Rich layered cake with ice cream, nuts and frothy whipped cream. Why is it that we love all these flavors together more than each on its own? And why is it this delicious mix of textures came to my mind while reading Julie Klassen’s The Girl in the Gatehouse?
This Regency-period novel is about a young lady who’d fallen from grace and was therefore banished to live in her aunt’s abandoned gatehouse. But she catches the eye of the manor’s new tenant though he is busy trying to win favor from the woman who’d rejected him years before.
I picked up The Girl in the Gatehouse as a nice diversion from the heaviness of things in my real life—a light, romantic read. I’ve read Julie Klassen’s work and enjoyed the interweave of solid historical descriptions, intense relational drama and palpable, though chaste, romance. However, this one seemed to reach deeper in its layers of story and character. From the “man on the roof” through the mischievous boy and the angelic songstress, to the one-armed man. And let’s not forget the main characters—One, whose star is on the rise, while the other has fallen to the depths.
The writing also took me into the backstories of the characters. Not because Ms. Klassen layered them in visual accuracy, but emotional poignancy.
Texture. That is the word that kept forming in my mind as I read. Rich with texture. Layered in story. Colored by character.
If you are a Jane Austen fan, as am I, you will see references to her stories and even her life when you read The Girl in the Gatehouse. Julie Klassen readily admits to these in her “notes” following. However, I must add I felt a little Dickens influence as well, for Jane Austen rarely involved children, the disabled or those who might be “touched in the head.” Julie employs them all and causes us to root for them and invite them into our worlds.
A more than satisfying read!
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