May 7, 2012

Upstairs, Downstairs

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

Release Date: January 2012
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 412 pages
Source & Format: Library; Paperback

Sum It Up
Margaret Macy is rich and spoiled. She's used to getting her way, and she doesn't think of others first. After the loss of her father and her mother's remarriage, Margaret finds herself faced with a horrible future. Her stepfather, determined to gain access to her inheritance, has specific man in mind for her to marry. To escape this undesirable arranged marriage, Margaret must flee the only home she's ever known and the life she's grown accustomed to. She disguises herself as a maid and finds work at Fairbourne Hall, the home of a man whose proposal she once rejected. In a precarious position, Margaret must find a way to protect herself and make sure no one learns her secret.

By Its Cover: Regency Romance
All of Julie Klassen's novels feature a girl on the cover with the surroundings hinting at what situation she finds herself in. For Margaret, you get a glimpse at her maid's uniform, her disguise and the estate where she finds work. It's not awful, but I do think the cover is a little cheesy. It looks like any other Christian fiction historical romance.

Amen, Sister Friend: She's Okay, I Guess...
Margaret is supposed to be an incredibly spoiled character. The only problem is that I had barely met Margaret before I was learning about her predicament. The main way you really learn that Margaret is selfish and kind of bratty is in other character's conversations. Yes, there are a few scenes where she isn't kind to her maid, but she's not that terrible. Then, she undergoes this big "transformation" and becomes more likable. In all honesty, I wasn't impressed with Margaret. I didn't dislike, but I also didn't really like her. I hate saying it because I've really liked Klassen's other heroines, but Margaret is probably my least favorite of all of them. 

Literary Love: Sweet Not Swoony
Margaret rejected Nathaniel years ago when he asked for her hand in marriage. He traveled to the Indies to help his father's business pursuits there, but he's just returning to England. It shouldn't be too surprising for me to tell you that he has magically grown from an awkward and slightly nerdy youth to a handsome and commanding man. The worst part of Margaret's rejection? She did it because she had feelings for his brother. In her position as a maid, Margaret quickly learns which brother is honorable and which is not. And you'll see the ending coming from a mile away. It was more of sweet romance rather than a swoony one.

Word Nerd: Interesting But Slow
This is the third or fourth book I've read by Klassen, and I've really enjoyed them all. She writes interesting heroines (even if Margaret wasn't her best), and she incorporates faith in a genuine way. The thing I have liked best about her novels is that I always end up learning a lot about the time period in which the book is set while I'm reading. She incorporates interesting facts and details throughout her story, and it makes for a rich reading experience. I love when I learn something about a time period while reading historical fiction.

One of the problems that I had with this book was that I could set it down and never felt very drawn to pick it back up. It wasn't bad - not at all! It just didn't have very much dramatic tension driving the story. It never felt like I just had to know what happened next. It was entertaining and interesting, yes, but it wasn't gripping. I think the tension is supposed to rest on this question of will she be discovered and will she be forced to marry a man who just wants her fortune; however, the resolution to both questions sort of felt inevitable to me.

Extra, Extra: Downton Abbey
Because of my obsession with Downton Abbey, I can't resist a story about the rich family upstairs and the  hardworking people downstairs. In case you can't tell from the summary, this is all about both kinds of people. And yes, I wanted to read it for that reason.

Extra, Extra: Rogues & Duels
Who doesn't appreciate a little dueling action? And what Regency novel is complete without the requisite rogue? I'm happy to say this novel has a little of both. 

So Quotable
"I need to hear the words of this book—its truth, forgiveness, hope—as much as anybody."

Bottom Line: Try Another Klassen Novel First
You can probably tell I didn't really love this book, and I hate writing a lukewarm review. Let me make this clear - it's a good book. And I think Klassen is a good writer. This just wasn't my favorite. I've read so many great books lately that I think this one suffered in comparison. I would recommend checking out another Klassen novel first if you're interested - my favorite by her was The Girl in the Gatehouse. I know some people who loved this book, so I know that it will really hit the spot for some. If I didn't feel like I knew everything that was going to happen before it actually did, I probably would have loved it.

4 comments:

  1. Oh bummer, when I was reading the beginning of your review I got excited about the premise but it sounds like it is just so so. Have you read The Apothecary's Daughter? I haven't read anything by Klassen but that one is on my Kindle and I just haven't gotten to it yet.

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    1. I know - I was so excited about the premise but it really was just okay. It wasn't bad by any means, and I'd tell you to check it out if you ever find it at the library. But it's more of a book to pick up when you don't have tons of other books waiting for you.

      I have read The Apothecary's Daughter and liked it much better! I think the story in that one had a little more tension, and I wasn't able to guess the end. I also loved The Girl in the Gatehouse, and it's probably my favorite of what I've read by Klassen so far. Interested in seeing what you think once you end up reading it :)

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  2. I've read The Apothecary's Daughter and the Lady of Milkweed Manor, and I was kind of disappointed by the predictability of the books {I remember the former being more frustratingly predictable than the latter}. Is this one any better than those? Which one of hers is your favorite?

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    Replies
    1. I've read both of those, and preferred the Lady of Milkweed Manor over the other. But this would be my least favorite of all three. I think it was even more predictable than the other two. I actually liked The Girl in the Gatehouse best, even though it's still pretty predictable. I think I just liked the heroine the best because she was a writer haha! I've read reviews from people saying this is their favorite of all Klassen's books so far, but it definitely wasn't mine. Let me know if you end up reading it!

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