Top positive review
The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen - 5 Stars - a Christian Regency romance - delightful, simply delightful!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 26, 2011
Original review: I have loved every Julie Klassen book, and this one is no exception. A very fun read with lots of fabulous characters.
The Girl in the Gatehouse
"'It is you,' he began foolishly. 'I almost did not recognize you. Without the cap, I mean, and. . . well you were dressed so. . . That is, I thought you were . . . '"
"'A maidservant?' she said easily."
"'He winced. 'Forgive me.'"
"'There is nothing to forgive. You came upon me in my jam-making attire.' She smiled. 'Yet I recognize you out of uniform, Captain Bryant.'"
"The Girl in the Gatehouse" (2010, Bethany House) is a standalone Christian Regency romance by Julie Klassen set near the village of Whitmore in Staffordshire, England in 1814. I chose to reread this book because I have enjoyed every Klassen book I've ever read. I loved this book just as much the second time around! It's really excellent, and it's pretty telling that out of all the books she has written, it is Julie Klassen's favorite book - at least as of when she answered a reader's question on Goodreads, which was between the publication of "The Secret of Pembrooke Park" and her "Ivy Hill" series.
Rating: 5 stars without question!
Narration: 5 stars
The heroine: Mariah Aubrey, 24, has been banished from her family's home and relegated to the gatehouse on the estate of a relative. She soon finds that she has need of funds and decides to turn to her talent for writing, hoping it can become a means of support.
The hero: Captain Matthew Bryant meets Mariah when he has a mishap while traveling alone on a horse. She helps him out, which was reminiscent of Jane Eyre meeting Mr. Rochester for the first time. This might be coincidental, but either way, I thought it was fun.
*Before chapter one, we have, "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. --Jesus Christ (NIV)"
*Late in the book: "Mariah prayed, contritely asking God to forgive not only her offenses, but for wavering in her devotion."
Is it clean/chaste? Yes! However, I'd say this book is not for middle school students.
What I liked:
*The cover of this book may possibly be my favorite cover of all time. Not only is it gorgeous, but it's a perfect representation of the story!
*I loved the number of elements from Jane Austen books, especially Mansfield Park, which were used in this story. The beginning of each chapter has a quote, and it's frequently an Austen quote.
According to Ms. Klassen's author's note in the back of the book - which I don't remember hearing in the audio version - Austen's Maria (pronounced Mariah) Bertram's situation partly inspired the creation of Klassen's Mariah Aubrey. (Don't worry - Klassen's very caring Mariah is unlike the very selfish Maria created by Austen!) And Captain Bryant was partly inspired by Austen's Captain Wentworth
*The secondary characters in this story were absolutely stupendous. Loved, loved, loved them all. And there's many of them!
*The setting, the setting! So rich, rich, rich! A manor house, a gatehouse, and a poorhouse! These were so very well drawn, and I loved it all!
*Historical details are always fun, especially when they're lesser-known ones. Klassen includes Kissing Friday in the story, when "boys were allowed, under a tradition of indeterminate origin, to kiss them [girls] without fear of getting a slap or being chased by an angry parent. Under the rules of Kissing Friday, falling two days after Ash Wednesday, the tradition supposedly said that no girl was allowed to say no." (Quote from BBC dot com)
*Another atypical historical detail was the inclusion of the poorhouse. It's something that is occasionally mentioned in Regency novels as something to be avoided, but I've never read another Regency that includes a poorhouse and its people as an important part of the setting.
What I didn’t like: The antagonist! But the reader isn't supposed to. And kudos to Ms. Klassen for showing a hint of redeeming qualities in the antagonist.
Audiobook: The narration by Elizabeth Jasicki was most excellent.
The bottom line: This was an ideal Christian Regency romance. I recommend this book to all fans of Jane Austen or Regency romance, regardless of whether they're readers of Christian novels. I think that aspect was organically portrayed. I will be reading more by this author, whether it's a reread (via Audible) or one of the few I haven't read yet.
I'm adding Klassen to my list of top 5 authors. I have long suspected she belongs on that list, but it had been so long since I had read one of her books that I wanted to do a reread to be certain. It's going to be a top 6 list now, because I really don't feel like eliminating any of the others.