I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this book ever since I read and loved The Maid of Fairbourne Hall at the recommendation of Kim at Reflections of a Book Addict. This is the third of Klassen’s novels that I have read, and she has become one of my favorite authors (admittedly a long list). There are times when I long for an extra dose of wholesomeness in my romance reading, and Klassen never fails to deliver this along with remarkably complex characters and, at least in The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and The Tutor’s Daughter, a little mystery to unravel.
The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?
The baronet’s older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems–and secrets–of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father’s academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.
When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor’s daughter figure out which brother to blame… and which brother to trust with her heart?
There is an urgency to this book that I thoroughly enjoyed, though it surprised me (that it existed, not that I enjoyed it). There are all sorts of adventures to be had in this book, from the discovery of a lost family member to the nefarious intrigues of a wrecker and his band of ne’er-do-wells, who profit from shipwrecks and the deaths of all on-board. At the center of it all are Henry and Emma, who knew each other as youths and have the opportunity to get to know one another as adults.
Emma is a supremely reserved, self-contained character. She’s a bit type-A, dusts her bedside table every morning (!!), and has a place for everything (and puts everything in its place). When the story picks up, she is a young woman who has taken on increasing responsibility for her family’s financial well-being (her father having gone into a bit of a decline after her mother passed away two years before), a woman with no friends with which she might share confidences. She has, instead, the fabulous Aunt Jane, her father’s younger sister.
I loved Aunt Jane. She was my favorite of all the secondary characters, but they are all well-drawn and complex, a mix of good qualities and bad. There are, from time to time, a number of characters who take up the mantle of villain, but excepting the aforementioned nefarious wrecker, these momentary villains are sympathetic characters who make mistakes but are not altogether bad. With the book spending so much time in the gray matter between absolute good and evil, both Emma and Henry have an opportunity to examine some of their long-held but not quite right beliefs and to make some changes for the better.
Henry’s family dynamic was fascinating and the source of much of the novel’s mystery, so I’ll leave it at that. While it might just be a symptom of my current reading choices, Henry himself seemed to me to be a bit of a hybrid between Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy and Henry Tilney. He has all the amiability of the latter tempered by some very serious regrets about the way he behaved towards Emma when he was a boy in her father’s school. By contrast, Henry’s brother Phillip seemed to be a Wickham with better natural principles.
This book seemed slightly more preachy than the other two Klassen books I’ve read — Emma has a soul in need of saving, and Henry has an earnest desire to know that she has made peace with the Almighty — but it wasn’t overwhelming. All told, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and think that anyone with a taste for a sweet romance with a dash of intrigue will likewise enjoy it.
The Tutor’s Daughter was released on January 1, 2013 by Bethany House Publishers as a paperback and e-book. If you are interested in learning more about the book, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads. You can also find information on Julie Klassen’s website.
*FTC disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*