Thursday, March 24, 2016

Book Review: The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen, Plus a Q&A!

Sophie Dupont assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. In private, she paints the picturesque north Devon coast, popular with artists--including handsome Wesley Overtree, who seems more interested in Sophie than the landscape.

Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother Wesley's responsibilities. Near the end of his leave, he is sent to find his brother and bring him home. Upon reaching Devonshire, however, Stephen is stunned to learn Wesley has sailed for Italy and left his host's daughter in serious trouble.

Stephen feels duty-bound to act, and strangely protective of the young lady, who somehow seems familiar. Wanting to make some recompense for his own past failings as well as his brother's, Stephen proposes to Miss Dupont. He does not offer love, but marriage "in name only" to save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he fears, she will at least be a respectable widow.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie finds herself torn between her first love and this brooding man she barely knows. Dare she wait for Wesley to return? Or should she elope with the captain and pray she doesn't come to regret it?

Julie Klassen’s latest novel, The Painter’s Daughter once again brings us to her time period of specialty, Regency era England.  We find Miss Sophie Dupont, early along in a pregnancy by a man she loves, but a man with who has more of a heart for his painting work than for her.  Wesley’s younger, more responsible brother Stephen offers to marry her in order to try to keep her and the child from scandal. With the elder Wesley seemingly gone from her life, she faces a choice that is heart wrenching and difficult.

I enjoyed The Painter’s Daughter very much.  At 450-plus pages, the novel is a bit longer than my usual reads, and I wondered if it would hold my attention. I was not disappointed in the least. Klassen has once again woven a tale that is compelling, entertaining and romantic from opening chapter to closing sentence. While dealing with difficult situations such as premarital sex and the horrors of war, she is able to convey these concepts in ways that are perfect for conservative readers and yet also retain their importance in the lives of these characters.  From secret passageways to second sight-like predictions, there are intrigues around every corner and plot developments that always kept the story moving.

The characters of The Painter’s Daughter are also very enjoyable. I found them to be realistic, interesting and well drawn (so to speak) throughout the story. Despite her condition, Sophie is very much a proper lady, and is kind and gentle to those around her, even those who spurn her presence in their lives. Stephen reminds me of the literary figure Captain Poldark—from his service in the military, to his concern for the downtrodden, to the scar across his cheek.  He is a gallant gentleman who knows his flaws but endeavors to overcome them.  Wesley is a romantic, almost silly figure. He wants to have his cake and eat it too. Despite being the elder brother, he is not known for being the most responsible individual, and it was probably no surprise to his family that he had taken in Miss Dupont in the way that he did. I could go on with more characterizations, but the underlying thought is that I enjoyed this cast of characters. They held my interest through the highs and lows of their lives.

Julie Klassen may not be a painter, but she certainly paints lovely scenes with her descriptions of the lands around the area, the houses the individuals inhabited, the clothes they wore, and especially the tools of the trade in the work of the artists. Klassen has clearly done her homework (which will be mentioned in the Q&A after this review).

Regardless of your interest in art, the 19th century or England, The Painter’s Daughter is a compelling story of love, loss, war, forgiveness and redemption.  Christian readers will especially enjoy its clean content and occasional spiritual references, but this novel could truly be relished by anyone who seeks out a sweet story that will captivate from beginning to end. I congratulate Julie Klassen on another work well done, and look forward to her next title, The Inkeeper of Ivy Hill, due later this year.

Along with my review copy, Bethany House Publishers also included this interesting Q&A with author Julie Klassen, which I thought I would share with you as well:

Can you briefly describe your new novel?

Artist Sophie Dupont believes dashing Wesley Overtree will marry her. But when he sails to Italy, leaving Sophie with child, she contemplates a marriage proposal from his brother, Captain Stephen Overtree. Stephen does not offer love, but "marriage in name only" to save her from scandal. Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie finds herself torn between her first love and this brooding man she barely knows. Dare she wait for Wesley to return? Or should she elope with the captain and pray she doesn't come to regret it?

Castle Rock near Lynton, north Devon, England, UK.
Where did you find inspiration for this novel?

I have always wanted to write a marriage of convenience story, and have also been intrigued by the former Church of England laws that prohibited a widow from marrying her brother-in-law and vice versa. So when Sophie contemplates marriage to an army captain she barely knows, she realizes that even if the captain were to die in battle, she could not later marry his brother, whom she loves. During my last trip to England, an old friend and I traveled to North Devon to research another book (Lady Maybe). While we were there, we spent several evenings in our B&B brainstorming the initial ideas for this book. We also fell in love with the stunning coastal landscape, and learned it had been a favorite among painters in the 19th century.  That spurred me to write about artists, and knew I had found the perfect place to set The Painter's Daughter as well.

You recently attended the national conference of the Jane Austen Society of North America. How do events like these enlarge and enrich your knowledge of the Regency period?

Because I write novels set in the Regency time period when Austen's novels were published, I see the conference--and events like it--as a chance to conduct research and spend time with fellow Austen enthusiasts. Workshops on topics like English country dance, village life, crime, carriage travel, the military, marriage law, tea and fashion all help me learn more about the era and sometimes spark story ideas. Other highlights of the conference included dancing at a ball in my Regency gown, and attending a 19th century church service--a chance to not only study the period, but to "live" it!

How did you go about researching the professions of your main characters (a painter and an army captain)?

For Sophie, the artist, I read a great deal about famous painters of the period, and relied on a website called Pigments Through the Ages, which helped me identify paint colors and methods in use at the time. Also, two artist friends were kind enough to read the painting scenes and make suggestions to add authenticity to the techniques and to the mindset of an artist. For Stephen, the army captain, I studied books and museum websites to get a grasp on British army strategy, uniforms, weapons, and rankings during the Napoleonic Wars.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

For me, the hardest part of writing is making myself tough it out, stay in that chair for days and weeks on end, and write the first draft. After that, the editing and revising come a little more easily, though it's all hard work.

This is your tenth Regency novel. Congratulations! What are you working on next?

Thank you.  Next, I am working on my first-ever series, focusing on the relationships, struggles, and romances of a group of friends in an English village. Book One will tentatively release in December 2016. I am excited to hear what my readers think!

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.

Hardcover Paperback


  1. I enjoyed this one too. Stephen was my favorite character. Enjoyed your review, Laura, and thanks for including the q&a section.

  2. I adore Julie Klassen! She is so fantastically talented. I agree that she has a knack for introducing somewhat racy subject matter in an very discreet manner. Definitely looking forward to this one.

  3. Julie Klassen is one of my favorite authors, and I loved this book!

  4. Great review and Q&A; thanks so much for sharing! :) The Painter's Daughter is one of my top favorites from Julie Klassen. The characters and setting and plots are so rich! And I also was so reminded of Ross Poldark through Stephen as I read - a tough and duty-bound officer with many struggles and emotions beneath the hard surface. Such a fantastic character :)



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