Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blog Tour: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

Welcome to the next stop on The Secret of Pembrooke Park blog tour! Below I offer my review, and following that you will find details of an amazing giveaway, sponsored by author Julie Klassen.  You may recall my previous review of her work, The Dancing Master, posted last year. Thanks for stopping by for this latest novel!

In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.

Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.

Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

Family tragedy...a dark and mysterious house...the longing of young love... Julie Klassen has brought an intriguing premise to her readers in her latest novel, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and she has done so in excellent fashion.  Lovers of Jane Austen would do well in the reading of this Gothic novel, set in the early 19th century.  I noted similarities to Northanger Abbey in its dark, mysterious nature.  I also saw shades of Sense and Sensibility, given that Abigail’s family has come upon hard times and must relocate to more modest accommodations.

As I found in the past with Klassen’s The Dancing Master, Julie’s writing is of high quality, but is effortless, taking the reader into this world of her creation.  I could not only see these characters easily in my mind, but I actually cared about them.  They were more than names upon the page. While the ages and nationalities are not exactly on target, I found the following public figures settling into my mind as I read the story:

Abigail: Shailene Woodley
Gilbert:  Jonathan Crombie
Charles Foster: Hugo Weaving
Louisa: Chloë Grace Moretz
Mr. Arbeau: Alan Rickman
Mac Chapman: Brendan Gleeson
William Chapman: Simon Woods
Mrs. Walsh: Phyllis Logan
Duncan: Stephen Amell

There are others that come to mind, but I offer those ideas to note how well I was drawn into the story, and Klassen’s ability to compose her characters.  This helped me to keep track of the many concepts that are offered in the plot: mystery, family issues, romance, adventurous treasure hunting… there’s much to offer readers of all types in The Secret of Pembrooke Park. And as I found in Klassen’s earlier work, she keeps the content very family-friendly, so I can recommend this title to anyone.  It’s suspenseful, at times eerie, and inspirational as well.  Those who enjoy Regency fiction would make an excellent audience, but Pembrooke Park is a quality narrative that can transcend genre. In recent years I have read work that might have been “well written”, but the plot, characters and composition didn’t appeal to me.  What matters in the end is STORY. Does it hold my attention? Do I care about the characters? In The Secret of Pembrooke Park, Julie Klassen has succeeded for this reader. I’m pleased that she is prospering as a writer, and I look forward to what may lie ahead for her in 2015.

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Sound intriguing? Check out these related videos for The Secret of Pembrooke Park:


The Real-life Manor Behind Julie Klassen’s
The Secret of Pembrooke Park


“Jane Austen meets Victoria Holt in Christy Award–winning Klassen’s latest deliciously spooky and sweetly romantic historical.” — Booklist

“Regency romance with awesome castles, secrets, hidden rooms and, of course, romance . . . . Julie Klassen has hit this one out of the ballpark.” — Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick

“If you are looking for a book which combines the enticing elements of a Gothic with the mannerly charm of a Regency, look no further, because this lovely Inspirational is just your cup of tea.” — Heroes and Heartbreakers

“While there are plenty of Regency authors out there, the lovely Julie Klassen is by far one of the top and a must read for fans of Austen/Brontë style and prose. Klassen’s latest, The Secret of Pembrooke Park has a touch of both – the mystery of Brontë and the fun of Austen.”— Books and Beverages

The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting.” — Burton Book Review

About the Author

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follow her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour and Giveaway

Award winning historical romance author Julie Klassen tours the blogosphere February 16 through March 2 to share her latest release, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Twenty five popular book bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction are featuring guest blogs, interviews, book reviews and excerpts of this acclaimed gothic Regency romance novel. A fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of all of Ms. Klassen’s eight books and other Jane Austen-themed items, is open to those who join the festivities. See below for further details!


February 16 My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 16 vvb32 Reads (Excerpt)
February 17 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Review)
February 17 My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice (Spotlight)
February 18 Addicted to Jane Austen (Review)
February 18 Peeking Between the Pages (Review)
February 19 Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)
February 19 Living Read Girl (Review)
February 20 My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)
February 20 Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Review)
February 20 Laura's Reviews (Guest Blog)
February 21 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)
February 21 Romantic Historical Reviews (Excerpt)
February 21 Confessions of a Book Addict (Review)
February 22 Reflections of a Book Addict (Review)
February 23 Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog)
February 23 Peace, Love, Books (Review)
February 24 vvb32 Reads (Review)
February 24 Poof Books (Excerpt)
February 25 Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)
February 25 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
February 25 Luxury Reading (Review)
February 26 So Little Time…So Much to Read (Review)
February 26 More Agreeably Engaged (Excerpt)
February 27 Psychotic State Book Reviews (Interview)
February 27 Booktalk & More (Review)
February 28 Laughing with Lizzie (Spotlight)
February 28 The Calico Critic (Review)
March 01 Leatherbound Reviews (Excerpt)
March 01 Delighted Reader (Review)
March 02 CozyNookBks (Review)
March 02 Laura's Reviews (Review)

Grand Giveaway Contest 

Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes

In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!




Audio Edition

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Guest Post: Books to Movies in 2015

We welcome again our guest writer Spencer Blohm, as he reflects on upcoming movies this year that are derived from books.  There's more than one on this list that I have on my bookshelf at home to read, hopefully before I catch them in the theater or on Blu-ray!

Five of the potentially most popular movies set for release in 2015 have two things in common. The first is that they've got excellent connections--to successful books, previously successful movies, or both. The second is that they all address the fight against tyranny, whether by the state, society, or the laws of nature.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

Based on Suzanne Collin’s popular Hunger Games trilogy, is set for release on November 20th, 2015. The film brings back the franchises stars; Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore and Josh Hutcherson. The book sold 450,000 copies the first week of its release in August, 2010. In this sequel, heroine Katniss Everdeen, symbol of unity and leader of a growing rebellion against a tyrannical state, continues her quest, even as it threatens the life of her beloved Peeta, who is being held captive in the Capitol.

Child 44

Directed by Daniel Espinosa, is set to be released on April 17th, 2015. It stars Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, and Swedish actress Noomi Rapace. Written by British writer Tom Rob Smith, the book won 7 awards, including the 2008 Galaxy Book Award for best new writer. Smith had three film offers within two weeks of the book being offered for sale to publishers. Based on the crimes of convicted serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, the main character, a policeman, must find the killer while facing official denial that crime even exists.


Based on the book written by Veronica Roth and the sequel to last summer's hit Divergent, which is now widely available on movie channels (check here for details), is set for release on March 20th, 2015. Specialization is taken to extremes in this sci-fi thriller starring Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts. The result is a society in which people are categorized according to their talents and virtues. Those who don’t fit neatly into a single category are considered a danger to society, and dealt with accordingly. Based on Shailene Woodley's stellar performance in Divergent, as well as the special effects, are sure to make this an enjoyable sequel.

The Martian

The film, based on the book by Andy Weir, is tentatively scheduled for release on November 25th, 2015, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels and Jessica Chastain. This story of an individual’s struggle for survival after being abandoned on Mars is a testament to human ingenuity in the face of adversity. The same can be said of the author himself. Unable to find an agent willing to represent him, Weir self-published the novel in 2011, one chapter at a time. After selling 35,000 copies, Crown Publishing purchased the rights to the book and re-released it in March, 2014. It debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at number twelve.

Paper Towns

The book by John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, debuted on the New York Times best-seller list at #5 as well as winning the Edgar Award for best Young Adult Mystery. Directed by Jake Schreier and starring Cara Delevingne, Nat Wolff, and Halston Sage, it has a release date of June 5th, 2015. In this story, the characters explore the themes of personal identity versus public image, the effects of social cruelty-- and revenge. Green’s relationship with Hollywood has been a rocky one, and this is a movie that almost wasn't. When asked if there was going to be a movie his response was “No, probably not… They felt the first draft was 'literary'…”. It’s that very literary quality that produced the memorable lines that made The Fault In Our Stars so popular. Fans can thank screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for their work in making this film possible.

As you can see, Hollywood is still in love with YA novels in particular and the legions of fans they bring into theaters. At this point it’s not really a question of if a popular YA book will be made into a film but, rather, when it will be made. Of course there have been some disastrous adaptations in the past, but with more and more authors getting involved in the process I’d expect the bad reputation that film adaptations have gotten to fall to the waist side. Keep your eyes peeled for even more film adaptation announcements this year, it’s only going to grow from here.


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