Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen is everything a historical fiction could want, all wrapped up in a nice bow. Equal parts mystery, suspense, romance, and old rivals come together to make a sensational read. There was no putting this book down once getting started.
- Title: Shadows of Swanford Abbey
- Author: Julie Klassen
- Publisher: Bethany House Publishers on December 7, 2021
- Genre: Historical Suspense
- Pages: 414
- Formats Available: Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, & Digital
- Rating: 4/5
Trigger Warnings: Murder, Rape (Alluded To), Drug Use
Many thanks to Julie Klassen and Bethany House Publishers for providing me with a digital copy of Shadows of Swanford Abbey with a request for an honest review. Thanks also to Austenprose PR for inviting me on this tour and providing me with the materials for this post.
About Shadows of Swanford Abbey
Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.
When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.
The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick—magistrate, widower, and former neighbor—who long ago broke her heart.
When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something…
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Rebecca Lane comes home to Swanford village after some time away. In that time, Rebecca’s brother John has depleted all the coffers, leaving nothing. John sunk so low as to sell a family portrait. The condition of the cottage that Rebecca returns to is nearly unlivable, thus taking a room at the old Swanford Abbey turned hotel. Rebecca runs into her childhood friend and crush Frederick, Baronet of Wilford, at the abbey. Rebecca makes many bad decisions while staying at the abbey because of her guilt about John’s downfall. Now, she is in the middle of a murder investigation where she suspects John for the deed. All roads lead to John, but is he the real culprit? Will Frederick realize his feelings for Rebecca?
Rebecca Lane is as smart as she is beautiful. How Frederick ever allowed her to get away, I’ll never know. Rebecca is a real peach. I enjoyed her immensely. I also liked Frederick, but Marina was awful. But, the Lady that Rebecca works as a companion for is an absolute hoot. I knew she had connections in Swanford, but that little mystery eluded me until the very end. Though, the reveal is amazing. The author is a real jerk, as is Mr. George. Frederick’s brother, Thomas, however, is adorable. He is that kind of cheeky, hunky, perpetual little boy that women can’t help but love. I admit I fell in love with him too.
The setting of the abbey is spectacularly spooky.
I’d be willing to bet it was cold too. It doesn’t say specifically, but I felt a chill in my bones when Miss Lane walked through the corridors. The only place I felt had any real warmth was the dining room. That one room alone felt warm and cozy. For a place that has a rumored history of hauntings by the old abbess, it certainly seemed like it could be. I loved the setting. I truly love the way Klassen made me literally feel cold and weary while reading. She has a great talent for descriptive storytelling.
This book is long. If there were one thing I would change, it would be to remove a bit of the repetitive scenery and discussions to shorten the story. The mystery would benefit from a bit of tightening of the plot. The story tended to ramble a bit in places. It didn’t help that I also guessed who the murderer was from the beginning, so the story felt extra long.
I award Shadows of Swanford Abbey 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this novel to all the mystery lovers out there because it’s a great mix of mystery and romance. Though, I’m not sure this would be a weekend read. This one will take a bit to bite through, but it is well worth it.
Shadows of Swanford Abbey YouTube Video Trailer
About the Author – Julie Klassen
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kimberly. Julie is a very talented writer and I enjoyed the suspense, descriptions, and the spooky elements in this story. I am looking forward to her next book.
My pleasure as always, Laurel. I will be on the lookout for the next book. Julie is a great storyteller!