Emma Smallwood and her father have the opportunity to become tutors in residence for the family of two former students, the Westons. One, Philip, was a good friend of Emma's, the other, Henry, an adversary. But when they arrive confusion arises. Not everyone seems pleased to see them and there are secrets everywhere. While Emma's father is happy to focus on the education of the two youngest sons of the house, Emma manages to become entangled in the intrigue of family dynamics and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. She soon begins to question who is her friend after all.
I first read Julie Klassen when I picked up one of her earlier books from the library. I was looking for a new author and in the absence of a new book from my favorite author, Lawana Blackwell, I had heard that Klassen's work was similar in some ways. It was good book. So when I was presented the opportunity to review The Tutor's Daughter, I looked forward to it.
Perhaps the most compelling part of this book is the beautiful descriptions of Cornwall. While Ebbington Manor itself is fictional it is based on several places Klassen visited on her tours of the Cornwall coast. This isn't the first time I have been drawn to this beautiful place by the description of a talented writer. (Rosamunde Pilcher has made me want to pack my bags on more than one occasion). The descriptions of the Chapel on the Rock were especially poignant. I found myself wishing I had a retreat like that. While I was able to predict certain parts of the story line, others were total surprises to me until near the end
Julie continues to speak to my soul. She provides it all: mystery, intrigue, deep characters, history, romance, twists and turns. Just when you think you have it figured out, you get a twist. This book really keeps you guessing. I can see why others say there is a bit of Jane Eyre and Jane Austen in this book. I love Jane Eyre and I have enjoyed a few Jane Austen stories, and this really does have a touch of both.
This book starts the action pretty quickly, with in a few chapters. I really had a hard time putting it down. I even read it on Easter Sunday while with family (who were all taking after lunch naps) because I just couldn't resist. I kept reading because I just had to know who was doing what and who was really who they said they were, or were not, and who was doing all the "mystery" things.There were love letters slid under doors, things disappearing, smell of perfume where no one was, or so you think! Music coming from the pianoforte but no one there by the time you get there. A mysterious Mr. Teague that no one really seems to know much about, but he always pops up.
My favorite characters would be Emma, the main character, Lady Weston, the evil step mother if you will, and Henry who is one of the eldest of the Weston boys. There is one character that most would probably like, but not me, and that is Lizzie. She was very annoying to me, which makes her a good character in general. She talks way too much and is hyper, at least that is how I took her, so if she was a real person, she would drive me bonkers. I could hear her all squeaky voiced like Prissy in Gone With the Wind.
Emma Smallwood accompanies her father, former owner and headmaster of Smallwood Academy, to Ebbington Manor to privately tutor the two younger sons of Sir Giles Weston. The two elder sons, Henry and Phillip, had attended and received their tutelage from Mr Smallwood but since then the boarding school has gone asunder.
In this almost gothic-like novel, there is ample distress and mystery surrounding Ebbington Manor. The mood is weighty and dark much of the time. While the characters are likeable for the most part, it takes some adjusting to the time period to understand consequences to certain actions. The two young sons are teenagers and their behavior is quite bizarre at times. Aristocratic families certainly had a different way of dealing with their wayward young. What may seem too lenient to me today, was most likely considered appropriate action back then.
I thought Emma could have been a more dynamic character although she is the epitome of a well bred lady so perhaps she is portrayed just as she should be. From early on, though, I couldn't see what she saw in Phillip. He appeared too soft to me. I was routing for Henry the whole time. Was I disappointed? I'm not telling.
This book is teeming with intrigue and mystery. Strange cries and piano playing in the middle of the night, mysterious notes appear in Emma's room while she's sleeping, and so much more! When it seems so obvious who the villain is, the story line switches to focus on someone else and you are left hanging....and wondering....and plotting. Who is the villain?! I believe it almost drove me crazy that I couldn't be sure. I usually figure these things out by the half way point but I was absolutely in the dark until the very end and completely taken by surprise with who the villain turned out to be.
It's an enjoyable read but not my favorite of Julie's books. I was expecting more of an Austenesque type story and less Bronte. Maybe a bit more romance too. I still recommend it for fans of Historical Fiction because it kept me turning the pages to answer that one question: Who is the villain?
Bethany House provided a copy for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, just my opinion of the book, which I have done.
Do you enjoy the English classics by Jane Austin or better yet the Bronte sisters? If so you are going to be delighted by The Tutor's Daughter. Julie Klassen's writing style is evocative of that classic form. I love to read works by Austen and the Bronte's but one of the drawbacks is the old English style of language of the time frame and the multiple characters with similar names. Julie's works are written in modern language and her characters are easily identifiable from the others.
The storyline is filled with twists and turns that add depth and dimension to the plot. The characters have a quality of realness that draws you deeper into the mystery. Up until the very last page you are led on a merry chase to find out exactly who is behind all of the sinister acts that keep happening.
For a modern quality of historical fiction, pick up a copy of The Tutor's Daughter. In fact any book you see with Julie Klassen's name on it is worthy of purchasing and savoring.