In pursuit of an author who could help get her brother published, Rebecca Lane stays at Swanford Abbey, a grand hotel rumored to be haunted. It is there she encounters Sir Frederick–the man who broke her heart. When a mysterious death occurs, Rebecca is one of the suspects, and Frederick is torn between his feelings for her and his search for the truth.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, and I am writing a voluntary review.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen was my first introduction to the gothic genre, and initially I was not impressed. Then I went to a conference about it, where they explained the cultural and historical aspects of this writing style, and while it still isn’t necessarily my favorite as a whole, I definitely appreciate it much more. All that to say, this book had strong gothic/Northanger Abbey vibes, and I loved it.
I admittedly went into this book expecting the traditional, run of the mill Christian historical romance, and so I was excited to see that it was not. It contains just enough of the genre (handsome hero, beautiful heroine, etc.) so that I was quite satisfied on that front, but the gothic twist was perfect. Originality is a huge part of my criteria for books, and I have never read a Christian fiction book with a gothic twist, so definitely five stars on that front.
On to the plot. To start, I loved that there actually was a plot outside of the relationship. The mystery element kept me engaged, and I enjoyed how Klassen approached the gothic elements (ghosts, etc.) from a Christian perspective, so we got all of the spookiness while still receiving an entirely plausible explanation. It was also quite interesting to learn about the legal procedures surrounding a murder in England at that time.
Even though I have read countless Christian historical fiction books, this one will always stand out to me for its originality. The gothic style is often overlooked in the historical fiction genre, and yet it had such a pronounced role in history. I loved this nod to Northanger Abbey, especially since it still met all of my pleasure-read requirements.