From Goodreads: 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?
This is my very first Klassen book, and let me tell you, it certainly won’t be the last! I was absolutely floored by Klassen’s writing; her prose and beautiful imagery really solidifies her story, as does her amazing characterization. Add in the intrigue and mystery, times two, because there is definitely more than one mystery to be solved, and it all blends seamlessly together to create a beautiful, enticing Austenesque novel.
I haven’t read many novels that really draw me into the world of the classic Regency era that Jane Austen is so famous for, but Klassen does a phenomenal job capturing the life and times of those who lived during this time, and her writing emulates the great author, Austen. Truth be told, I’m not actually a fan of Jane Austen’s writing as her stories themselves seem to focus too much on the fine details, but Klassen’s novels, though paralleling the times and style of Austen, are exactly what I’ve been looking for when it comes to the Regency era. The bit of mystery, the intrigue, and the slow romance are all aspects that I really love in my novels, and Klassen delivers exceptionally as she tells the story of The Tutor’s Daughter.
Klassen actually looks at the treatment of children who were born “less than perfect” the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and it’s a very interesting aspect of the Regency era that I did not realize existed. We always hear about how people with mental illness or who have physical defects were treated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but I haven’t heard much, or thought about, how they were treated prior to these time periods. Klassen did much research on this topic for her novel, basing much of what she learned on Austen’s own family tree, which I found highly intriguing. I also loved that Klassen chose to show just how wonderful those “less than perfect” actually are, though society at the time did not agree, and Klassen’s own character within the novel turns out to be a much nicer, truer character than others, which I absolutely loved.
Along the same lines, Emma is a very personable character that I truly enjoyed. She is strong-minded and takes the reins when her father begins to deteriorate, yet she does not overstep the bounds of womanhood for her time period. She knows her place in society, yet challenges them accordingly when it comes to the well being of others. Her caring and compassionate nature make her easily likable, and the fact that she isn’t a pushover makes her a much better heroine, in my opinion, than some of the traditional heroines from novels paralleling the same era.
Phillip and Henry are also very interesting characters, and Klassen devotes much of her novel to their development, from when they were young teens studying at the boys academy to their coming-of-age as young men. Yet, Klassen also convolutes our perception of these young men through conflicting information that causes readers to side with one, and then the other as we get to know them and try to figure out who is actually in love with Emma (and who Emma is actually in love with…). In truth, I was a bit surprised by the character of Henry as we learn more about him throughout the novel. He is known as the trickster, someone Emma actually feared throughout his time at the academy, but as the novel unfolds, we learn of the many changes he has gone through, and I really liked how his character was handled.
I actually really enjoyed the spiritual aspects within the story as well. Though I didn’t peg The Tutor’s Daughter as a religions novel when I began, God is definitely a revered entity within the novel, and I loved that Klassen works in religion and spirituality without making her novel preachy. I generally dislike most novels I read that are religious due to the amount of preaching and repetition of Biblical teachings, but Klassen does not approach religion in the same way in her novel. It is there, but it isn’t overbearing, and I really enjoyed it.
Overall, this was just a fantastic read, and I highly suggest that all read it, especially lovers of Austen. Five stars.