Hello dear Austenite friends! I'm really glad and honored to give the start to this great 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.
Inspiration for The Secret of Pembrooke Park,
Guest post by Julie Klassen
People often ask me where I find the ideas for my books. And the answer varies. Most ideas have come from research—historical practices, professions, or events that spark the idea for a situation or premise. Some ideas have been inspired by movies I’ve seen, or books I’ve loved, especially those by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte. Others have come from historic places I’ve visited in England—if only I could travel there more often!
My latest book, The Secret of Pembrooke Park, is about a young woman who moves with her family into a mysterious manor abandoned for eighteen years. With help from a handsome neighbor, she searches the house, hoping to find its secret room and rumored hidden treasure—but finds danger instead. The idea for this setting came from closer to home.
I grew up in rural Central Illinois. We could only see one house from ours, and that was across a field. (I spent a lot of time playing alone as a girl, which likely helped develop my imagination.) About a half mile behind our house was a wood. I liked to walk there, all the while making up stories in my head. In these woods, I stumbled upon an abandoned house. The roof and most of the upper story was gone, but three walls still stood. Through the gaped opening, you could see the entire ground floor, still furnished. A moldering piano listed in one corner, a tattered blue dress hung on the wall, a set of stairs lead upwards to nowhere… Behind the house I discovered a root cellar—a hollowed out mound of earth with stairs leading down into it. Inside there were still shelves filled with mason jars of home-canned peaches and vegetables.
|The Mysteries of Udolpho|
That abandoned house fascinated me. I loved to sit on a stump and stare at it and try to imagine what had happened to the people who once lived there. Why had they left so suddenly? And why had they left behind their belongings? I don’t know if I ever heard the real story from neighbors and have simply forgotten it (I was only in the 3rd or 4th grade at the time). Or if, being a quirky, writerly kid, I didn’t even ask—preferring to come up with my own scenarios. Whatever the case, I found it immensely satisfying to weave in a bit of that real-life mystery into my new book.
The Secret of Pembrooke Park is my most mysterious book to date and has definite gothic undertones. Readers may notice a few similarities to Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. And my hero, a curate, bears some resemblance to clergyman Henry Tilney of the same book.
Jane Austen wrote Northanger Abbey at a time when gothic novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe and Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto were enormously popular. They typically included elements of the supernatural with atmospheric settings such as hidden chambers and ancient castles. In Northanger Abbey, Austen both uses and parodies these gothic themes. Her main character, Catherine Morland, looks at normal situations and surroundings and, fueled by the gothic novels she reads, sees mystery and the supernatural. She imagines dark deeds where there are none.
|Catherine Morland - Illustration for Northanger Abbey|
In The Secret of Pembrooke Park, however, the strange sounds and sightings are not a product of a girl’s overactive imagination, but are all too real. When Abigail first begins hearing strange noises at night, finding footprints in the dust, and seeing a hooded figure retreating in the shadows, she chalks it up to the rumors she’s heard about treasure hunters, and the influence of the gothic novel she’s reading. But soon danger escalates until she can explain it away no longer.
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. It was back to architecture books for her.
As you can see, several sources converged to inspire The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Whatever its genesis, I hope you will enjoy the final product. Readers and reviewers are saying it’s my best yet.
What about you? Have you read any “gothic” fiction? Do you like books with mystery or hints of the supernatural?
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?
“Jane Austen meets Victoria Holt in Christy Award–winning Klassen’s latest deliciously spooky and sweetly romantic historical.” — Booklist
“Regency romance with awesome castles, secrets, hidden rooms and, of course, romance . . . . Julie Klassen has hit this one out of the ballpark.” — Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick
“If you are looking for a book which combines the enticing elements of a Gothic with the mannerly charm of a Regency, look no further, because this lovely Inspirational is just your cup of tea.” — Heroes and Heartbreakers
“While there are plenty of Regency authors out there, the lovely Julie Klassen is by far one of the top and a must read for fans of Austen/Brontë style and prose. Klassen’s latest, The Secret of Pembrooke Park has a touch of both – the mystery of Brontë and the fun of Austen.”— Books and Beverages
“The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting.” — Burton Book Review
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.
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!
Remember to visit the blogs in the list below and leave as many comments as you can in order to get the chance to win one of the fabulous prizes!
THE SECRET OF PEMBROOK 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 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)