Book summary: 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? (back cover)
My thoughts: The Tutor's Daughter is a very entertaining work of historical fiction that conjures up the proper society concerns of a Jane Austen novel and the Gothic suspense of books like Frances Hodgson Burnett's "Secret Garden." The main character is humble Emma Smallwood, the tutor's daughter, who is struggling to find her way in life while maintaining her loyalty to her grieving father. When times get tough for the tutor and his small school, Emma must pack up her father and move to the distant, and perhaps haunted, Ebbington Manor on the Cornwall Coast of Britain. As her father's helper in his position as a private tutor, Emma finds herself ensconced in much drama and some scary nighttime visits.
From Emma's first fretting over her proper position in the household to the spooky scenes of a piano seemingly playing by itself, The Tutor's Daughter is a suspenseful thrill. This book invites readers into the class-defined world of British country life of the mid-1800s. Employed by a family with several eligible bachelor brothers, Emma is treated both as a pesky big sister and as a potential marriage material.
This book was really a book of two halves. The first half was dominated by the mysteries of the mansion. Readers are left guessing many things including who is visiting Emma's room at night and who is stealing items around the mansion. The second half of the book feels quite different. Once the initial mystery is solved, Emma finds herself thrust into the middle of some very treacherous family secrets. In the end, Klassen produces an unlikely hero and a surprising traitor, making The Tutor's Daughter suspenseful but also very romantic.
As a Christian novel published by a Christian publishing house, The Tutor's Daughter presents a relatively unique approach to mentioning God in the story. The main character, Emma, is not really religious at all. In fact, after the death of her mother, she finds that she doesn't pray any more. Emma's growth in her spiritual life became identifiable character trait throughout the second half of the novel. Emma's struggles with faith and prayer were extremely believable.
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Author information: You can find out more about Julie Klassen and her historical fiction books at julieklassen.com.
You might want to know: Suzanne Woods Fisher has a great interview with Julie Klassen that she posted on her blog, suzannewoodsfisher.com. I thought the most revealing part of Julie Klassen's interview was when she admitted that fans of the Regency historical era called her out for historical inaccuracies in the first book she wrote. How interesting and sad at the same time!
Year originally published: 2012
Source: I received this book complimentary from LitFuse in exchange for an honest review but the opinion in this review is all mine.
Purchase on Amazon: Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen