Julie Klassen’s The Maid of Fairbourne Hall is ostensibly a Regency Romance, but one I enjoyed quite a bit – mainly because the romance took a backseat to the story of the heroine, Margaret Macy. Margaret is a young woman of privilege who flees her home and finds work as a housemaid rather enter a marriage with an unscrupulous man. It’s a marriage that engineered by her greedy stepfather – he wants Margaret’s inheritance to come under his and his nephew’s control.
Klassen is admittedly a fan of Jane Austen and there were gentle shades of Persuasion here. Two years before Margaret refused to marry Nathaniel Upchurch- in the wake of meeting his dashing brother Lewis (recently returned from Barbados) who quickly works his charm on her without ever proposing marriage. As it happens, when Margaret changes her name to Nora Garret and finally finds a position as housemaid, it is in the country home of the Upchurch brothers and their sister Helen, who seems to have her suspicions about “Nora’s” identity.
Klassen takes the time to develop her heroine, and Margaret is refreshing in that her behavior is in keeping with her time and her station- entitled, with little care or notice of the feelings of others. I was initially surprised by how callous and dismissive she is with her own maid and at how selfish she is. Margaret thinks very little of letting someone else hang out to dry for something she’s done. It was fun to see her on equal with those she has treated so shabbily. I like that her journey as a housemaid was thoroughly considered. Klassen also explores Nathaniel’s life- the two years that he has spent managing his father’s plantation in Barbados, his objections to slavery, and his family’s deteriorating finances. When he returns home he also has to deal with his brother Lewis, and the effect that Lewis’s great charm with women, and his license in using it has impacts the family. The lovers’ path is slowly woven among their personal growth and the resolution to their individual dilemmas. Fans of historical fiction and romance will find much to enjoy in this engaging and well- researched love story. Recommended.