Pembrooke Park is a fictional estate inspired by Great Chalfield Manor in Wiltshire, England, a 15th-century country house surrounded by extensive gardens and a moat. For many months, I kept photos of the manor and the adjacent church on my bulletin board and grew quite attached to the place as I wrote The Secret of Pembrooke Park. While the book was being edited, I had the privilege of traveling to England for my 3rd time. (I’ve gotten 10+ books from those 3 trips, so I think that’s a pretty good return on investment.)
when we picked up our rental car at Heathrow, we drove faster than might have been wise for someone driving on the other side of the road for the first time in her life. But, thankfully, we arrived at the rural estate with more than an hour to spare before the last tour of the day.
So, not only did we get to tour the grounds and lovely gardens, but we were also able to join the tour of the house. A husband and wife team of local volunteer guides took us around, entertaining us with historical anecdotes and pointing out fascinating architectural details that will no doubt make their way into future novels. We also learned Great Chalfield is often used as a film location (e.g. BBC’s Wolf Hall) and how lovely it is with its great hall, oriel windows, and topiary houses.
After the tour, we attended Evensong in the small church on the manor grounds. I had hoped and planned to do this for weeks leading up to our trip, because the church (and my fictional clergyman) play an important role in The Secret of Pembooke Park. What a pleasure to meet the rector in person, as well as his small but friendly congregation. I don’t remember when I have enjoyed a church service more.
One of the other places I wanted to visit while I was in England was Chastleton House in Oxfordshire, to see its historic secret room. Secret rooms, passages, and hiding places are not all that uncommon in ancient manor houses. They came in handy over the centuries when you found yourself on the wrong side of a monarch and wished to keep your head. Or if you, say, needed to hide a priest during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was a delight to see a real secret room in person, and to better imagine the one in The Secret of Pembrooke Park.
If you’d like to see a few more photos of Chastleton’s secret room or Great Chalfield Manor, you may want to visit my web site (julieklassen.com), the National Trust site, or watch this video of my visit: http://buff.ly/16AvHHF
Either way, I hope you will enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed researching it.
What about you? Have you been to England? If not, is it on your wish list?
In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.
Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.
Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?
“Jane Austen meets Victoria Holt in Christy Award–winning Klassen’s latest deliciously spooky and sweetly romantic historical.” — Booklist
“Regency romance with awesome castles, secrets, hidden rooms and, of course, romance . . . . Julie Klassen has hit this one out of the ballpark.” — Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick
“If you are looking for a book which combines the enticing elements of a Gothic with the mannerly charm of a Regency, look no further, because this lovely Inspirational is just your cup of tea.” — Heroes and Heartbreakers
“While there are plenty of Regency authors out there, the lovely Julie Klassen is by far one of the top and a must read for fans of Austen/Brontë style and prose. Klassen’s latest, The Secret of Pembrooke Park has a touch of both – the mystery of Brontë and the fun of Austen.”— Books and Beverages
“The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting.” — Burton Book Review
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.
THE SECRET OF PEMBROOKE PARK BLOG TOUR BLURB:
Award winning historical romance author Julie Klassen tours the blogosphere February 16 through March 2 to share her latest release, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Twenty five popular book bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, book reviews and excerpts of this acclaimed gothic Regency romance novel. A fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of all of Ms. Klassen’s eight books and other Jane Austen-themed items, is open to those who join the festivities.
THE SECRET OF PEMBROOK PARK BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE: I am having troubles posting the entire list, so check out the entire blog tour schedule on Austenprose at: http://austenprose.com/2015/02/15/the-secret-of-pembrooke-park-blog-tour/
Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015.
Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!