"The Tutor's Daughter" by Julie Klassen
When the boarding school of Emma Smallwood's father shuts down, he takes a job tutoring the young sons of a baronet in cliff-top manor in Cornwall. When Emma decides to accompany him, she has no idea what mysteries await her at the manor.
The baronet's older sons, Henry and Phillip, are former students of Mr. Smallwood's and they both remember the relationships they had with the younger Emma. They both find themselves drawn to her and she enjoys getting to know them again. But soon, strange things begin to happen at the manor. At night, Emma hears someone playing the pianoforte, only to find the room empty when she investigates. Someone begins sneaking into her room at night and soon things start to go missing. As these frightening acts begin to escalate Emma finds herself in terrible danger and her hopes lie in an unlikely rescuer.
The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen is a historical romance that has it all - an exciting locale, an interesting time period, dashing suitors, mystery, and intrigue all wrapped in romance. From the beginning this book grabs your interest and holds it tight until the very end. This is a testament to Klassen's writing skill as this book is over 400 pages but it doesn't feel like it at all.
In her author bio Julie writes that she loves all things Jane - Jane Eyre and Jane Austen - and it really shows in her writing. It's obvious that she has done a lot of research for accuracy and she includes in the authors note what inspired certain elements of the book and how she came to know about it. This is appreciated as the book is not just set in a certain time period but draws heavily on actual events and attitudes, such as shipwrecks and mental illness.
I have read one other novel by Julie Klassen, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. I really enjoyed it, especially since the theme of Upstairs, Downstairs is so popular right now. So when I picked this one up I was expecting much of the same (in a good way.) But I was pleasantly surprised to find the elements of gothic literature included. It made the genre of historical fiction fresh to me and definitely made this a page-turner. The Christian fiction elements are excellently woven in without being too preachy. In fact, I would recommend this book to people who aren't Christian as a good historical novel.
I challenged myself this year to read more historical fiction as it has never really been a genre I've been very interested in picking up. However, if Julie Klassen (and others) continue to write novels as fantastic as this one, I will very quickly change my mind about the genre.