Additionally, Julie does a great job with some mystery tropes, such as mistaken or secret identities, secret rooms, and double meanings or red herrings.
Speaking of the mystery in Pembrooke Park, it hits all the right notes. I wasn't sure what I was expecting from it, but what I got was a logical, yet engaging surprise, at every turn. Without spoiling anything, Leah Chapman was my favorite part of the mystery and maybe the entire book. It's not often authors give "spinsters" this type of development, especially if they also struggle with issues like social anxiety. I loved Leah's character growth and occasionally wished Pembrooke Park was her book.
Several subplots, small scenes, and less heard from secondary characters add to the book's enjoyable flavor. I loved the subplot between Lizzie and Jane, and the heartbreaking element of the truth about Miles. Rough-tongued but good-hearted Mac Chapman will forever stick in my memory as an unexpectedly noble character, servant heritage or not. His scenes with Leah were some of the most touching of the book.
The one and only reason I took a star was length--I don't think this needed 462 pages to tell a good story. However, if you've never read Julie Klassen before, Pembrooke Park is probably her best most recent one. If you have, or want to revisit, do give it a go.
Writing is great. Flows well. Unexpected plot twists. Well-developed characters.
Miss Abigail Foster is the practical elder daughter of a London family during the Regency era. At the start of the story, her family suffers financial reverses and must retrench. A timely offer comes from the solicitor for a distant relative: they can live for a year rent-free at an old manor house, Pembrooke Park. A few mysterious restrictions are attached to the offer, warning us that all is not as it seems. The man Abigail believes she loves, a childhood friend, is off to Italy for a time, so she has no strong motive to stay in London. Abigail and her father jump at the chance to inhabit Pembrooke Park; the younger sister and her mother want to remain in London for the season.
Upon arriving at the manor, Abigail finds a series of interlocking mysteries and mysterious characters. Does the house hide a treasure? Who is the heavily veiled lady in the cemetery? Why is her neighbor Leah so reserved? Abigail also attracts a certain amount of admiration, especially from the young curate. The story unfolds with revelations doled out bit by bit, relationships growing out of shared experience. Most of the characters are fleshed out, though a few (notably Abigail’s younger sister) seem to be around for convenience’s sake. I did figure out the main components of the mystery before they were revealed, but that never bothers me in a story such as this; I enjoy taking the journey.
The two elements I did not enjoy so much were the modern language and the modern manners. This story could have been set in the present, or at least the twentieth century, and I would have admired it more. For me, use of American contemporary slang in a Regency novel is very jarring: “It will look fine with the gown you always wear” on the first page gave me due warning that there was going to be little attempt to sound “period.” The modern manners bothered me more—men and women meeting alone at night and touching each other; mingling of people from different classes, to a degree that would have been impossible in the period; excessive familiarity on short acquaintance; etc. I would have liked the novel better had it not been dressed up in Regency garb; the characters and their actions would have been more believable even as far back as the 1920s. These elements in this setting required a suspension of disbelief that is hard for me to achieve.
Still, this book is much better written than many novels set in the Regency period, and I had a good time reading it.
I did appreciate how clean the romance was, as well as the Christian doctrine appropriately sprinkled throughout.
Ms. Klassen is one of my favorite authors - I have been disappointed by her last two books (this one and Dancing Master), but she is a great talent, and I hope her next effort will more resemble her earlier books. Having had these two recent, mediocre experiences, I think for her next book I will wait to get it at the library instead of buying.
Top reviews from other countries
I am not a huge romance reader, but every now and again I do like to read something from the genre, and this title was nominated in Goodreads Best Romance Reads of the year, so perhaps my expectations were higher than usual. It started off with a lot of potential but by 50% of the way through I wish it had been better edited, as the pace fluctuated.
The elements of mystery and suspense in the book just about lifted it to an enjoyable read and had I read the book just expecting a relatively strong mystery novel I would have liked it without feeling like something was missing from the book, however, I was in the mood to be swept off my feet in a good romance when I picked this one up, which didn't happen despite the intrigue in the plot.
The romance would be considered quite chaste by some, lame by others and personally for me reached no great depth: it didn't make me cringe but evoked no strong emotions in me at all. I enjoyed reading Abigail, who is a great protagonist in that she was a strong and intelligent female lead. The narrative and language was almost convincing of the recency era in which the story was based until I came across the phrase, "girl talk," later in the book.
Not the best romance read by a long shot but if you like Jane Austin-style derivative period fiction and a family mystery, this will appeal.