Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Review: The Silent Governess

Title: The Silent Governess
Author: Julie Klassen
Genre: Romance, Christian, Regency
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: Adult fiction
Age Group: 18+

Summary: Olivia Keene wants to be a teacher, but when she saves her mother's life through a violent act, things change. Fleeing her home town in obedience to her mother, Olivia encounters various friendly and unfriendly people before she is captured by the gamekeeper of the Brightwell Estate. It seems she has overheard a rather confidential conversation between Lord Brightwell and his son, Lord Bradley.
Lord Bradley has his own problems to deal with. He's too much of a gentleman to leave Olivia in a jail where she has been assaulted, but too careful to set her free with the information she knows about him--information he himself has just discovered and isn't quite sure how to come to terms with. The solution is simple: hire Olivia as the under nurse for his cousin's young son and two stepchildren--requiring her complete silence of course. But the problem gets bigger still. Olivia is a charming girl and the servants, and everyone around her, truly enjoys her company whether or not she can speak. That's not really a problem, since Lord Bradley has limited contact with his servants.
No, Lord Bradley has to deal with threats of violence, the possibility of losing his inheritance, and falling in love with the silent under nurse.

Word of Warning
Please note that I did not originally intend to review this book and so did not take notes as I usually do when reviewing a book. This means I may have missed some of the smaller things which should go under this section. By giving the bigger problems, and providing the age rating of 18+, I do not believe anything I may have missed with be a problem. I apologize for not being as thorough with this review as I usually am.

A few small things first:
  • A man brings his young daughter to the bar and has her show off by adding or multiplying big numbers. She enjoys this and he is able to encourage men to bet on this, winning money off her talent.
  • A man is hit with an iron poker from the fireplace over the head. He lives.
  • A fire nearly kills a small child and a man is injured (not seriously) in his rescue attempt.
  • Olivia is choked by a man attempting to rape her.
  • A young woman accidentally walks in on a man bathing (she sees only his upper body).
  • Lord Bradley is obviously attracted to Olivia, physically as well as her character. Most, if not all, descriptions of physical attraction are sweet and handled well (this is a Christian romance novel, after all).
  • A young woman is attacked by wild dogs thought to have rabies. She hits her head on a rock and is bitten by one of the dogs.
  • A young man stands in a doorway, watching a young woman sleep with a child in her arms. His excuse is that he is helping the child's older sister look for him (the child) as she was worried that he was missing. While this excuse is true, the fact that he stands there at all and is clearly enchanted by what he sees is a bit uncomfortable.
  • A man is wrongly accused of embezzlement and nearly sentenced to death.
  • Lord Bradley orders Olivia to remain silent even after she recovers her voice, to protect his reputation. He also forbids her from talking to the outside world without his approval, and various other small measures to keep his secret safe. Eventually he begins to trust her and finally he apologizes for treating her in such a disrespectful manner.
  • It is commonly understood that servants are not allowed to marry other servants from the same household. Also, if a young women (servant) becomes pregnant, she is let go by the household and, if lucky, given a bit of extra money before being sent out into the world to fend for herself and her unborn baby.
  • A young man is constantly flirting with servants and even the young woman everyone understands is intending to marry his cousin. He also squanders his money while away at college.
  • Squandering of money, gambling, drinking (mentioned and sometimes a key part of a minor character's arc).
  • A few rather sweet kisses.
Now for the bigger things:

Olivia escapes attempted rape more than once. A man forces her to kiss him (she promptly punches him in the eye). Sometimes she is rescued, other times she has to fight her way free.

The entire story revolves around illegitimate children. A woman who is unable to give birth adopts the child of another young woman (who was raped) who dies after giving birth to her son. A few more honorable men in the story confess to having love affairs with women other than their wives (often servants) and regret their actions, realizing the actions were not out of love for the women involved. Others do not confess or regret it, but the more honorable ones do this for them.
My Thoughts
The last time I actually finished a Christian romance novel was, well, I can't even remember when. Basically, novels which revolve mainly around romance, especially overly-preachy ones, drive me up a wall and I usually end up throwing them at the wall. It's just not my thing.
But I finished this one in less than a week. It's a sweet story and the romance, as well as the Christian aspect, are skillfully woven in between two mysteries and various other small plot points. Lord Bradley is not perfect and though Olivia boarders on being so, even she has her moments.
It was refreshing. And I can assure you I am off to see if I can find any more books by Julie Klassen. I'm very glad I rescued this book from the pile of books in my friend's bedroom. And I'm glad she let me rescue it and didn't keep it for her own bookshelf.

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