PUBLICATION DATE: JANUARY 01, 2012
hen Margaret Macy overhears her stepfather discussing a plan to force her into marrying his nephew, a man of ill repute, she knows that she’s no longer safe in her own home. With the help of her former lady in waiting, she flees London in the disguise of a housemaid. Margaret doesn’t plan to keep up this facade, but pretending to be a servant appears to be her only option, until she comes of age and inherits the fortune that her stepfather so greatly desires. But acting as a servant suddenly isn’t so easy when the house that employs her turns out to belong to her former suitor, Nathaniel Upchurch. Can Margaret remain hidden around someone who used to know her so well? Or will spending time in the home of the man she once spurned cause certain feelings to be rekindled?
My first thought upon finishing this book was simply, “How on earth have I not discovered Julie Klassen before now?” A devoted fan of historical romance, I’m now considering whether my love of prairie and western stories has prevented me from discovering the wonder of the regency period. But even if you’re not fond of novels set in this time period, Julie’s attention to detail is sure to win over any keen historical romance reader. Perhaps some readers may not be fond of so much detail in their romance novels, but as a student of history, Julie’s descriptions of the attire and duties of household servants appealed to me immensely. Despite studying about Victorian servants this year at university, I didn’t really find the topic interesting until reading The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. If I end up writing about this subject for my senior honours project, I’ll have to give Julie credit for the inspiration.
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. I wasn’t sure if I could warm up to such a heroine and sympathise with her, but in the end, it was wonderful to see much Margaret had grown over the course of the novel. Sometimes it’s worth starting out with a dislikeable heroine in order to make the character’s growth more interesting. I also adored the originality of the secondary characters in this novel, who really brought it to life. None of the background characters 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 and Fiona were all believable and endearing in their own ways, and helped to develop Margaret into a character that readers could admire.
I suppose you could say the romance in The Maid of Fairbourne Hall was pretty standard for a historical novel, or maybe even complain that the hero and heroine didn’t spend enough 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, although it has done in other novels of a similar nature. There were several subplots in The Maid of Fairbourne Hall that added to the main plot of Margaret and Nathaniel’s romance and made it into much more than your standard romantic novel. This included the mystery of Margaret’s disappearance as well as Nathaniel’s fears about his ship and those regarding his younger brother, and these factors twisted around the main 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 The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is to say that it’s comforting. Call it escapism or a beach book, but I guarantee that in the process of capturing you with the gripping story, this book will also relax you and make you smile. I read The Maid of Fairbourne Hall during spring break, when I was meant to be catching up on all the reading I’d gotten behind on during that semester at university. I picked up Julie’s novel in the hope that it would give me a nice half-hour break from all of the eighteenth century literature I’d been wading through. Three days later, I finally managed to put the book down, having completely neglected my required reading because I just had to find out what happened to Margaret. I’m new to Julie’s books – although I hope to rectify that problem in the near future – so I can’t discuss this novel in the scope of her writing or even within the genre of regency romance, but I can say that The Maid of Fairbourne Hall was just what I needed to read at that point in my life. Julie Klassen provided me with an immensely satisfying read, and I hope other readers find this novel similarly comforting.