by Julie Klassen
Murder. Mystery. Love. Haunted Abbey.
Personally, I have never been one to read murder mystery novels. Although I do love intrigue, I just didn’t enjoy the stress of trying to figure out “whodunit” in the length of a book. BUT after reading this novel, I am changing my tune!
Instead of feeling stressed, I rather felt drawn into the story. Constantly picking apart every scene, every spoken word, every flashback. It drew me in until I couldn’t read due to the lateness of the hour.
Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.
When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.
The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick–magistrate, widower, and former neighbor–who long ago broke her heart.
When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something. . . .
The backdrop of the old and ancient abbey made this story even more intriguing. I was constantly waiting for a ghost to jump out of the painted portraits or something to that effect. Furthermore, as a medieval fanatic, I found myself fascinated with its history. I am curious if the abbess and the abbey were based on true events?
Rebecca Lane was a character I rather liked. She made the best of every situation, even when tasked with a rather challenging mission. Her battle between truth and honesty and that of a family and obligation kept me arguing with myself on what path she should take. I won’t say more in an effort to not give anything away! But what would you do?
Sir Fredrick is methodical and calculating, which works well when you are the magistrate. Although he does seek justice, I appreciated his balance of both duty and protection. His love for Rebecca is very evident to the reader, even when it’s not known to him.
Outside of the overarching murder mystery, there is such depth to this story. It is not until well into the book that the murder takes place. I say this now not because I want to spoil the story for you, but rather because I feel you will be able to relax more than I did. In order for the story to have such mystery, you need a variety of characters with all of their own backstories and ties to the victim. Simply use this time to glean as much as you can, and start questioning all of them from the beginning.
Writing this story now makes me want to reread just to see if I would catch anything different this time, knowing what I know now!
I was given a free copy of the book, but the opinions in this review are completely my own.
The Red Review: ❤️❤️❤️❤️💔
***4.5 Hearts: Compelling Characters, Well-Written, Interesting Storyline, Unable to Stop, Desire to ReRead (.5)