The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
Bethany House, 2010
Historical Christian Romance
I tried to read The Apothecary's Daughter last year and was disappointed, leading me to label it a DNF. But I thought this would be different when I opened the book to a quote from Mansfield Park and saw character names bringing to mind that book. Anything that closely influenced by Austen will probably please me and this mostly did so.
Mariah has been kicked out by her father for her indiscretion and she goes to live in the gatehouse of her aunt's estate, contenting herself with novel writing and spinsterhood. After her aunt's death, young Captain Bryant lets the house. He is set on marrying a girl who previously spurned him as beneath her but also develops a friendship with Mariah. Obviously a romance blossoms but I felt that their story was the weakest overall. Mariah's feelings over her disgrace, despite being historically accurate, grated on me. And Bryant acted like a jerk to her; luckily he has a friend who tells him so.
Besides the main romance, there were many subplots-too many in my opinion. Mariah's former governess and now companion, Dixon, ends up in a love triangle. Mariah's aunt's stepson intrigues in multiple ways. A mysterious man lives in the poorhouse across the way; his past is deeply tied to the estate and the sea. And then there are several little stories in the poorhouse itself. I enjoyed these subplots and I was able to keep them straight in my mind but I just felt that there were too many.
The writing is fine, without the sharp edge of Austen, but still good. Historical details were sprinkled in especially about the writing process and how Mariah had to keep it secret because novel writing was scandalous. The bit that jarred was when the rake who ruined Mariah confessed to such and talked about the double standard. Would that have really happened? I think not.
The religious aspect was pretty low-key but basically revolves around Mariah needing to forgive herself and Bryant needing to stop striving for his father's good opinion and finding contentment in his Father's grace. There weren't many Scripture references but there were more than a few discussions about forgiveness and the afterlife.
Overall: A story that owes a great debt to Austen and is a fast, enjoyable read.
Cover: I love the gatehouse, the actual gatehouse that inspired Klassen she shares, and the green and purple.
Read for Christian Fiction Book Club. Hosted by Joy at Edgy Inspirational Romance.
2. Mariah's situation (sent away after an indiscretion to live in relative isolation) was loosely based on the fate of one of Jane Austen's characters in Mansfield Park (although Maria Bertram was a married woman who had an affair). Did you think Mariah Aubrey's father treated her unfairly? How have attitudes toward "virtue and vice" changed since the early 1800s?
I think her father was a bit unfair. I understand his decision to send away his daughter because she had disgraced the family but I think her siblings could still have been allowed to interact with Mariah, especially Henry who as a male was held to different standards. He also could have given her sufficient money by allowing her mother to designate an allowance. In general attitudes are more permissive (at least in America, a non-virgin woman can still marry anyone) but the double standard persists: women are more likely to be labeled sluts while guys are cheered. There does seem to be some lessening of that but not enough in my opinion.
6. Did you find yourself growing fond of any character that you did not care for at the outset? Which character was your favorite? Why?
At first I didn't like Dixon because she made me think of the character in North and South, who I don't like. But this Dixon is quite different and her romance ended up being one of my favorite aspects. As to a favorite character, I guess I liked Martin the most. I wanted to like Mariah and Matthew but they had a couple of really annoying aspects to their story so Martin's general goodness shined through the best for me.