I fell in love with Julie Klassen’s writing back in 2011 when I downloaded The Silent Governess (my review) on a whim. I quickly followed that up with reads of The Apothecary’s Daughter (review) and The Maid at Fairbourne Hall (review). Klassen’s next novel, The Tutor’s Daughter, is slated for a release early in 2013. Knowing this, I had a few months to finish reading everything else of hers published previously. The Girl in the Gatehouse, Klassen’s ode to Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Mansfield Park, became my next choice.
Miss Mariah Aubrey is in trouble. The latest darling of the Ton to fall victim to a tarnished reputation, Mariah is banished to the gatehouse of her Aunt’s estate. Alone except for her servant, Dixon, Mariah writes and publishes novels in secret in order to support the two of them. Captain Matthew Bryant, now back from the Napoleonic wars, decides to rent the estate from Mariah’s cousin, who is facing hard economic times of his own doing. Bryant himself is still stung from a rejection from a high society woman many years prior due to his lack of wealth and social standing (Persuasion, anyone?). When he finds that a mysterious woman is living in the gatehouse of the estate, he can’t help but want to find out more about her past. The more that is revealed, however, the more that Matthew finds that he wants to love this woman despite what it would do to his reputation. What will become of the two of them?
Klassen is a pro at creating awesome heroines. I like that they’ve all had to struggle through some type of hardship to become stronger and more sure of themselves. Having her heroines go through specific trials and tribulations make them find out what they are truly made of and what they are worth. Mariah of the gatehouse is no different. Society and her family have turned their back on her without ever hearing her side of the story that has shamed her into hiding. She is left to her own devices with no way of supporting herself (at first) and has essentially been ostracized from almost all of her family, friends, and neighbors. This abandonment is at first extremely difficult for her to deal with, but it makes her re-evaluate the relationships of the people who have chosen to stick with her. It’s sad to think that back in the day your own family would disown you for even the hint of scandal attached to your name. In Mariah’s case I was surprised that her father wouldn’t listen to her and trust that she was telling him the truth. It saddened me further that both Mariah and her brother, Henry, believed that if their father knew of their conversing that both would be forever cut off financially. To have that broken of a relationship with one’s parents must have been tough to deal with, which is why it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to see that Dixon and Martin become surrogate parents to her. They become the people she bounces her ideas off of and look to for guidance. I enjoyed reading about her finding faith in humanity again as she deepened the bonds with those that supported her in her exile.
I should also mention that Klassen’s writing style is practically flawless. She weaves multiple characters’ lives/demons/hopes/dreams together seamlessly. Several times I thought I had figured out what was going to happen plot-wise only to be totally thrown off by a new addition to the mysteries Klassen had created. What added to the already amazing writing were the quotes she chose to open each chapter with. They added extra depth and insight into each chapter and the story overall. So, if you haven’t yet checked out the awesome works that Klassen has provided, I wholeheartedly recommend The Girl in the Gatehouse. You won’t regret it.
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my forty-sixth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
Bethany House (2011)
eBook: 400 pages