Shadows of Swanford Abbey
by Julie Klassen
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Pub Date 07 Dec 2021 | Archive Date 26 Jan 2022
Bethany House, Bethany House Publishers
When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother's desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.
The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey's cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past--including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick--magistrate, widower, and former neighbor--who long ago broke her heart.
When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something. . . .
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 125 members
Julie Klassen delivers a spine-tingling Gothic romance with Shadows of Swanford Abbey.
When Rebecca Lane returns home after a few years away, she discovers her brother is not doing well. He was tricked by a famous author who stole his book, and he could not get past it. Desperate to help him, Rebecca agrees to pass his latest manuscript to an author staying at Swanford Abbey in the hopes that he could get published.
But once she arrives at the abbey-turned hotel, Rebecca begins to see things that make her believe the abbey is haunted. On top of that, she meets Sir Frederick again, a former neighbour who once broke her heart. For his part, Sir Frederick cannot believe the change he sees in Rebecca and is immediately drawn to her. But because of their age difference, he tries to quell the growing feelings he has for her.
This book has it all! Ghostly hauntings, murder, intrigue, and above all, romance! Rebecca is fearless. Half the things she does in this book I would never venture out to do. While Frederick, for his part, is unquestionably honourable, to his detriment in the romance department. Together they are perfect for each other.
If you love Gothic Regency romance, you will enjoy this book. I highly recommend it!
Shadows of Swanford Abbey is my new favorite book written by Julie Klassen. I loved it. I would give it one hundred stars if I could.
Julie Klassen’s books are so different from one another and I am never disappointed. Shadows of Swanford Abbey was an interesting whodunit centered around a murder. There are also other mysteries that are dealt with as well so it keeps you guessing until the end. The theme of forgiveness and second chances were evident throughout the book. The H and h needed to learn to forgive themselves as well as others just as God has forgiven us. And they were not the only ones who needed to seek forgiveness. It was also interesting to see how involved the local aristocracy was in making sure that Justice was properly administered. You won’t want to miss this Julie Klassen book. I did receive an advanced copy of the book but I was in no way obligated to give it a positive review.
When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village in Worcestershire, England with her employer, the globe-trotting Lady Fitzhoward, she has no idea what to expect. She’s felt responsible for John, her younger brother, her entire life, so when their housekeeper wrote begging Rebecca to return, she hastened home.
Upon arrival, John convinces her to deliver his latest manuscript to his nemesis, Mr. Oliver—a popular author staying at the nearby Swanford Abbey. John insists only Rebecca could deliver the manuscript to Mr. Oliver, and she reluctantly agrees.
When Mr. Oliver turns up dead a few days later, Rebecca regrets her involvement in her brother’s plot to deliver the manuscript. Based on the facts of the case, she worries he may have had a hand in the man’s demise. To complicate matters, the local magistrate, Sir Frederick, is the only man she’s ever had feelings for.
Sir Frederick agrees to spend a week with his younger brother at the nearby Swanford Abbey hotel to escape the noise of renovations at his estate. And to escape the memories and loneliness caused by his unhappy marriage and the accidental death of his wife.
He never expects to run into the young woman he spent many a happy hour with in his youth—Miss Rebecca Lane, the daughter of his former tutor. When a guest at Swanford Abbey dies, Sir Frederick stays on for the inquest.
An inquest which causes him to ask more questions than the charming Miss Lane seems wont to answer. Despite his reawakened feelings towards Miss Lane, his first marriage left him with an abhorrence for untruths. And Miss Lane is hiding something.
Why I Loved This Book
Klassen creates relatable characters and immerses them in mystery, intrigue, danger, and a good, old-fashioned love story. If you love Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, you’ll love this Regency story set in an ancient abbey complete with ghostly apparitions and historical detail.
Fans of Michele Griep and Abigail Wilson will enjoy this book.
** “Remember — don’t give up. While there is life, there is hope.” **
“Shadows of Swanford Abbey” by Julie Klassen is a delightful Gothic tale filled with romance, mystery, ghosts and secret identities — a little bit of Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen.
When Rebecca Lane returns to her hometown as Lady Fitzhoward’s companion, she quickly finds herself amidst drama and mystery as her brother asks her to deliver a manuscript to an author staying at the same hotel as Rebecca — an author that once betrayed him. And when reacquainted with her childhood crush, Frederick Wilford, she quickly realizes that there may be more than meets the eye with some of the hotel’s guests.
What follows is a plot filled with twists and turns and spine-tingling moments as Rebecca and Frederick work together to solve the crime that occurs at the possibly haunted Swanford Abbey.
Klassen does a great job of keeping the reader guessing, as well as creating many intriguing characters, filled with secrets and flaws.
“Shadows of Swanford Abbey” contains several great themes, like second chances; the impact of secrets and lies; overcoming guilt; we can always hold on to hope; and forgiveness and redemption.
Fans of authors like Jane Austen as well as mystery authors like Agatha Christie and series like Sherlock Holmes will love this novel.
Five stars out of five.
Bethany House Publishers provided this complimentary copy through NetGalley for my honest, unbiased review.
First sentence: Miss Rebecca Lane quaked at the thought of returning to Swanford after more than a year's absence, even though her heart had never really left.
Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a book I loved cover to cover. If you enjoy historical fiction with equal blends MYSTERY (suspense) and ROMANCE, then I recommend Shadows of Swanford Abbey with you wholeheartedly without any reservations. It is set in England during the reign of George IV. (I would be tempted to just call it REGENCY era and leave it at that. But George III died several months before this novel opens, and so the Regency is at an end. George is no longer Prince Regent, but King.)
Rebecca Lane, our heroine, is a lady's companion. She is returning home for a visit with her brother, John. She's heard that he is doing horribly. (What we would call depression...or depression + addiction). Her brother, who dreams of being an AUTHOR, a published one at that, divides his time between writing and despair that he cannot get a publisher to read his work to see if it's publishable. He's also very BITTER over something that happened in the past.
Her brother will not make a place for her in their small home--her former room being HIS workspace now--so she finds herself going to Swanford Abbey a local village hotel (or inn?). As the name suggests, it has been converted from an abbey to a hotel. Rebecca Lane finds herself staying at the same hotel as her employer--among others. It's surprising how many familiar faces she finds staying there at the same time! Including her long-time crush, Frederick Wilford. (He's still oh-so-dreamy; and now he's a widower). And his brother, Thomas.
Mystery surrounds Swanford Abbey. The longer she stays, the more aware she becomes of the mystery--that all is not as it appears to be, that danger is lurking far closer than anyone suspects....
She's a woman on a mission--get her brother's manuscript in the hands of either a publisher (staying at the hotel) or an author (also staying at the hotel). But the task seems IMPOSSIBLE. Is getting her brother's manuscript worth risking everything?
I loved, loved, loved everything about this one!!! I loved the characterization. I loved that the characterization goes beyond just the heroine and hero. We've got a community of characters--residents at the hotel, the surrounding community, family--that are given enough depth and substance to come across as developed. That is rare--in my opinion. I loved spending time with the characters. I loved the development of relationships, the unfolding of secrets and mysteries. I loved the dialogue. Nothing felt rushed or under-developed in the romance department. I loved that I was kept guessing as to the identity of the murderer. I loved the author's note at the end.
This may just be my FAVORITE Klassen novel yet.
Once again Julie Klassen has delivered an intriguing book with all kinds of mystery and a few ghosts added in made it all worth the midnight oil I burned because I didn't want to put it down!
I loved the setting of the abby because to me, it was what made the story. The description of it made me feel like I was there!
All the characters were great!
I really appreciated that all the characters were flawed and not perfect. No one is perfect not by any means!
This author did such a fantastic job of keeping me guessing right up until the end! This was another thing I liked because I usually figure it out before the end but not this time!
In my opinion I think that Fredrick is the strongest character. I loved his performance in this book. He's my hero. It was through his determination and persistence that was most present. I liked that.
My favorite thing was that Fredrick and Rebecca believed in God and that it showed through their actions. They didn't just talk the talk they showed it too.
My thanks for a copy of this book. I was NOT required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
A bit of Regency romance, a gothic type ghost story, and a lot of mystery lurks in the Shadows of Swanford Abbey. I've admitted before that I would make a terrible detective, the cast of possible suspects in this novel is vast and many red herrings had me adding more and more characters to my list of "who dunnit". Once again, I was way off the mark, but that's what makes reading a mystery fun. If you solve the mystery in the first chapter what's the point of reading? Julie Klassen kept me guessing until the end!
I"ve been pretty critical of Julie Klassen's last couple of novels, but this one lived up to the high standard that I have for my favorite authors. I liked that the main characters, all of the characters really, had flaws, not one of them was perfect, just like people in real life. There were mulitple mysteries to engage the inquisitive and capitvate interest. The Abbey setting was both spooky and idyllic. The ghost story added to, but did not overwhelm the story. The romance had a slow build, with a bit of a quick wrap up...I might of liked a few extra "courting" chapters. Then again, I am a sucker for Regency romance. Shadows of Swanford Abbey is Christian fiction so there were themes of truth, forgiveness and reconciliation throughout.
As already stated, there are many characters staying in this Abbey turned hotel and it was sometimes difficult for me to keep them straight. I would have liked a cast of characters at the beginning to refer back to, but I read an advanced digital copy so maybe the physical copy has this feature and it will be easy to flip back to the cast and their role in the novel if you are like me and one pops up that you don't recall.
If you are a fan of the Bronte sisters, I think you would enjoy Shadows of Swanford Abbey, It gets two thumbs up from me, and I could see myself reading it again.
Thank you Bethany House and Net Galley for the free DRC of Shadows of Swanford Abbey. The opinions expressed here are my own.
"News of her brother's worrisome behavior spurs Miss Rebecca Lane to return home to her village. Upon her arrival, he begs her to go to nearby Swanford Abbey, a medieval monastery turned grand hotel rumored to be haunted. Feeling responsible for her brother's desperate state, she reluctantly agrees to stay at the abbey until she can deliver his manuscript to a fellow guest who might help him get published - an author who once betrayed them.
Soon, Rebecca starts seeing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey's cloisters at night. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past - including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick - baronet, magistrate, and former neighbor - who long ago broke her heart. Now a handsome widower of thirty-five, he is trying to overcome a past betrayal of his own.
When the famous author is found dead, Sir Frederick makes inquiries and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the author, including Miss Lane and her brother. As Sir Frederick searches for answers, he is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something...."
It's like Jane Austen meets Midsomer Murders. You know, that episode in Maggie Smith's house from Gosford Park!
SHADOWS OF SWANFORD ABBEY by JULIE KLASSEN is a period novel which takes place in 1820 in Worcestershire. It is an interesting and exciting read, with the author giving us insight into life in England at the time, and great descriptions of the countryside and the ancient Swanford Abbey which has been turned into a hotel.
Rebecca Lane, the vicar’s daughter who is now working as Lady Fitzhoward’s companion, returns to Swanford to see her brother John whose work has been stolen by the famous author Ambrose Oliver, leaving him bitter and depressed. Hearing that the unpleasant Mr Oliver is staying at the Swanford Abbey Hotel he asks Rebecca to take his new manuscript to him hoping that Mr Oliver’s publisher will take an interest in it, thus saving John from financial ruin.
Sir FrederickWilford, Rebecca’s childhood friend, is staying at the hotel with his brother while his home, Wickworth, is being restored, and she realises that she has never stopped loving him, and he in turn is pleasantly surprised by the beautiful young lady she has become.
With sightings of the Abess’s ghost (or is is it someone in disguise?), secret passages and comings and goings, the atmosphere is already charged when Mr Oliver is found murdered in his room. Many of the guests have something against Mr Oliver, and Fredeick, as magistrate, has many suspects to work through. He is supportive of Rebecca although he feels sure she is hiding something.
I like to see the faith in God shown by both Frederick and Rebecca, together with the strong Christian message of love, forgiveness and of the laying down of one’s life for another. It is altogether a lovely book and one that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense.
I was given a free copy of the book by NetGalley from Bethany House Publishers. The opinions in this review are completely my own
This is the first book I've read by Julie Klassen, and I really enjoyed it! It reminded me a lot of the Gothic romance/ suspense books I read growing up. I loved the balance of the mystery and the romance, and the friend to lovers trope was very well done.
Clean Regency Mystery
Overall, I enjoyed this 1820 English mystery. The descriptions of the old abbey-turned-hotel were well written. I really liked the fact that Rebecca and Frederick had history to build upon vs the more ridiculous falling in love over a few days that some authors favor. The secondary mystery involving Rebecca's employer was another wonderful layer to the story. The unfortunate accident that cause's her brother John to have mental issues for the rest of his days was an interesting angle to explore, along with Dr. Fox's asylum that is more like a home for such individuals to receive unusually kind care. I liked reading his description. There are plenty of suspects in and around the hotel in this who-done-it, and the killer is not easily guessed which speaks well of the author's talent. There is also a third mystery concerning Frederick and his wife; yet another layer to peel away. This novel contains a lot less faith than I would prefer from a Christian author as well as a Christian publishing house. It's in there, but not consistently so.
Tea Quote: John would wait. Tea first. For Courage.
Very Good - 4 stars
This story was gifted to me via NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are mine alone without expectation or compensation. ***
REVIEWS POSTED AT: Goodreads, CBD, B&N, BAM, GooglePlayBooks, and pending release date for AMZN and Kobo
Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a stand-alone novel by Julie Klassen and involves a murder of a famous author at a hotel. Most of the guests have a motive, but who is the guilty party? Klassen has once again created a character-driven atmospheric mystery that will leave the reader invested in the characters and puzzled by several red herrings along the way. The perfect book to read in front of a roaring fire with hot chocolate and a snuggly pet!
What an excellent read by Julie Klassen!
The narrative in the beginning has a similar feel to her Ladies of Ivy Cottage series – development of time period, characters, and place is firmly established giving the reader a sense of the serenity and slower pace of life. By mid-novel, she returns to the narrative style of her earlier works, which is what hooked me on her books in the first place - mystery upon mystery builds excitement and keeps her readers turning the next page.
A sense of foreboding is delightfully created in the opening chapters as we discover the childhood connections of our hero and heroine. Fast forward several years to where our heroine returns to help her younger brother, only to be thrust into the one place that haunted her childhood. What a sister won’t do for a brother she loves, and whose illness she feels responsible for!
And our hero finds himself thrust out of his home with the visit of his younger brother and extensive bothersome renovations that cannot be tolerated for any period of time. Newly renovated hotel, allegedly haunted, Swanford Abbey is just the place for the well-healed to find respite.
Rebecca Lane is all sweetness and duty. Sir Frederick is proper.
Throw in a proper sleazy, slimy, backstabbing antagonist, a beautiful, secretive actress, and a murder mid-novel, for a suspenseful, romantic read.
I look forward to more of Julie Klassen’s books.
I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
What a cozy, perfect-for-fall mystery this story turned out to be!
Because I've read most of Julie Klassen's books and definitely enjoyed them, I was looking forward to Shadows of Swanford Abbey. And I wasn't disappointed. This book has a different style than what I remember from her others--a little more concise and more of a "telling" approach. I didn't have as deep of a connection to the heroine and hero due to that, but I still cared for them and couldn't wait to find out more about the identity of the "ghost" and the murderer.
The actual murder took a little longer to occur than I expected, considering it's mentioned in the blurb, but the novel had such a mysterious air from the very beginning that I didn't mind. The Northanger Abbey-ish vibes are totally my thing. When you add wit, suspense, and a dash of romance to that, you really can't go wrong in my opinion. Definitely recommend this one for an atmospheric fall mystery with a sweet romance!
An intriguing mystery from Julie Klassen! Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a good mix of spooky, romantic, and inspirational. Sometimes I wished for a bit more emphasis on the romantic aspects of the story, but the mystery is well done and I liked both Rebecca’s and Frederick’s roles in solving it. I’m looking forward to Klassen’s next book! 4/5 stars
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Okay, so you all know I LOVE Julie Klassen and you may also know that in her last few releases she’s been changing up her style a bit. I loved her change-up in style for A Castaway in Cornwall, and you know what? She’s changed it up again! And I love it!
I think A Castaway in Cornwall is probably still my favourite of hers just because the writing style was so pretty! But I love this one too! In fact, it just might be my next favourite! She’s changed up from the more poetic style and really embraced the suspense in this one! Obviously being Julie, it’s still Regency romance, but it’s definitely the most suspense focused book she’s written - actually heavier on the suspense than the romance! And I am all for it!!
The blurb describes it as Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen, and of course, none of us is surprised by the Austen comparison! But Agatha? Well, let me tell you, I did not read the blurb before reading it, and the whole time I was reading, I was thinking ‘this has total Agatha Christie vibes’!!!!
Yep, she’s gone total ‘murder mystery in a hotel’ plot with a touch of gothic vibes to it!! Total Agatha style. And my suspense-loving little heart loved every suspenseful second! And the mystery was solid, I did not predict it at all. I was totally baffled. And we all know what that means… all the points!
And I loved that the MCS were childhood friends! It added a touch of sweetness (or ‘Austen’ if you prefer!) to an otherwise suspense heavy (or ‘Agatha’) story.
Honestly, I hope we see more books in this style from Julie!!! I would absolutely devour them all!!
Very highly recommended!
Thank you so much @bethanyhousefiction and @netgalley for the ARC. I was only required to provide an honest review in return and here it is!! It comes out December 7, so be on the look out! (Or even better, pre-order!)
This novel reminded me of a Perry Mason episode. You have to understand that Perry Mason is one of my all-time favorite television shows (a lot of family history and good memories watching it). But the premise of every Perry Mason episode is that someone gets murdered, all evidence points to an innocent party, and it's up to Perry and his private detective to find the missing keys and get the charges dropped from the innocent defendant, while proving who actually did commit the murder. Woven into this particular novel by Julie Klassen is a bit of mental illness exacerbated by addiction.
Rebecca Lane has been asked to return to her hometown and help her brother out. He has written a novel that he wants to have published. The last one he wrote was stolen by another author, Ambrose Oliver, but he had no proof. This time, he has covered his bases and set a trap for Oliver. To fulfill her brother's request, Rebecca ends up staying at Swanford Abbey, which is said to be haunted by the abbess who started the Abbey. This legend allows the for all the nefarious events to unfold, culminating in the murder of Oliver.
Because Rebecca is back in her hometown, she is able to rekindle a friendship with Sir Frederick, a man who was a childhood crush, but also a scholar under the tutelage of her father, the local vicar. Frederick is the one who taught her to ride horses, engaged in her less-than-ladylike pursuits, and was her closest friend. She finds that he is also staying at Swanford Abbey due to renovations going on at his house. When Oliver is murdered, he is the magistrate in charge of the case. He's the Perry Mason, with Rebecca being his Della Street.
Some of the themes Julie has used in this book are: reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing. Those themes make this book worth reading. The only thing I didn't like about it was the predictability of the book. The romance is tipped off early on in the book, the final solution to the murder is easy to suss out, even the events that bring about the murder are not surprising. Four Stars
Bethany House and NetGalley.com provided the copy I read for this review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.
Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen delights readers with a Regency setting and a mystery of a murdered body at an old abbey turned hotel. With a character filled story, Klassen dives into a mystery that takes readers for a ride. As someone who reads a lot of mysteries, it was nice to see a mystery take place in the Regency world. I enjoyed the questioning of the characters. Reminded me a lot of how Agatha Christie, renowned British mystery writer, crafted her mysteries. No modern day forensics. Of course, when the villain was revealed, it was more from the craftiness of the person working on the questioning than following the science to find the bad guy. There is romance. It reminded me more of the romance between Jo and Laurie in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Friends that should have turned into something more. The writing is well-crafted. I love how Klassen captures the world, and readers will forget that the story takes place almost 200 years ago. I love the setting and the idea of the abbess who haunted the place. Overall, Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen was a delightful historical Regency novel that kept me glued to the pages.
I received a complimentary copy of Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen from Bethany House Publishers, but the opinions stated are all my own.
'God seemed silent and forgiveness not forthcoming.'
Julie Klassen has been a favorite since I read her first book, the Lady of Milkweed Manor, which I have read twice. This current book, described as 'Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen' is very good indeed. And the blurb is quite true. All through the reading of it, I kept thinking how much it reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery. Klassen is very adept here and I never once guessed the culprit, even though there were a plethora of suspects. Her books are always filled with likeable characters and believable plots. This one fit the bill for me indeed. Well done!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House. The opinion in this review is expressly my own.
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