Monday, December 12, 2022

Book Review: The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen

Some guests have come for a holiday, others for hidden reasons of their own . . .

When their father's death leaves them impoverished, Sarah Summers and her genteel sisters fear they will be forced to sell the house and separate to earn livelihoods as governesses or companions. Determined to stay together, Sarah convinces them to open their seaside home to guests to make ends meet and provide for their ailing mother. Instead of the elderly invalids they expect to receive, however, they find themselves hosting eligible gentlemen. Sarah is soon torn between a growing attraction to a mysterious Scottish widower and duty to her family.

Viola Summers wears a veil to cover her scar. When forced to choose between helping in her family's new guest house and earning money to hire a maid to do her share, she chooses the latter. She reluctantly agrees to read to some of Sidmouth's many invalids, preferring the company of a few elders with failing eyesight to the fashionable guests staying in their home. But when her first client turns out to be a wounded officer in his thirties, Viola soon wishes she had chosen differently. Her new situation exposes her scars--both visible and those hidden deep within--and her cloistered heart will never be the same.

Join the Summers sisters on the Devonshire coast, where they discover the power of friendship, loyalty, love, and new beginnings.

At first glance, The Sisters of Sea View appears to have much in common with Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Here is a family of women who have lost their husband and father. None of them is married, and one sister is a model of practicality and familial responsibility. The youngest sister is more apt to climb a tree than to be drawn to the accomplishments of the genteel in society. There are also details that could be compared to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. The cast of main characters is decidedly female, one aspires to be an author, two sisters come to properly appreciate each other after calamity strikes in the water, and two girls enjoy the art of creating homemade plays for their families. However, while Julie Klassen’s latest novel may have those details in common with other 19th century fiction, it certainly is its own narrative. 

The life of the Summers family as detailed in The Sisters of Sea View is compelling, entertaining and educational as well. Although there are similarities to Austen’s and Alcott’s characters, these ladies have their own struggles and triumphs. Klassen’s writing adeptly constructs these women, giving them their distinct personalities and foibles. While there is a bit of a “happily ever after” (HEA) to the story, not every problem is resolved with a perfect little bow. Insecurities and conflicts are realistic, drawing the reader in and making the narrative quite believable. Issues which are particular to the time add to the realism of the story, particularly in the area of superstitions and medical capabilities. 

The romance found in the novel is sweet, enticing, and very family-friendly. The HEA occurred in a way that I did not expect, and I just loved it. Do not let the amazing cover art of this book fool you– in my opinion, the “main character” is not the woman whose face we see on the cover. As this book is the first in a series, my expectation is that the bonneted lady we see on the beach will one day have her nuptial moment, but just not yet. Regardless, all the women in The Sisters of Sea View are given compelling, interwoven storylines that held my attention throughout the novel. There are moments of humor (including incidents with a dead parrot), dramatic tension, danger and heartwarming exchanges between young and old alike. As someone of Scottish heritage, I also appreciated the little cultural touches in connection with a few characters from that country, from the accents displayed to mentions of Scottish thistles, kilts, and haggis! 

The Sisters of Sea View is a delightful start to a new series by Julie Klassen. She has once again not failed to disappoint. Although I did enjoy the previous work of hers, Shadows of Swanford Abbey, I think I might have liked this title even more. I’m glad there will be more volumes to come, presumably with more of these characters and/or their relations. Days spent at Julie Klassen’s Devonshire shores are delightful indeed, suitable for all audiences and for fans of Austen and Alcott in particular.

About the Author 

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Greetings from Sidmouth!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Laura. Julie is such a talented writer. She never disappoints. Wishing you a lovely holiday season.



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