Jane Freemont is a British young lady with a very big problem. She is a modern girl…but she lives in the early 19th Century. Jane has a critical, inquiring mind and is always ready to state her honest opinions – no matter whom she may inconvenience. This causes the young gentlemen to run away from her – for men surely can welcome women’s criticism so much more than they do. But that’s our loss.
Jane’s older brother, and only living relative, has sent her to live far away in the north, where he believes her critical and inquiring mind will no longer create problems for him. But as Jane arrives in beautiful Ravelston, she becomes determined to discover the fate of another, yet much less privileged, young woman who has mysteriously vanished. In Ravelston, no one seems to care about what happened to Mary Hale, who was seen as unimportant because she was poor. But Jane will risk everything, even the future, to find out the truth.
And Jane will discover that powerful love, when not accepted in oneself, is one of the cruellest things there is.
The Secret of Ravelston tells the story of Jane Freemont, a free-thinking woman growing up in early 19th-century England, where being free-thinking isn’t exactly smiled upon. After accidentally embarrassing a lady of status, she’s sent to Ravelston, a town to the far north of the country, to live with her uncle, who is the town rector. While there, she becomes aware of a missing servant girl named Mary, and takes it upon herself to figure out where Mary went, and what happened to her.
The story had an intriguing premise, so when I was contacted by the author I immediately accepted it. And, for the most part, I did enjoy the book. While it did take me a very long time to finish, that wasn’t necessarily the book’s fault, and more my own inability to carve out the necessary time each day to get it finished in a more timely manner. That being said, there were some things that slowed the book down, namely the language used (I’m guessing it was true to the time period, but it was still a bit tedious to read all the “my Lord”s and “my dear uncle”s, etc. There were also a few slip-ups where the language was more modern (a serving maid referring to her male companion as her “boyfriend”), which tended to throw me out of the story. That being said, I found Jane to be a very feisty main character, and I enjoyed reading from her perspective. She is definitely a girl who was born in the wrong time period; she’s too aware of her surroundings, too curious, and too persistant. It actually causes Jane quite a lot of trouble while she’s in Ravelston, but it was those moments that were the most interesting to read.
I have a soft spot for historical books, and enjoyed reading about Ravelston Castle, and the beautiful grounds surrounding it. What I didn’t necessarily like was the Lord of Ravelston, Andrew, who was too bitingly sarcastic and mean-spirited. I didn’t like his treatment of the people his mother asked to visit, particularly his cousin, Carla. I think we were supposed to find him mysterious and intriguing, but I just found him irritating and arrogant. Some of the constant “this is how the upperclass live” parts were a bit slow, though, and made the book drag. I think some of it could have been cut out to keep the book at a more lively pace. I also have to admit that I had most of the mystery figured out well before Jane discovered the truth, although I was surprised at one particular twist.
All in all, Jane is a plucky, lively heroine who does what she feels is right, and doesn’t bow down to society’s norms. The mystery, while a tad obvious for me personally, was a decent way to drive the plot and keep the reader interested, and I enjoyed the ways Jane set about trying to figure out what happened. The Secret of Ravelston is an overall good read, and would be a good choice for those of you who enjoy historical tales.
A copy of this book was provided to me by the author, in exchange for an honest review.