Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
TYPE OF NOVEL: Regency Romance, Historical Fiction
SETTING: 1814, Whitmore, England
SYNOPSIS: Mariah Aubrey is no longer welcome in her father’s house, and therefore must move to an abandoned gatehouse on her aunt’s estate. Happy to have a roof over her head, Mariah strives to make her new life a success. But after a few months it is looking a little bleak, and Mariah doesn’t think they will have the funds to continue living there much longer… Her aunt’s estate is soon leased by a Captain Bryant, who is on a mission to impress the woman (and her father) who rejected him four years ago. His plans don’t include befriending the girl in the gatehouse, but it seems he is inexplicably drawn to her even though scandal surrounds her… Is it just friendly compassion or something more?
WHAT I LOVED:
– Touches of Jane Austen: In every Julie Klassen novel readers can spot allusions or references to Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë. In her author bio it says Ms. Klassen “loves all things Jane.” With a character named Mariah with a tarnished reputation and a naval captain trying to win over someone who previously rejected him, there were some nods to Mansfield Park and Persuasion in this tale. Two novels that pair very well together and are not often referenced in Ms. Klassen’s other novels. I enjoyed spotting the parallels and clever ways Ms. Klassen paid tribute to these two stories. There is also a scene or two that made me think of Sense and Sensibility!
– A Host of Characters: Adjoining the estate Mariah lives on is a poorhouse, and Mariah gets to know several of the children and other residents who live there. In addition, Mariah and her nurse-turned-servant meet other workers from the estate and befriend them. It was lovely to see so many people connect and grow closer to each other in this small estate. All these secondary characters were endearing and well-developed and their interactions with each other warm your heart and make you wish you could join their happy little troupe!
– Slowly Revealed: Why is Mariah not welcome in her father’s home? What did she do? What is in her aunt’s locked chest that she gave to Mariah? What secrets does the poorhouse hold? These answers aren’t revealed until more than halfway through the story! I love how Ms. Klassen introduces a bit of intrigue or mystery right at the beginning of her stories and very slowly divulges clues chapter by chapter, but doesn’t reveal all until much later! It is always so much fun to make my own suppositions and see if I am right! 😉
– Eventful: With so many secondary characters and more than one secret, there are quite a few story-lines that interweave with each other in this tale! Between reading journals, writing stories, performing theatricals, visiting the poorhouse, and a grand house party filled with many guests there is quite a bit going on. I enjoyed the multiple story-lines and how each character had some interesting developments happening.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
– Sometimes Overshadowed: With so many delightful characters occasionally stealing the spotlight, I did sometimes feel that Captain Bryant and the relationship between him and Mariah was a little overshadowed. I love relationships that begin as innocent friendships, and in the early part of the book we see many moments where both feel a bit of admiration or attraction for the other. I guess I wanted to see their relationship more in the spotlight during the second part of the book.
Intrigue and secrets, a strong and admirable heroine, seamless writing, and a scattering of Jane Austen influences and allusions – The Girl in the Gatehouse is filled with all my favorite Julie Klassen trademarks! Proving once again why I adore her works! To echo everyone that has said it before – if you love Jane Austen and Regency romances, you should read Julie Klassen!