Fiction Fix: British Drama or Mystery, Anyone?

By Tuesday, March 24, 2015 , ,

We all need good fiction. If you’ve got a good fiction book, all is right with the world for a few days because you can escape to another world without ever leaving the comfort of your bed. If you’re one of my fellow British drama fanatics, or if you like great characters, fast-paced reading, or mysteries, I might be able to help with your next fiction getaway. Let me introduce you to Julie Klassen. I knew her work was probably for me when I read the first sentence of her biography on the back of one of her books in a bookstore: “Julie Klassen loves all things Jane – Jane Austen and Jane Eyre.” You had me at Jane, sister.

Her style is readable, easy to understand, and thoroughly British. All her books are filled with witty dialogue, frilly dresses, stately mansions, and period dances to my heart’s content. I also love the thought she puts into her characters. They are very personable, and you feel thoroughly acquainted with them because you know little details about their personalities. Unlike many authors I’ve read, Klassen takes care to make her characters memorable through particular characteristics. I can think of several of her heroines right now because of their specific quirks like quickness with numbers, writing skills, or organizational habits.

The other selling point of Julie Klassen’s work for me is the mystery plots. If you like twisty-turny, intricate stories, you should definitely pick up one of her books. I remember one time that I gave up on being mentally present the next day and just stayed up till 1 or 2 AM to finish her book I’d gotten a few days before. Priorities, people. What makes them really engaging is that the plot constantly keeps you guessing till the end; every time I think I have the mystery figured out, the story takes a new turn and I’m thrown off all over again. It’s sure to make you completely useless to other people for a few days, but again, priorities.

Here are some top Julie Klassen recommendations depending on whether you lean towards the British drama aspect or mystery aspect:

-British Drama Preference:
The Girl in the Gatehouse and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. These two positively drip Jane Austen, elegant houses, and English tradition. The Girl in the Gatehouse has fairly overt nods to Austen, particularly to her novels Persuasion and Mansfield Park. The heroine also writes novels, despite the disapproval of this practice for women at the time, so she reminded me a lot of Austen herself. The setting of a sprawling English manor and extremely witty interchanges between the plucky heroine and humorous supporting characters were icing on the cake. And The Maid of Fairbourne Hall helped my Downton Abbey withdrawals between seasons 4 and 5 (Recommendations while we wait for season 6? Stay strong, friends – only 285 days…but who’s counting?). It’s about a girl who flees her stepfather’s attempt to force her into an arranged marriage to gain control of her inheritance. She runs away to a neighboring city, disguising herself as a housemaid in an aristocratic house. The details of servant life and the divide between servants and masters are emphasized artfully in it, and it naturally reminds you of the similar family-and-staff dynamic in Downton.

-Mystery Preference:
The Tutor’s Daughter and The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Though the majority of Klassen’s work contains mystery elements, these two are especially good in that arena. Both of them are set in old manor houses filled with family secrets, a sure recipe for a fascinating mystery. The Tutor’s Daughter reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre…chilling cries in the night, life-threatening messages found on the wall in the morning, not to mention the creepy employee of the estate that no one seems to question. It was intriguing from the beginning! The Secret of Pembrooke Park is one of Julie Klassen’s latest. Not only is the house big and full of secrets, but it’s also been abandoned for 18 years and has rumors of a secret room and hidden treasure. Plus, the heroine keeps seeing weird footprints and spying someone in a hooded cloak meandering about the estate at odd times. This was the one that I most recently gave up sleep to finish at some unholy hour. But really, it was important!

So what do you think? Have you read Julie Klassen before? Anyone have recommendations similar to her? I am all ears. Meanwhile, grab a cup of hot tea and curl up with any of her books that can all be found on Amazon. Be sure to check out her website and Facebook page to keep up with her news too! She has two more coming out this year that I’m so excited for!

My lovely collection of Klassen books. The only ones not pictured are Lady of Milkweed Manor and The Apothecary's Daughter, both worth looking into as well!

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