About the Book:
Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?
The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.
When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame... and which brother to trust with her heart?
This story was as excellent as the rest of Ms. Klassen's books! She truly has a wonderful handle on the language and behavior of regency England. She states in her bio that she loves all things Jane (as in Jane Eyre and Jane Austen) and she clearly shows that in her writing. This particular story seems closer to the Bronte sisters than Austen though, with all the mysteries that are abounding. And there is plenty of mystery surrounding the Weston family, which Emma gets thrown into pretty much upon arrival at the manor. The setting is fabulous. With the cliffs surrounding the manor both awe-inspiring and dangerous, and the manor itself having many wings and rooms within which lie many secrets. The Weston family themselves are each quite intriguing and it takes Emma a while to figure out who is to be trusted and who isn't. Everyone isn't all they seem at first glance in this house. Ms. Klassen does a brilliant job of revealing a few secrets as we read along, while keeping some secrets a mystery yet revealing certain clues along the way. Just enough to make you read further to try and figure everything out. Yet this isn't a mystery story only. There is the subtle romance that builds quietly until things can't be denied any longer. Much like Ms. Austen's books, she keeps the romance light but trust me, it's still there. The moments that it does shine through are quite pleasant indeed! :D There is also Emma's friendship with another character that is so sweet and charming. And Emma is an interesting character herself. Having to deal with a continuously grieving father over the death of her mother while still grieving a little inside also, feels very real. Her love for her father and yet her frustration with his inability to move on is a near constant pressure inside her. She's also quite determined and stubborn when it comes to dealing with the things that are happening around her. She's used to being in control, and these things that keep happening are daily reminding her that she's not as in control as she thinks she is. Her struggle is understandable and we root for her to finally surrender herself to God. And her lists! I don't make near as many lists as she does, but I do like them, so I really enjoyed that particular quirk of hers. And so does a certain other character who just doesn't want to admit it! ;)
This is a well-written story that, while clearly reminiscent of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, very clearly has it's own story to tell and own world to draw you into. If you enjoy Austen and/or the Bronte's, you should absolutely read this one.
A Fun Passage For You:
"Intending to ask the boys about the toy soldier, Emma took it upstairs with her after breakfast. She placed it on the schoolroom desk and resumed her cataloging. She found herself reading too much and organizing too little but reminded herself there was no hurry. Kneeling before the schoolroom shelves, she spied a thin volume that had become wedged in the back of the lowest shelf. Since she was alone, she leaned forward to reach the book, her bum projected in a most unladylike manner, to carefully extricate it without damage.
A dry chuckle disturbed her concentration.
"Well, well. Miss Smallwood. And just as I remember her."
Prickles of embarrassment and dread rippled through her. She recognized that voice."