Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen - Blog Tour

You may have seen that there is a blog tour of 'The Secret of Pembrooke Park' currently underway. Today the blog tour stops here with my review. Read on to see my thoughts on this book, and please note that there are some great prizes up for grabs with the blog tour (more details below my review).

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The Secret of Pembrooke Park - Blog Tour

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 will feature 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.

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Book cover: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen
This is a story set in 1818. The Foster family have suffered a reverse in fortune, having invested in a bank run by a relative that has gone bust. The heroine of our story, 24 year old Miss Abigail Foster, feels extremely guilty about this. It was on her advice that her father invested in her uncle’s business. Now it seems possible that her beautiful younger sister’s London season may not be the triumph that she’s always been expecting. However, the Fosters get given a mysterious offer, via a solicitor – an unknown relative of theirs has offered them a country house to rent at a nominal rate. The house, Pembrooke Park, has been uninhabited for 18 years, so it will need some work to bring it up to a decent standard. Although the offer is quite mysterious, especially as the solicitor is not at liberty to divulge the name of their client, or even who the owner of the property is, it seems too good an opportunity not to investigate further, particularly coming at a time when the Fosters really need to retrench and sell their London home.

Mrs Foster and her younger daughter remain in town with a relative while Mr Foster and Abigail travel to Pembrooke Park to see the house, with a view to moving in and starting work straight away, if it’s habitable. When they arrive at the house they are met with a less than warm welcome, instead a man brandishes a gun at them! Once inside the house, things are even more intriguing. Rather than look like a house that’s been closed up, with furniture covered and so on, instead things look like the inhabitants simply vanished. Many personal effects are there, including something that even I as a reader coveted, a dolls house which is an exact replica of the house. The house seems to have been left so suddenly that there is even a tea set still out on the table, with tea residue in the cups.
‘It appeared as though the occupants had just been called away. A tea set sat on the round table, cups encrusted with dry tea. A book lay open over the arm of the sofa. A needlework project, nearly finished, lay trapped under an overturned chair. 
What had happened here? Why had the family left so abruptly, and why had the rooms been entombed for almost two decades?’
As Abigail works to bring the house back into order she begins to know people in the local community. The man who brandished the gun at her, Mac Chapman, is the former steward of the estate and very loyal to his former employer. He won’t tell Abigail anything about the Pembrooke family. Others in the area are similarly oddly reticent about the Pembrookes. Abigail befriends Mac’s family, particularly his grown up children, William, the curate of the area, and beautiful, shy Leah. Abigail goes on to meet other people in the area, from landed gentry, through villagers and down to servants. It seems though, that nearly everybody she meets is keeping a secret of one sort or another. There is rumoured to be treasure hidden at Pembrooke Park. If it’s real, possibly Abigail could find it. Can Abigail find out the secrets of Pembrooke Park, or are some secrets better off being forgotten?

This story is inspired by the gothic romances of the time, with a nod to Jane Austen’s ‘Northanger Abbey’ which I read last month in preparation for reading this. It’s quite a contrast to Northanger Abbey though. Catherine sees things which aren’t there and Abigail keeps telling herself that there is nothing there even though she is afraid there might be. This quote in particular reminded me of the Northanger connection and how an older and more sensible heroine than Catherine Morland might deal with a potential Gothic mystery.
‘Heart pounding, she gingerly leaned forward and peered over the stair rail, her candle’s light barely penetrating the darkness below. A hooded figure floated down the last few stairs. Stunned, she blinked. But when she looked again, the stairs were empty. She had probably only imagined the dark apparition.  
With a shiver, she decided that was the last time she would read gothic fiction.’
Since this has the word ‘secret’ in the title I was expecting a level of mystery and I wasn’t disappointed; quite a few of the characters have secrets or at least know some of what happened to the previous tenants of Pembrooke Park and Abigail is just trying to piece it together. I will tell you now that I managed to work out the secrets before they were revealed, so it’s not too difficult, but things are revealed gradually so it’s also not too easy. I don’t think you’d be able to put all the pieces together very early on, as there is so little to go on.  Along with mystery we also have some peril, which made for an exciting read at points.

Even with all this mystery going on I still want some romance and I felt that ‘The Secret of Pembrooke Park’ delivered on this score. Abigail has had her time amongst London society and has had no offers, but then, she didn’t want any – for many years she has held a special place in her heart and her dreams for family friend Gilbert. However, he has gone to Italy to pursue his dreams of a career in architecture and before he left Abigail got the impression that he showed signs of admiring her beautiful younger sister. Unsure how Gilbert will feel when he returns, Abigail moves to the countryside free of ties. She meets with a fair amount of admiration in the new neighbourhood, which is especially gratifying as she is somebody who views herself as plain. I knew this would be a romance with no sex scenes, as this author writes for a Christian publisher, but this doesn’t mean that there is no passion, there is certainly that, and a fair bit of romance too.

As I said, this book is from Bethany House Publishing so I was expecting a Christian message. However the message doesn’t feel forced. One of the characters is a curate who delivers sermons so the Christianity is present in that, as you’d expect and there were also some biblical references but they seemed quite natural in historical books as religion was a part of life that was more apparent in everyday society in the past. One theme that I enjoyed contemplating in the book was whether the sins of the father should be borne by the children. To an extent, our parents’ decisions shape us, no matter we choose to do our position in life up to a certain age is affected by our parents’ decisions, so that was an interesting theme, and not overdone.

I sometimes find historical stories frustrating because of the behaviour and language used, as all too often they are too modern. I wasn’t sure about how proper Abigail’s behaviour was (I don’t mean the bits that were clearly improper!), such as going to events alone with a young man. She is also left alone at Pembrooke Park by her father for quite a few days, when I would have expected that she would have needed a companion or a family member. I don’t know how proper this was but it certainly left me feeling quite angry with her father for taking advantage of her! There were some instances of words that jumped out at me as being too modern or American and there were some small things like food being eaten out of season but I am more picky than most people in this respect and a lot of readers might not notice these things as much. One thing that surprised me, when I looked back at things I’d highlighted in the book, was just how long the book is because it didn’t feel long to me at all, it doesn’t drag or feel stretched out.

In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I enjoyed pondering the mystery, I enjoyed the friendships, the romance, the danger and the action. I liked how Abigail grew to value herself as a woman, rather than just as a housekeeper for her family. I’d certainly recommend this book to fellow historical romance lovers and I’d rate it at 4½ stars.

4.5 star read

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

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?

BUY LINKS:  « Amazon « Barnes & Noble « ChristianBook.com « Book Depository « Indie Bound « Goodreads « Publishers Page «

Author Julie Klassen
AUTHOR BIO:

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, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS:


Blog Tour: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen - Giveaway
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!

THE SECRET OF PEMBROOKE PARK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:

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 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)                                    

80 comments:

  1. I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of this book. Julie is one of my favorite authors!

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    1. Hi Kate, I really enjoyed speculating about what happened. I've read another of Julie's stories, 'The Silent Governess', and I enjoyed that one too, but I think 'The Secret of Pembrooke Park' was just a little bit better.

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  2. TY 4 the fantastic review! I am looking forward to reading The Secret of Pembrooke Park. :)

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    1. I hope you enjoy it when you read it, Caryl :)

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  3. I've read The Silent Governess, Lady of Milkweed Manor, and The Dancing Master. And I can't wait to get my hands on more Julie Klassen! I also like the comparison you made to Northanger Abbey.

    I assume I need to leave my email to enter: thescribblingsprite(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Ally, I have a few other books by Julie Klassen that I haven't read yet, because I'm quicker at buying books than reading them! I hope to get to them at some point. Good luck with the giveaway.

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  4. Such a wonderful book I loved it!!

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    1. I did too Lindsey, it was such an exciting read!

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  5. I have read every one of Julie Klassen's other books. I cannot wait to read this one!

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    1. I would certainly recommend reading it :)

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  6. Loved the book and the blog tour!

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I am going to check out the other stops on the blog tour. I don't like to read other people's reviews until I've finished my own, but I'm interested to see what other people thought of the book.

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  7. I would love to enter the giveaway! I have really enjoyed the books that I have been able to read so far from Julie Klassen!

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    1. Good luck in the giveaway LeAnne. The prizes are all fantastic, particularly the Jane Austen action figure, I really need to get one of those!

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  8. I'm so excited about the blog tour! Julie Klassen is one of my all-time favorites!

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    1. Thanks for commenting Neha. It's an impressive blog tour isn't it, lots of participants!

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  9. Lovely read from an awesome author! :)

    ~Amada (pronounced: a.m.a.th.a)

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    1. Thanks for commenting Amada. I would definitely have pronounced your name incorrectly, and I know your pain. My name is Welsh, and in the Welsh language C is always a hard C as the language has no K, so my name is said like the name 'Kerry' but people who aren't familiar with the name pronounce it as if it were 'Seri' :(

      Good luck in the giveaway.

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    2. You have a beautiful name Ceri! And even though people pronounce it incorrectly I LOVE the spelling! :) It can be a pain, because we have to train ourselves to not only listen for our name, but also the wrong name! LOL! When someone at the doctors office actually gets my name right I'm so happy I almost rush hand give them a hug! :D I didn't know there was no K in the Welsh language! I need to look for more Welsh set books so I can learn these things! ;) Since I find the Welsh very interesting it will be fun! :)

      Hugs and Thank you!

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    3. Yes, in Welsh there is no K, Q, X or Z and there are some extra letters like ch, dd, ll, rh. My name is common enough in Wales, but people outside Wales nearly always get it wrong, it always throws me on the occasions when people at call centres etc get it correct! Good luck Amada!

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  10. Yes, I agree that I like it when the authors use the very language that would have been used at the time period. Jude Morgan is fabulous for that!

    That being said, I'm a huge fan of Julie and always look forward to her books. I keep hearing people say that the book was long. I don't remember that! I need to see how long it was now!!!

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    1. I was really surprised when I realised how long it was, because although I read it over a few sessions, so it was clearly a long book, it didn't feel like it was long.

      I don't think I've ever read Jude Morgan, thanks for the recommendation! I am always glad to have a recommendation because for a while whenever I tried a new author I would be disappointed.

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    1. It's a really good read! Good luck in the giveaway, Kim.

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  12. lol I don't think many of us would notice the food thing. And I remember reading in an interview that Julie runs her dialogue through an online language engine-thing but I'm sure it's possible for things to slip through!

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    1. I know, I'm a pain! But if a detail strikes me as out of place then it takes me out of the story. Plus I was on heightened alert because it was a mystery, so you need to look for clues :)

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  13. The story flowed so well that it didn't feel long to me either! I thought the mystery was intriguing.

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    1. I don't mind reading a longer book if it doesn't feel like a longer book, and this one didn't feel too long to me, it was enough to tell the story properly :)

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  14. I like how the Christian message is mellow and weaves it way through the book. It is just the perfect amount.
    ~Amanda

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    1. Hi Amanda. I agree with you, the Christian message flows really naturally through the story.

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  15. I enjoy Julie's books so am really looking forward to The Secret of Pembrooke Park.

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  16. Looking forward to this read!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Bree :)

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  17. Lovely review, Ceri. I am so excited to read this and I love the hint of NA in the story!!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it when you read it Kelli!

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  18. I'm glad you liked it, Ceri. I've heard wonderful things about Julie's books, and I love that she is inspired by Jane Austen.

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    1. Yes, me too Monica, I'm always interested to know the authors that authors like to read.

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  19. Enjoyed reading everyone's comments. Thanks again, Ceri (pronounced-Kerry) :) You'll have to message me with any American words or foods that jumped out at you, so I can catch them next time around.

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    1. I would be happy to, Julie. Thank you for commenting, and all the very best with this book :)

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  20. One thing Julie Klassen will always deliver on is a sweet romance. I love her books.

    Blessings,
    Andrea
    Proofreader/Editor/Writer
    andrearenee2004@yahoo.com
    writingtoinspire.blogspot.com

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    1. I really liked the romantic elements, they were quite swoonworthy!

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  21. interesting book info

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  22. Thank you for sharing your review, Ceri! I enjoyed stopping by your blog and am looking forward to reading The Secret of Pembrooke Park...On an aside note, my name's actually spelled how it sounds, but people still get it wrong (*face-palm*). I love your name! :) ~ Julianna emeraldelena@hotmail.com

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Julianna! It must be a bit annoying to have a name that's spelled just the same as it's pronounced and still have people get it wrong! At least mine has more than one spelling so it's more understandable :)

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  23. I feel like I learn something from each historical book I read so I really like for most things to be accurate too but I also just like to read them for reading's sake :)

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    1. That's one of the things I really love about reading historical novels too, they are an enjoyable way to learn about history.

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  24. This sounds like such a great book. Can't wait to read it!

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    1. I very much enjoyed it, Susan, and I hope you enjoy it just as much when you read it.

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  25. Thank you for the review Ceri! I'm a huge Julie Klassen fan & have read 5 of her books.....correction, I devoured her books (haha)! I really look forward to this one and all the others I haven't read yet. I would love to see all of these sitting on my bookshelf. Thank you for the chance to win some fabulous books by one of my favorite authors. And for all the blog hosts for featuring the giveaway, thanks! I've enjoyed every step of this tour!
    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Thank you for your comment Trixi, and for following the blog tour, it's lovely to get new visitors :)

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  26. Thank you so much for sharing this as part of the blog tour. As I finished this novel the other day, I am excited for Lady Maybe coming out this summer!!!

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    1. That's the only disadvantage with being up to date with an author's novels, Sydney, you have to wait for a new one to come out! Thanks for commenting :)

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  27. Wonderful review! Can't wait to read it! I'm reading The Apothecary's Daughter now and LOVING it. The winks to social commentary, the delightful quotes from all manner of related publications of the period, the page-turning plot! I'm hooked!

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    1. That is good to know, Joana, I have that one on my kindle but I haven't read it yet. Thanks for commenting!

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  28. Grr! My comment seems to have disappeared when I tried posting it. I greatly enjoyed hearing your thoughts, Ceri! I'm with you - I loved the moments of peril and the moments of sweet passion the most! :) Glad you had a lot of positive things to say about this one, you wrote a wonderfully thorough review! Which Julie Klassen book do you think you will read next?

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    1. Hi Meredith, thank you for commenting again, I hate it when blogger eats comments! Well, I had a quick look on my kindle to see which other books I have by Julie and I think I may have them all! Every time one goes on sale I snap it up! I was going to read 'The Tutor's Daughter' last year but I didn't get round to it, so maybe I'll read that one, or maybe 'The Apothecary's Daughter' as Joana has mentioned that she is enjoying that one.

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  29. I've read all her books and love them! Can't wait to read this one!
    Dezi A
    sethdezAThotmailDOTcom

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    1. I hope you will enjoy this one too Dezi! Thanks for commenting :)

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  30. thanks for sharing with us I love julie's books and I love this cover

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    1. Isn't the cover gorgeous! Thanks for commenting :)

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  31. I love Julie Klassen's books and look forward to reading this one! :)

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    1. I hope you enjoy it when you read it Kristin!

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  32. I'm very excited to read this book!

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    1. I hope you get to read it soon Sasha :)

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  33. I'd love to read Julie Klassen's new book :)

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  34. I hope you get to read it soon, and that you enjoy it as much as I did :)

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  35. Always a fan of Julie's books - can't wait to read it! truckredford(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hope you get to read it soon Eliza!

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  36. Great review. I have enjoyed a few of Julie's books and look forward to reading this newest one.

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    1. Thanks Christine. I hope you enjoy this one when you read it :)

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  37. I have added Northanger Abbey to my reading list! Love this book!

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    1. It's so good Alysa! I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

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  38. Enjoyed the review, please enter me too :)

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  39. Julie's books have always proved a treat . I look forward to adding more of them to my library! Thanks for reviewing :)

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