I can happily say that Julie Klassen is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. I’m not sure what rock I was living under for the past several years that I had never read any of her novels, but that ignorance is thankfully gone. I can’t get enough of her novels: they’re witty, endearing, and just plain fun to read. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is Klassen’s newest release, showcasing her immense talent as a storyteller.
Margaret Macy is in trouble. As the main recipient of a large inheritance from her aunt, Margaret stands to pass on a large sum of money to whomever she marries. Unfortunately, this had made her a target for her step-father, who aims to profit from this inheritance by forcing her to marry his nephew. To make matters worse, no one believes his treachery because he puts on a completely different facade in public. In order to escape this, Margaret escapes and leaves London, taking a job as a housemaid in the home of Nathaniel Upchurch. Upchurch is notable as he is a suitor that Margaret once turned down in hopes of attaining his brother, Lewis. Margaret clumsily attempts to do the work of a housemaid, the first time she’s ever had to do physical labor in her life. As she takes up a position behind the scenes in the Upchurch household, Margaret begins to notice that her preconceived notions of Nathaniel and Lewis aren’t as correct as she originally thought. Can she escape detection until she inherits the fortune on her birthday? What will happen as her feelings towards Nathaniel change?
I’m in LOVE with this novel. Dare I say it? These are the best characters that Klassen’s written to date! I’ve read a few of her other novels (The Apothecary’s Daughter and The Silent Governess) so I think I can make that claim! At first glance Nathaniel is a dark and brooding man, whom you learn later on has a heartbreaking past. He is constantly overshadowed by his overly charming brother, Lewis, in almost all aspects of life except business sense. Even the woman Nathaniel proposes to spurs him for the affections of his brother instead. It’s no wonder the man is stoic and cold! Meanwhile, Margaret is uppity and snobbish until life throws her a curveball. Forced to look at herself through others’ eyes she realizes what a cold and uncaring woman she has appeared to be. Nathaniel and Margaret both realize the folly of their ways eventually, and strive to change others’ opinions of them. In this way they are both redeemable and deserve the love they so wish could be theirs. THIS is what Klassen’s legacy as a writer will be. Her ability to get readers incredibly involved with the transformation of her characters. At first glance it seems that there is no hope for Nathaniel and Margaret to change their ways. But, with love and time they look inwards and find themselves unhappy with what they see and vow to change for the better.
There were times where the pace of the writing definitely slowed down (especially during Nathaniel’s brother’s “injury”) and could probably have been condensed a bit, but in the end it all came together for a wonderful and beautifully written ending. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good underdog and roots for them to get the recognition that they deserve!
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my thirty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen
Bethany House (2012)
eBook: 416 pages