Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review: The Tutor's Daughter

The Tutor's Daughter
By Julie Klassen
Bethany House, 2013
English, 416 pgs

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?

I enjoyed this more than I have enjoyed a Christian romance in a while. I liked the suspense aspect of the story. I thought the author did a good job setting up the surprises with clues in the story (now that I've finished it, I can see clearly where she did so) and the romance part of the story isn't overly mushy.

I like that Emma is a strong, smart woman. Especially in comparison with Lady Weston and Lizzie. I like that she is learning about herself at the same time as the reader. It's fun to watch her grow and realize her heart.

The Westons are interesting. Lord Weston is weak and doesn't at all seem in control of his family or estate. The sons are so diverse and really well developed as characters. Even the secondary characters in the story (house maid, steward, local miscreant) are well done.

As for the story itself, I don't want to give too much away. It's suspenseful and satisfying. It's heartwarming and will leave you breathless in some parts.

The only negative I have is toward the ending. The characters who cause the most harm are not dealt with in any way. They're "punished" by the family instead of the law, which was often the case in this time period, but I was left wanting more.

I received a copy of the book from Bethany House for the purpose of a review. No additional compensation has been received and I was not required to write a positive review.

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