Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall - Julie Klassen

READ: MARCH 27 - 29, 2012

To escape a scheme to marry her off to a dishonorable man, Margaret Macy flees London disguised as a housemaid. If she can remain unwed until her next birthday, she will receive an inheritance, and with it, sweet independence. But she never planned on actually working as a servant. And certainly not in the home of Nathaniel and Lewis Upchurch--both former suitors.

As she fumbles through the first real work of her life, Margaret struggles to keep her identity secret when suspicions arise and prying eyes visit Fairbourne Hall. Can she avoid a trap meant to force her from hiding?

How on earth have I not discovered Julie Klassen before now? I'm typically drawn more towards American, prairie historical romances but Julie is an excellent writer, regardless of what time period her novels are set in. Such attention to detail! This might put some readers off, but being a budding historian myself this appealed to me massively. I'm now seriously considering writing about Victorian servants for my dissertation, as Julie made the subject far more interesting than I initially expected. 

I will admit that I was initially a bit wary of Margaret as she seemed quite stuck-up and snobbish at the beginning of the novel. But it was wonderful to see much she grew over the course of the novel. Sometimes it's worth starting out with a dislikable character in order to make the character's growth more interesting. As well as the strength of historical detail, I also adored the originality of the secondary characters - none of them seemed like cardboard cut-outs, which is something that often occurs when a novel is swimming in secondary characters, as this one was. Helen, Hudson, Lewis, Betty, Fiona - they were all believable and endearing in their own ways. 

I suppose you could say the romance was pretty standard for a historical novel, or complain that the hero and heroine didn't spend much time together, seeing as she was pretending to be a servant and he was the master of the house. Somehow, this didn't detract from the story for me. The mystery of Margaret's disappearance and Nathaniel's fears about his ship and his brother twisted around the romance and drew it out without making the reader get impatient. I thoroughly enjoyed all the twists and turns Margaret and Nathaniel had to wade through before they were able to reveal their true colours to each other. The ending was sweet, simple and very satisfying. 

I think the best way to describe this book is to say that it's comforting. It's spring break and I'm attempting to catch up on all the reading I've got behind on this semester at university, and I picked up this novel in the hope that it would bring a nice 30 minute break from all of the eighteenth century literature I'm wading through. Three days later, I've just managed to put the book down! It was the perfect time to read this book as well - amazingly, it's been 20 degrees celsius for three days straight in Scotland in March. I've spent most days lying on a blanket on the grass outside my house or taking advantage - for once - of the fact that we live a minute's walk from the beach. This was an excellent beach book. I will definitely be getting hold of more of Julie's books this coming summer! So to those who regularly read regency romances - and I do believe that this is my first - this story might not be so special or original, but it was just what I needed at thi
s point in my life. It was immensely comforting and satisfying.


  1. Hi Rachel! I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed this book! I just got a copy myself and I'm anxious to dig into it. :-)

    1. I'm sure you'll love it just as much as I did! :)

  2. If you haven't read any of Julie Klassen's other books, I would definitely recommend The Apothecary's Daughter and also The Silent Governess. I enjoyed both very very much! I haven't gotten around to reading the Maid of Fairbourne Hall yet, but it's definitely one I want to check out. :)

  3. I have read and own all Julie Klassen's books and she's one author whose books I buy without even reading the synopsis. She's that good. Her research into the era about which she's writing is always impeccable and very fascinating. I am a history buff, anyway, and I love reading how others lived in different times. She does not disappoint.
    Margaret Macy, a few months shy of her inheritance, is being forced into marrying her horrible stepfather's nephew, all just to get her money. When she realizes to what extent they will go to in order to make her marry the nephew, Margaret takes off for parts unknown. She is forced by circumstances to hire on as a housemaid at the manor house of the man she once cruelly spurned when he wanted to marry her. She is nervous nearly all the time, fearing she will be found out and returned to her stepfather's house.
    What follows is one tightly written novel and one full of surprises as all sorts of underhanded dealings are done.