Review: Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen

I read one of Julie Klassen’s books a few years ago and absolutely loved it. She reminds me of a modern Victoria Holt and by modern I don’t mean her stories, as they are all historical fiction, but modern in that Klassen is a modern woman and she writes strong, vibrant heroines! I was super excited to check out this latest novel from Klassen so when it came up for review, naturally it was a no brainer as a YES!

In the historical fiction world, there are a ton of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart fans and for good reason. Their novels really took the small ‘Gothic romance’ genre and brought it forward into the modern era. Now tat both of these talented writers have passed away, I know that I am always looking for a new writer to rise to the top of the Gothic romance genre.

Sure there are plenty out there who claim to be similar to Holt or Stewart, however when I think of an author who is most like Holt I always come back to Klassen. I know a lot of people have described this one as Christie meets Austen which I agree with but I still always think of Victoria Holt when I read Klassen’s books! I just love how well done the romances are and how new the mystery or family secrets feel and this book did not disappoint! If you are looking for an excellent gothic romance with a lovely crumbling and possibly haunted abbey—then look no further! I simply adored this book and I am sure you will too!

Summary

Agatha Christie meets Jane Austenin this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick—magistrate, widower, and former neighbor—who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something…

Review

In this book, Rebecca is so easy to fall in love with right off the bat! She is hardworking and dedicated to her family. I thought Klassen did a marvelous job creating a character that was likeable from the get go. Some times it takes me some time to warm up to some characters, especially in gothic novels where the focus is often more on the atmosphere (more on that later), sometimes getting to know the characters just takes some time. But in this book, Rebecca shines on the pages right away and readers will no doubt love her character. Her brother is struggling with his mental health and I loved how she came to his aid but I could also detect this subtle frustration with her brother that I thought felt so honest and rang true. I felt her frustration too and her pull to want to help. It was a nice balance and a great way to introduce us to her character.

For any gothic novel, atmosphere is a huge factor. Especially when you are dealing with a crumbling old castle or in this case an abbey. The expectation is that the ruinous house will feel creepy and unsettling and in this book it absolutely does! It doesn’t cross over into horror or anything like that but Klassen really makes the reader feel uneasy about the abbey. Her writing is moody and full of atmosphere too which just adds to the over all feeling in the characters and within the story.

The romance between Rebecca and Sir Frederick is one part murder mystery and one part romance. The murder mystery is interesting and held my attention. There were definitely hints of Christie in this mystery! And yes the romance had a bit of the Brontes and Austen mixed in so the romance also kept me engaged and interested for the duration of the novel. If you are a lover of classic gothic novels like Jane Eyre this book is one you do not want to miss! I absolutely loved watching their romance unfold and I loved the alternating POVs in the story. It made it move faster. The beginning took me a minute to get into but as soon as I was hooked I couldn’t put it down! It oyu are a historical fiction fan you need this one on your radar! It was a spooky delight full of heart!

Book Info and Rating

Format: ebook 416 pages

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (December 7, 2021)

Free review copy provided by publisher, Bethany House in partnership with Austen Prose Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.

Rating: 5 stars

Genre: historical fiction, gothic lit

YOUTUBE VIDEO

Author Julie Klassen shares her inspiration for Shadows of Swanford Abbey

ADVANCE PRAISE

“A brilliant Agatha Christie-esque whodunit by reader favorite Julie Klassen. Set in the creepy atmosphere of an old abbey, Shadows of Swanford Abbey will keep you guessing until the very end. There’s plenty of danger, intrigue, and—yes—romance to delight Regency-era lovers of all ages. Truly a don’t-miss read!”—Michelle Griep, Christy Award-winning author of Once Upon a Dickens Christmas

“If you enjoy historical fiction with equal blends MYSTERY (suspense) and ROMANCE, then I recommend Shadows of Swanford Abbey with you wholeheartedly without any reservations. This may just be my FAVORITE Klassen novel yet.”—Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews

“Once again Julie Klassen has delivered an intriguing book with all kinds of mystery and a few ghosts added in made it all worth the midnight oil I burned because I didn’t want to put it down!”—Lori Parrish, Red Headed Book Lady

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS

AUTHOR BIO

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.

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