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4.3 out of 5 stars
The Girl in the Gatehouse
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 17, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
September 1813. Take one abandoned gatehouse on an English estate adjacent to the village poorhouse. Insert one banished woman. Season with fascinating secondary characters, a shipwreck, and a manservant with a hook instead of a hand. Sprinkle in some 18th century home-produced plays and an old man with a spyglass pacing a rooftop. Sear with the heady longings of the hero and heroine along with an unexpectedly sweet courtship between two mature characters. Add echoes of Jane Austen. Simmer in exhaustive research about a hierarchical culture with liberal spoonfuls of social commentary, intrigue, and unlikely love. Toss in some unpredictable plot twists at the very end and a gate yearning to be unlocked. Result? A delicious, noteworthy historical romance novel well worth your time.

Chapter 18 of The Girl in the Gatehouse begins with an Austen quote, "I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything else than of a book!"

It is a happy thing to write a book review for Jane Austen devotee, Julie Klassen, on this, the 235th anniversary of Miss Austen's birth. Unlike Miss Austen, who received little notoriety or respect for her writing during her lifetime, Julie Klassen is a RITA and Christy Award finalist. Ms. Klassen returns a third time to expertly write about the Regency period in English history. I have great respect for her work. In her author's note, she states that the novel is peppered with Austen-like characters. Julie Klassen's love of writing and authors pervade The Girl in the Gatehouse. Women who aren't supposed to write publish anonymously. Letters are written, read and re-read. Closeted writers abound, male and female alike, producing journals, stories, "theatricals" and novels. Ms. Klassen pens an engrossing read.

Well-paced and styled, The Girl in the Gatehouse introduces us to characters we care about even when our everyday tasks force us to lay the book aside for a time. Matthew Bryant, a successful navy captain recently returned from the Napoleonic wars, leases the estate, determined to piece together his fractured past. Mariah Aubrey has a safely-guarded secret and a predilection for helping others despite being tossed out on her ear by her father. We read only hints of her indiscretion until she bravely writes her own experience into her third novel. Mariah, however, seems a bit bland and placid through most of the book and then suddenly overwrought at the end. I found it curious that she waited so long to open her aunt's chest.

Helpful discussion questions are included in the back of the book. Beautiful motifs embellish new chapter pages as well as quotes from various 18th and 19th century poets and authors, particularly women. Literature is revered in this inspirational historical fiction novel, bookended, ironically, with the phrases "the end" and "the beginning."

Highly recommended to historical fiction and literature lovers or those simply looking for an enticing read.

Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
As soon as I saw 'The Girl in the Gatehouse' on the shelf of the bookstore where I work I "snatched" it without thought. I knew any book by Julie Klassen was a MUST HAVE. I was not disappointed. Like a young child with an open cookie jar, I read the entire book in one sitting; stayed up all night to do so. I didn't want to wait, even until morning, to know how the author would solve the problems and bring the story to a happy but believable ending. Rarely do I read a romance novel with a plot that holds my attention and keeps me wondering right to the end of the book. This one did. "What is she hiding? Why does he do that? Is there something going on between them? How can he be so dense?" Those are some of the questions I kept asking myself as I read. All were answered, delightfully and with more surprises than I've had in a book in a long time. To top all this, the book was filled with allusions to characters, plots, and quotes from books by Jane Austen. These caused moments of such startling joy as to make the reading of this book feel as if I was reading an old favorite instead of a brand new, hot off the press book.

'The Girl in the Gatehouse' is an excellent story and more; it is truly delightful. If this book doesn't bring Julie Klassen another award I will be very much surprised. I recommend it without reservation as one of the best books I've read.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
Three years ago I had the great pleasure of reading Julie Klassen's first novel, "Lady of Milkweed Manor." That's all it took to make me a huge fan of Klassen's storytelling. Every time I have an opportunity to suggest literature to others, I nearly always starts with Klassen's novels. I'm thrilled to have 4 to recommend now. I saved "The Girl in the Gatehouse" for a a quiet moment during Christmas vacation and I wasn't disappointed. True to form, this story captured me in the very first pages and there was absolutely no putting it down. All 391 pages were devoured in one snowy day. Klassen's character development is rich, her beautiful, descriptions of the Regency-set atmosphere are so precise, I felt like I could see every detail and feel the chill in the air when Mariah Aubrey felt it. I highly recommend "The Girl in the Gatehouse" as well as Klassen's other three novels. My only gripe is that now I have to wait for the release of her next novel. Please hurry, Julie, hurry!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I'm going to do a lot of comparing with The Silent Governess because that's the only other Klassen I've read. Austen's influence on Klassen was subtle in The Silent Governess. It becomes more pronounced in The Girl in the Gatehouse.

Mariah is a sympathetic version of Mansfield Park's Maria Bertram and Matthew Bryant is clearly inspired by Persuasion's Captain Wentworth. Both are struggling with adequacy issues: Mariah is a "fallen woman" - she feels every stone cast against her and feels that she deserves every one. Bryant is ambitious to prove to his father, his crush, and basically all the world that he's a person worthy of love and respect. Klassen makes them both wonderfully flawed and insecure as they try to love themselves (and eventually be able to love others--including each other). Once again the cast of background characters are just as interesting as the main protagonists. However, compared with The Silent Governess, the cast of characters isn't as complex as those of The Silent Governess. In The Silent Governess all of the characters had some tragic flaw, as well as redeeming qualities. Here that doesn't happen as much- the good are clearly good and the bad are clearly bad. I only note that because I thought it was one of the great strengths of The Silent Governess. But I still stayed up late reading this one. Recommended!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you are looking for a clean and refreshing historical romance set in 18th Century England, this is it! Mariah's story is fascinating and while the romance is slow to develop, it does reach a climax that does not disappoint. The author is also inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion in several of the characters and the scenes in the book, which I very much enjoyed. I also loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. So why the 3.5 stars? Even though I finished this book in 2 days, I did not love it as much as other novels of the same genre I have read. The chemistry between the main characters and the development of their love story was not as compelling as I would have liked. However, it was definitely worth reading and enjoyable.

Note: while this may be referred to as a Christian novel, I did not find a strong Christian element in this book aside from a couple of Bible verses and some references to God's forgiveness.
**See all my reviews on my blog (sensibleromance.wordpress.com)
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
**Bethany House Publishers provided me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for posting a review with my honest (good or bad) opinion of it.**

I have my own classification system for books:

1. suitable to pass on to my mother to read
2. NOT suitable for my mother

This one definitely falls into category #1. I loved it, and I know mom will, too.

I haven't read other Julie Klassen books so I can't compare this book with any of her others.

The characters make up a many-layered plot with a bit of mystery, a bit of romance, and a peek into the social structure of the early 1800s.

I don't need to write another editorial review or spoiler about the book since there's plenty of that already written.

But I would like to offer this commentary:

Others have reviewed (both favorably and unfavorably) of the Christian theme running through the book. I'm not seeing it. Morals and proper etiquette and social appearances, definitely, but nothing so strongly Christian that I would have realized Ms. Klassen is known as a Christian author.

And, that's not a complaint. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. I'm a reader with a personal library filled with an eclectic mix of authors and genres. I'm a Christian, but I'm not as easily offended as my mother. A lot of the best sellers I have stacked by my bedside I would NEVER consider passing on for her to read. They're well beyond her PG-13 comfort level simply because they are littered with unnecessary vulgar language (not even to mention the way-too-explicitly detailed romance interactions). And, no, I don't go searching for R-rated (or worse) books--I look for 4-star and higher Amazon reviews, and usually the first ones that pop up are from various best seller lists).

Anyway... I've already recommended this book to several friends, and I'm happy to recommend it here to the rest of the world. Ms. Klassen, you did good!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Historical fiction is, I believe, my favorite literary genre. Whether it gives a glimpse into the lives of every day people or a more intimate view of what historic events might have been like, I find myself more absorbed in such stories than in any other.

The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen is definitely a novel worthy of that love for historical fiction. Set in the early 1800's, this novel gives readers a glimpse into multiple aspects of early nineteenth century British culture.

Young Mariah Aubrey has been banished from her home over a scandal that has left her heart broken and her existence lonely. Forced to find a way to support herself and her loyal companion, Mariah writes novels anonymously, knowing that having her name attached to a published work would serve to only increase her shame in the eyes of her father.

Mariah's exiled home is the long-abandoned gatehouse on her aunt's second husband's estate. When her aunt passes away, a young naval captain, attempting to prove himself worthy of a young woman of great status, leases the grand estate. The friendship that arises between exile and captain lead them to discoveries neither would have imagined.

Author Julie Klassen does a phenomenal job of weaving multiple stories together and bringing them all successfully to a beautiful and unified conclusion. She is skilled at weaving a mystery that can hold its revelation until the appropriate time. Klassen also created a beautiful heroine in Mariah Aubrey, a young woman who came face to face with the consequences of her own sin, yet did not allow herself to be drawn into the mire because of it.

My sole complaint about The Girl in the Gatehouse is found in the spiritual aspect of the book. Instead of either leaving the spiritual completely alone or fully developing it, Klassen simply hinted at it. Mariah goes from struggling with her sin to suddenly having laid hold of forgiveness with no development of the idea. Captain Bryant searches his own spiritual condition in a scene which holds much promise for development, but then the book ends with no further discussion of the issue. While I do not feel that every book - even every book published as a Christian fiction novel - requires specific spiritual development, I think the author should have chosen to go one way or the other. It was frustrating to me as a reader to have the spiritual merely toyed with.

That one complaint aside, I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl in the Gatehouse and I would definitely recommend it. I also have another novel by the same author awaiting me on my Kindle, and I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

This book was sent to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. A favorable review was not required.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I could not get through this book. I struggled with the whole book (since i paid $10 for it i had to try to get through it) and at the last few chapters I just didn't care how it all ended so finally stopped reading. I thought there were way too many side stories and she wanted you to keep guessing what happened but it was just too drawn out. I'm mad that there are so many good reviews & that I spent so much on it. Do not get It was not good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
So, I'm writing my first book review for Bethany House.

The Girl in the Gatehouse didn't quite pass my first chapter test. Does a book hold the reader's attention in the first chapter? However, I was glad to have stuck with the book until the end.

Julie Klassen writes a story in the likes of Jane Austen, one of her favorite authors. Glimmers of Jane Austen are seen throughout the book. So, if you like Jane Austen, you will also appreciate this book. Unlike Austen, Klassen gives the main character, Mariah Aubrey, more dimensions (common complaint among Austen's critics).

Klassen's writing made me laugh and I found her characters to be charming. She weaves a good story and I'm glad to have gone on the journey. It was a great read while enjoying the outdoors.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
Do not know how this book can be published as Christian fiction. With just a few Scripture references thrown in, there is not much difference between the silly romance books that I used to read as a teenager and Klassen's novels. Have been disappointed with her books in the past and their earthly content without much heavenly good, I would keep reading them because the subject of the books is the English life in those times is my favorite genre. Yes, I too noticed the similarity to Jane Austen's novels but it ain't no Jane Austen. I skipped over all of the sections that were the heroine's tawdry novels and was still aghast at the silliness. Does JK only know how to write about "fallen" English supposed ladies? This book was VERY similar to Downton Abbey but that was written from a secular point of view. I expect more from a Christian author. I did enjoy the side story about Dixon and JK's style of writing is very good just not a Christian romance novel. Too much lust and not enough Christian. Would rather have more books of this genre by Lawana Blackwell. Her writing is more realistic and genuine Christian novels.
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