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Shadows of Swanford Abbey

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In pursuit of an author who could help get her brother published, Rebecca Lane stays at Swanford Abbey, a grand hotel rumored to be haunted. It is there she encounters Sir Frederick--the man who broke her heart. When a mysterious death occurs, Rebecca is one of the suspects, and Frederick is torn between his feelings for her and his search for the truth.


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In pursuit of an author who could help get her brother published, Rebecca Lane stays at Swanford Abbey, a grand hotel rumored to be haunted. It is there she encounters Sir Frederick--the man who broke her heart. When a mysterious death occurs, Rebecca is one of the suspects, and Frederick is torn between his feelings for her and his search for the truth.

30 review for Shadows of Swanford Abbey

  1. 4 out of 5

    Oceana

    I enjoyed it! I really like isolated settings, especially big houses and this book does it well. The murder investigation allowed for some background on the characters that was nice to have. I liked that there were two different mysteries that got solved too. The two main characters prayed and thought about their faith here and there and it fit with the story, which I liked. Overall enjoyed it, but it felt a bit long and I think she’s written better stories.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    Goodness this was such a fun story! It was absolutely classic Julie Klassen, but the mystery added in was absolutely delightful! I just loved getting to know Miss Rebecca Lane! What a wonderful young lady who has been through so much with her family. Coming back to her home to find her brother still struggling with life, you could see how much it affected her. I just loved Rose, the caretaker of the siblings and lodge. Well, as much as she could with Rebecca traveling as a companion and her broth Goodness this was such a fun story! It was absolutely classic Julie Klassen, but the mystery added in was absolutely delightful! I just loved getting to know Miss Rebecca Lane! What a wonderful young lady who has been through so much with her family. Coming back to her home to find her brother still struggling with life, you could see how much it affected her. I just loved Rose, the caretaker of the siblings and lodge. Well, as much as she could with Rebecca traveling as a companion and her brother, John, dealing with mental instability. Sir Frederick along with his brother, Thomas, end up at Swanford Abbey at the same time as Miss Rebecca, who once as a young girl, was smitten with him. He was also still recovering from the loss of his wife, but not in a way most suspect. The story absolutely had Agatha Christie vibes to it. I have to giggle, whenever there was a suspected person running around in a nun's outfit I had flashbacks to Scooby Do! Trust me, you'll spend the entire book trying to figure out who might be dressed as a nun! With the death of the famous author staying at the Abbey, Sir Frederick has to figure out "who done it". I can tell you, I couldn't figure it out and the end was such a surprise! I have to admit, with Rebecca being a companion to Lady Fitzhoward, I was super curious why she was so familiar to people from the town. She was such a fun character! There were lots of twists and turns in the story, which completely kept me guessing about the outcome the whole time! Gotta love a mystery that doesn't give anything away. I don't read a lot of mysteries, but this one held my attention to the very last page. *I received this book for review. This is my personal opinion.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    This is a Regency era tale with a gentle murder mystery and a gentle romance, along with a delightful measure of mysterious cloaked figures, secret passageways, characters in disguise, and people who are not what they seem. I felt like it was one of Klassen's best efforts to date, and I was absorbed in the story from the moment I picked up the book. I didn't want to stop reading to live life! In fact, I dinged up my brand new cover a bit because I dropped it in my purse to go shopping... Thanks t This is a Regency era tale with a gentle murder mystery and a gentle romance, along with a delightful measure of mysterious cloaked figures, secret passageways, characters in disguise, and people who are not what they seem. I felt like it was one of Klassen's best efforts to date, and I was absorbed in the story from the moment I picked up the book. I didn't want to stop reading to live life! In fact, I dinged up my brand new cover a bit because I dropped it in my purse to go shopping... Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free reading copy. A favorable review was not required. The review is based off the final paperback version.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Lynn

    Where has this author been all my life?! This era is not something I read often (don’t at me, just never fell into the regency faze) however, something prompted me to get this when I saw the review email request. I honestly forgot about it because shipping for these things is rather unpredictable and I’m always the last person to get my book, and this was a prime example of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”… I got it in the mail and was instantly wondering why I had ordered it simply because th Where has this author been all my life?! This era is not something I read often (don’t at me, just never fell into the regency faze) however, something prompted me to get this when I saw the review email request. I honestly forgot about it because shipping for these things is rather unpredictable and I’m always the last person to get my book, and this was a prime example of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”… I got it in the mail and was instantly wondering why I had ordered it simply because the cover didn’t give me any hint to the gem inside till I flipped it over and read Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen and that is the moment I started falling head over heels in love with this story. I half read, half listened to it in about one weekend while sick and it is definitely a stand out! The murder mystery, classic whodunit vibes with the antique abbey brought to life so vividly under Julie Klassen’s pen all combined with characters full of mystery, shrouded in humanity, and with as many secrets as a cat has lives became one of my all time favorites and will definitely probably be in my top 5 of the year. The way she described the surroundings was so vivid and descriptive, all without getting bogged down and the story just. Kept. rolling. If you are fan of classic mysteries, stories where you can’t guess the ending, Pride and Prejudice or anything having to do with the regency era, then this book is for you. I was blown away and immediately added several other Klassen titles to my TBR list and amazon wishlist. Five raving stars from me! Content: does include content of philandering, womanizers, and mention of premarital relationships but it was all tastefully done as it would have been talked about at the time… very delicately. I would be totally fine with mid to young teens reading this. Highly recommend! **Also a side note, the audio book version of this is also stellar with an amazing reader. *This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own and in no way influenced by the publisher.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Susan Snodgrass

    'God seemed silent and forgiveness not forthcoming.' Julie Klassen has been a favorite since I read her first book, the Lady of Milkweed Manor, which I have read twice. This current book, described as 'Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen' is very good indeed. And the blurb is quite true. All through the reading of it, I kept thinking how much it reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery. Klassen is very adept here and I never once guessed the culprit, even though there were a plethora of suspects. 'God seemed silent and forgiveness not forthcoming.' Julie Klassen has been a favorite since I read her first book, the Lady of Milkweed Manor, which I have read twice. This current book, described as 'Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen' is very good indeed. And the blurb is quite true. All through the reading of it, I kept thinking how much it reminded me of an Agatha Christie mystery. Klassen is very adept here and I never once guessed the culprit, even though there were a plethora of suspects. Her books are always filled with likeable characters and believable plots. This one fit the bill for me indeed. Well done! I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House. The opinion in this review is expressly my own.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cara Putman

    Such a great regency romantic mystery. Hints of Agatha Christy and her closed house novels. Secrets abound everywhere as does forgiveness and the potential for love.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    4.5⭐️ Loved this and as most of you know, J Klassen is one of my favorite regency writers. She always does a really special job creating elaborate well constructed characters. I soaked this novel up while contemplating all the mysterious clues, taking in the charming grand hotel that once was a monastery. This had ghosts, stage actresses, writers and publishers to round out the full cast. I really enjoyed the setting and highly recommended it if you love a good mystery. There wasn’t a lot of rom 4.5⭐️ Loved this and as most of you know, J Klassen is one of my favorite regency writers. She always does a really special job creating elaborate well constructed characters. I soaked this novel up while contemplating all the mysterious clues, taking in the charming grand hotel that once was a monastery. This had ghosts, stage actresses, writers and publishers to round out the full cast. I really enjoyed the setting and highly recommended it if you love a good mystery. There wasn’t a lot of romance if you’re wonder and that was fine with this intriguing plot. I hope this was helpful. Thanks Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    Thank you, Austen Prose, Julie Klassen, and Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read this book! It releases TODAY, and I am so excited for this amazing historical fiction mystery. In Shadows of Swanford Abbey, Rebecca Lane comes back home urgently as her brother, the writer has been struggling with issues on his mental health. After many years of trying to be published, Rebecca is tasked to deliver his manuscript to Swanford Abbey. While there, she runs into an old beau, Sir Frederick Thank you, Austen Prose, Julie Klassen, and Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read this book! It releases TODAY, and I am so excited for this amazing historical fiction mystery. In Shadows of Swanford Abbey, Rebecca Lane comes back home urgently as her brother, the writer has been struggling with issues on his mental health. After many years of trying to be published, Rebecca is tasked to deliver his manuscript to Swanford Abbey. While there, she runs into an old beau, Sir Frederick, and things get complicated with a murder mystery. I loved getting into the story and the writing was truly immersive and atmospheric - so perfect for these cold winter nights. The story and plotting was tight, characters incredibly believable and enjoyed to read, and a plus for the mental health inclusion especially for that time frame of the early 1800's period. I highly recommend this wonderful novel by new to me author Julie Klassen.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Malia Saldaña

    Julie Klassen never seems to disappoint me with her books. I really liked the Abbey setting that was neat. The mysteries were fun to figure out. I also liked the characters throughout the book. Although, this isn’t one of my favorite books. It was still an enjoyable book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie DeMoss

    Julie Klassen has done it again. As the book description says, this is an ode to both Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, and it is a work of art. The characters are well developed, and the mystery is full of twists and intrigue. The setting in an old abbey turned hotel makes this novel even more fascinating. The cast of characters is superb. The hotel guests add even more suspense and intrigue. As you are navigating this historical romantic mystery, you might even see a ghost. Mystery, history, an Julie Klassen has done it again. As the book description says, this is an ode to both Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, and it is a work of art. The characters are well developed, and the mystery is full of twists and intrigue. The setting in an old abbey turned hotel makes this novel even more fascinating. The cast of characters is superb. The hotel guests add even more suspense and intrigue. As you are navigating this historical romantic mystery, you might even see a ghost. Mystery, history, and romance are all woven together masterfully. Fans of all of these genres will love this compelling read. Fans of Julie Klassen will not be surprised that she’s produced another winner. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Atmospheric and compelling, this book will certainly rank as one of my favorites from this author! And I love so many of her books already! I love this "whodunit" vein she's been exploring recently. This book had all the best parts of the classic whodunit she constructed in Bridge to Belle Island, with the shadowy, deep-steeped setting feels of The Silent Governess. The characters are wonderful, both main and supporting. The romance is fairly secondary to the rest of the events, and in a good wa Atmospheric and compelling, this book will certainly rank as one of my favorites from this author! And I love so many of her books already! I love this "whodunit" vein she's been exploring recently. This book had all the best parts of the classic whodunit she constructed in Bridge to Belle Island, with the shadowy, deep-steeped setting feels of The Silent Governess. The characters are wonderful, both main and supporting. The romance is fairly secondary to the rest of the events, and in a good way. Klassen hit a sweet spot with this one!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Hupe

    Thank you, NetGalley, Julie Klassen, and Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read this book! It releases TODAY!! (December 7th, 2021) I will never say no to a Julie Klassen book and Shadows of Swanford Abbey is one of her best! Rebecca Lane has come home after an urgent letter from her brother’s housemaid. Her brother has been struggling with mental illness for some time. He is a writer who has been denied and plagiarized. He has not been the same since the betrayal. He asks her to ta Thank you, NetGalley, Julie Klassen, and Bethany House Publishers for the opportunity to read this book! It releases TODAY!! (December 7th, 2021) I will never say no to a Julie Klassen book and Shadows of Swanford Abbey is one of her best! Rebecca Lane has come home after an urgent letter from her brother’s housemaid. Her brother has been struggling with mental illness for some time. He is a writer who has been denied and plagiarized. He has not been the same since the betrayal. He asks her to take his new manuscript to the author and his publisher who happened to be staying at the newly renovated Swanford Abbey. It is now a hotel, but it used to be an Abbey and there are rumors that the ghost of the first Abbess still roams the halls. While staying at the Abbey, she runs into a childhood friend and the man who happened to break her heart—Sir Frederick. He is reeling from the death of his wife, so instead of staying at home, he and his brother visit the Abbey. Emotions are already running high—but then there is a murder and the suspect could be anyone. I am in love with all the gothic vibes!! Julie Klassen always has channeled Jane Austen and Jane Eyre in her stories but this one definitely drifted to the darker side of those classics. AND I AM HERE FOR IT! A lot of Christian/Romantic Historical Fiction stick to the same plot devices and same characters. Julie Klassen really stepped out of the box here. I love a good murder mystery and I did not predict the ending! Huge plus. The characters are amazing as well. I love how Rebecca isn’t this stereotypical historical romance woman. Lately, the common theme in historical fiction is “women ahead of their time.” —which irks me a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I want to read about these women who defied the limitations of their society but sometimes liberties are taken and these women seem more like a character from a fantasy novel than a character from a historical fiction novel. Sometimes (especially in ancient or medieval historical fiction) I think to myself that this woman would have definitely been burned as a witch. She is incredible but also would have never survived in that time period. So it doesn’t feel believable. Not in this case. Rebecca is strong, a little quirky, she shines, but she also has flaws. THANK YOU for giving us a main character with flaws. I was rooting for her and freaked out when she made mistakes. And last but not least, we have themes that revolve around mental health. This time period was not accepting of mental illness. It was treated as a crime, not as an illness. I love how the author incorporated the concepts of accepting those with mental illness but the importance of seeking treatment. It is really powerful. Overall, a stunning 5 out of 5 stars!!!!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Oooo, this was great! A bit of a mystery, a bit of a thriller, some ghosts, cloak and dagger, unrequited love and romance! Shades of Jane Austen, echoes of Agatha Christie! Absolutely the top of the line historical fiction we've come to expect from Julie Klassen. Oooo, this was great! A bit of a mystery, a bit of a thriller, some ghosts, cloak and dagger, unrequited love and romance! Shades of Jane Austen, echoes of Agatha Christie! Absolutely the top of the line historical fiction we've come to expect from Julie Klassen.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Grace Johnson

    Well, it did pick up some toward the middle there...but I don't think Klassen is the author for me. :( RTC! Well, it did pick up some toward the middle there...but I don't think Klassen is the author for me. :( RTC!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Schmidt (Reading is My SuperPower)

    4.5 stars Julie Klassen has long been one of my go-to authors – her stories are always full of delightful characters, delicious layers, and swoony romance. Most of my favorite Klassen books also have a bit of a gothic feel and/or a mystery thrown in that amplifies those layers I just mentioned. And while I’m pitifully behind on her books, I jumped at the chance to read this new standalone – after all, how could I possibly resist a ‘haunted’ abbey, a murdered author, and a blissful-sigh-inducing 4.5 stars Julie Klassen has long been one of my go-to authors – her stories are always full of delightful characters, delicious layers, and swoony romance. Most of my favorite Klassen books also have a bit of a gothic feel and/or a mystery thrown in that amplifies those layers I just mentioned. And while I’m pitifully behind on her books, I jumped at the chance to read this new standalone – after all, how could I possibly resist a ‘haunted’ abbey, a murdered author, and a blissful-sigh-inducing romance laced with tensions of the past?? I mean… even if I hadn’t already been on board (which I was), this quote would still have sent my reader heart into twitterpations – He smelled of spices and safety, childhood memories, and unrequited love. Pardon me for a moment while I keep swooning over that perfect hug just there. Frederick is the kind of guy you’d want beside you in a crisis, a man with a protective nature and a good heart (as well as sharp instincts). It’s no surprise that Rebecca fell in love with him when they were growing up and even less surprising that she never forgot him. His character made an indelible impression on me, and I know you’ll love him too. Rebecca also left her mark on my heart – I could relate to many of her motivations and feelings, and I admired her strength more than once. Along with delighting in Rebecca’s friendship with Frederick (which turns decidedly more affectionate, as you might suspect), I especially enjoyed her relationship with her employer, Lady Fitzhoward. The elder woman is possibly the most fascinating character in Shadows of Swanford Abbey, and readers will remain fully engaged in trying to figure out her secrets. She is unpredictable and impossible to put in a box, and I loved the role she plays in this story! Speaking of secrets… Swanford Abbey and its village have their fair share, woven effortlessly into the fabric of this atmospheric narrative by a skilled author. Truth is revealed at a perfect pace, neither so slowly that readers lose track of the questions nor so quickly that we overlook the complexities of the story or the personalities of the characters. The skill shown here goes beyond just the pacing, however; it is also evident in the choice of ‘whodunnit’ and the difficulty in figuring out exactly who that is from among the mix of plausible suspects. Bottom Line: Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen is the kind of book you’ll love to curl up with over a wintry weekend. With a little something for everyone, it draws you in and keeps you engaged from beginning to end with wonderful characters and an intriguing plot. The historical nuggets to discover & explore on these pages will make you smarter, and they fit seamlessly into the narrative, too. One of the things I most enjoyed about this gothic mystery is how each character – main and supporting – plays a role in tying all the layers together; tracing those threads heightens the mood of the story and makes the ending all the more satisfying! (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book) first reviewed at Reading Is My SuperPower

  16. 4 out of 5

    Merry Jewelhound

    This author is new to me but has written a large number of books. I looked at the reviews and it sounded like an interesting read. I thought the book was waaaaay too slow to introduce the murder and the romance has also been slow to build. We are only 3 or 4 days into the story, and it feels likes weeks. Good writing but needs plot tightened. The romance was more longing looks than actual courting. The murder mystery was good, and all is tied up at the end. I think it would have been a much bett This author is new to me but has written a large number of books. I looked at the reviews and it sounded like an interesting read. I thought the book was waaaaay too slow to introduce the murder and the romance has also been slow to build. We are only 3 or 4 days into the story, and it feels likes weeks. Good writing but needs plot tightened. The romance was more longing looks than actual courting. The murder mystery was good, and all is tied up at the end. I think it would have been a much better book if it had been 100 pages shorter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: Miss Rebecca Lane quaked at the thought of returning to Swanford after more than a year's absence, even though her heart had never really left. Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a book I loved cover to cover. If you enjoy historical fiction with equal blends MYSTERY (suspense) and ROMANCE, then I recommend Shadows of Swanford Abbey with you wholeheartedly without any reservations. It is set in England during the reign of George IV. (I would be tempted to just call it REGENCY era and le First sentence: Miss Rebecca Lane quaked at the thought of returning to Swanford after more than a year's absence, even though her heart had never really left. Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a book I loved cover to cover. If you enjoy historical fiction with equal blends MYSTERY (suspense) and ROMANCE, then I recommend Shadows of Swanford Abbey with you wholeheartedly without any reservations. It is set in England during the reign of George IV. (I would be tempted to just call it REGENCY era and leave it at that. But George III died several months before this novel opens, and so the Regency is at an end. George is no longer Prince Regent, but King.) Rebecca Lane, our heroine, is a lady's companion. She is returning home for a visit with her brother, John. She's heard that he is doing horribly. (What we would call depression...or depression + addiction). Her brother, who dreams of being an AUTHOR, a published one at that, divides his time between writing and despair that he cannot get a publisher to read his work to see if it's publishable. He's also very BITTER over something that happened in the past. Her brother will not make a place for her in their small home--her former room being HIS workspace now--so she finds herself going to Swanford Abbey a local village hotel (or inn?). As the name suggests, it has been converted from an abbey to a hotel. Rebecca Lane finds herself staying at the same hotel as her employer--among others. It's surprising how many familiar faces she finds staying there at the same time! Including her long-time crush, Frederick Wilford. (He's still oh-so-dreamy; and now he's a widower). And his brother, Thomas. Mystery surrounds Swanford Abbey. The longer she stays, the more aware she becomes of the mystery--that all is not as it appears to be, that danger is lurking far closer than anyone suspects.... She's a woman on a mission--get her brother's manuscript in the hands of either a publisher (staying at the hotel) or an author (also staying at the hotel). But the task seems IMPOSSIBLE. Is getting her brother's manuscript worth risking everything? I loved, loved, loved everything about this one!!! I loved the characterization. I loved that the characterization goes beyond just the heroine and hero. We've got a community of characters--residents at the hotel, the surrounding community, family--that are given enough depth and substance to come across as developed. That is rare--in my opinion. I loved spending time with the characters. I loved the development of relationships, the unfolding of secrets and mysteries. I loved the dialogue. Nothing felt rushed or under-developed in the romance department. I loved that I was kept guessing as to the identity of the murderer. I loved the author's note at the end. This may just be my FAVORITE Klassen novel yet.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    Gentle Regency-Era Gothic blending with Murder Mystery and Inspirational Romance was a winning recipe for reader delight. Auto-buy author, Julie Klassen, introduces a tale that several literary greats would give the nod of familiarity to setting, backdrop, characters and plot. A young woman, Rebecca Lane, has been a paid companion traveling abroad with her employer until a letter from home leaves her uneasy and needing to return. Her volatile brother has never been the same since their parents’ d Gentle Regency-Era Gothic blending with Murder Mystery and Inspirational Romance was a winning recipe for reader delight. Auto-buy author, Julie Klassen, introduces a tale that several literary greats would give the nod of familiarity to setting, backdrop, characters and plot. A young woman, Rebecca Lane, has been a paid companion traveling abroad with her employer until a letter from home leaves her uneasy and needing to return. Her volatile brother has never been the same since their parents’ deaths, the loss of their home, a long-standing battle with a famous author who stole his early work, and a severe fall as a child that affected his mind. Now, he has a new manuscript and insists she take it for him to Swanford Abbey, a converted hotel, and deliver it to the same author he is still battling and hope the man has enough conscious left to present it on her brother’s behalf for publication. Rebecca gets the shivers about being anywhere near that haunted abbey since she was a child and doesn’t need a premonition to tell her this is not a good idea. Naturally, things take a terrible turn for the worst when she bumps into the local man, Sir Frederick, for whom she had an unrequited crush and he is now recovering from the death of a wife after a marriage that was a mistake and that is followed by the murder of the author she was sent to approach. Sir Frederick is the magistrate who must investigate and Rebecca and her brother are near the top of his suspect list even while he feels the attraction to the haunted and secretive Miss Lane. Over the years, Julie Klassen’s books have ranged from sweet historical romance to a dabble into mild romantic suspense, but of late, I felt the stronger flavoring of suspense taking over. It was no surprise that this one plunged deeply into a murder mystery with several suspects with opportunities, motives, and more. There are twists and surprises as the mystery trails to the big reveal. Meanwhile, there is still some delicious Gothic atmosphere and a tender chance at love. The Regency era backdrop was spot on as was the description and feel of that shadowy abbey hotel. There is a slow build of character development, murder plot, and romance with the romance more back burner to the end. Like other books, Klassen teases out topics like the traumatic brain injury that went undiagnosed and treated back then, the tremendous guilt Rebecca takes on for her brother’s fall, and the weight of a failed marriage that Frederick carries. The author offers a religious approach to these concerns though it is light and appropriate to the story. There is much going on in this book without it ever feeling too busy. I never did work out the solution to the murder and chose to just go along for the ride. I really hope Julie Klassen writes more murder mysteries as this one was a true pleasure. I can recommend it to those who love historical mysteries and romantic suspenses set in historical eras I rec'd an eARC through Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    A.M. Heath

    My Thoughts: A cozy mystery set in the Regency era. Now, that’s an intriguing idea! I have to be honest and say that the story lagged in the beginning for me. But once the expected murder took place, my detective brain was more than satisfied. I did really enjoy watching all the characters and making note of them as the story unfolded. There were several believable suspects to keep my eyes on. My favorite aspect was the Abbey setting. Historically, it was really neat and I wanted to tour the gro My Thoughts: A cozy mystery set in the Regency era. Now, that’s an intriguing idea! I have to be honest and say that the story lagged in the beginning for me. But once the expected murder took place, my detective brain was more than satisfied. I did really enjoy watching all the characters and making note of them as the story unfolded. There were several believable suspects to keep my eyes on. My favorite aspect was the Abbey setting. Historically, it was really neat and I wanted to tour the grounds for myself. The story could have used a tad more of the suspenseful/Gothic flair considering the storyline and setting. I appreciated the solid faith elements and characters who held a clear relationship with Christ. The romance was sweet and safe, and I mean that in every good way. Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving Shadows of Swanford Abbey 4 stars. I recommend it to those looking for Christian Regency or a new cozy mystery. ~ I received a copy from Bethany House. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    This book is some of Julie’s best suspense! Amazon has a tagline for this book that reads, “Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen…with mystery, intrigue, and romance.” I could leave my review just at that! This book took a little bit to set things up, but once players were in motion I couldn’t put it down! I was trying so hard to solve the mystery before the end of the book and I’m happy to report that Julie kept me guessing right up to the very end! The suspense is the show stopper of this book and This book is some of Julie’s best suspense! Amazon has a tagline for this book that reads, “Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen…with mystery, intrigue, and romance.” I could leave my review just at that! This book took a little bit to set things up, but once players were in motion I couldn’t put it down! I was trying so hard to solve the mystery before the end of the book and I’m happy to report that Julie kept me guessing right up to the very end! The suspense is the show stopper of this book and it’s masterfully written. The romance was sweet and I am so glad she added it in. It definitely added an extra level of depth into the intrigue! If you like Agatha Christie, Jane Austen and of course Julie Klassen… you’ll want to pick this one up! Thanks to the author for the copy. All thoughts in this review are my own.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This was a good read. Klassen knows how to write a good story and she keeps to the history and feel of the time. This turned into a murder mystery and less of a romance. It really keep me entertained. I couldn't figure out the murderer and that was fun. It had the feel of the classic murder mystery books. I felt a little disengaged from the characters and wanted to feel more. Clean romance with a touch of religion at the end. Characters prayed throughout. This was a good read. Klassen knows how to write a good story and she keeps to the history and feel of the time. This turned into a murder mystery and less of a romance. It really keep me entertained. I couldn't figure out the murderer and that was fun. It had the feel of the classic murder mystery books. I felt a little disengaged from the characters and wanted to feel more. Clean romance with a touch of religion at the end. Characters prayed throughout.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tammie

    3.5 stars. Every year I look forward to reading a new Julie Klassen book. While all her books have an element of mystery added to them, her last three books have all featured the mystery element more heavily. I wasn't as crazy about that in the last two books because I felt like the romance part was sacrificed a bit too much. There was a lack of chemistry for some reason in those two. The chemistry between the characters in this one was better, but still not up to par with her romance books. I li 3.5 stars. Every year I look forward to reading a new Julie Klassen book. While all her books have an element of mystery added to them, her last three books have all featured the mystery element more heavily. I wasn't as crazy about that in the last two books because I felt like the romance part was sacrificed a bit too much. There was a lack of chemistry for some reason in those two. The chemistry between the characters in this one was better, but still not up to par with her romance books. I liked Sir Frederick a lot and Rebecca as well, although I thought she should have trusted Frederick with the truth long before she finally did. Also the story takes too long to really get going, and I found myself a little bored in the beginning. I liked the setting of the old abbey turned hotel a lot, and the parts when Rebecca ended up exploring a little were some of my favorites, as well as when she and Frederick start to collaborate. This book had elements that reminded me of several other books I've read. It felt rather like an Agatha Christie novel set in the regency era at times, but not nearly as clever as Christie's novels. The mystery here was pretty easy to figure out, but still enjoyable. Though not a favorite, overall I liked this book and enjoyed reading it once it got going. On a side note- I love the covers to Julie Klassen's books and I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed that there is always a part in her books where she describes what the main character is wearing and it looks just like what the character is wearing on the cover of the book. It seems like most writers don't have control over what the covers of their books look like, so I'm just wondering how she does this. Does she get to help pick the cover out with this in mind? I'll probably never know the answer to this, but it's just one of those random things that I wondered about.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    "Calm down. Talk to her before you do anything you might regret." As the town magistrate, Sir Frederick Wilford has been called upon to settle typical local disputes, but a murder; where to even begin? The Swanford Abbey hotel guests and employees are all under suspicion of course, but there's only one whom Frederick is hoping and praying is as innocent as he believes her to be. When the very man who has caused her beloved brother so much angst turns up dead, Rebecca Lane is terrified to tell the "Calm down. Talk to her before you do anything you might regret." As the town magistrate, Sir Frederick Wilford has been called upon to settle typical local disputes, but a murder; where to even begin? The Swanford Abbey hotel guests and employees are all under suspicion of course, but there's only one whom Frederick is hoping and praying is as innocent as he believes her to be. When the very man who has caused her beloved brother so much angst turns up dead, Rebecca Lane is terrified to tell the truth about what she knows, and horrified to admit her half-truths. Especially to Sir Frederick, her childhood friend and admittedly the object of her girlish affections. Time has changed them both, for Frederick is now a widower and Rebecca has been under employment as a lady's maid. Is there room for more? "Thankfully God offers second chances." This author has long blended history with an air of mystery, but this story takes the concept a step further and reads more like a crime novel, with its "who done it" creeping around every corner and invading every shadow. Utilizing a game of chess and a clever trap, the characters ultimately expose the true culprit while readers enjoy being thoroughly entertained in the process. And the bonus? A sweet romance between two long time friends. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions stated above are entirely my own. I also purchased a copy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Melissa’s Bookshelf

    As a huge Julie Klassen fan and mystery lover, I couldn’t wait to read this latest book! It’s a classic gothic mystery with an intriguing plot, interesting characters, humor, and a slow burn romance that completely drew me in. Like the great Agatha Christie, Ms. Klassen brilliantly describes each character, their history, and possible motivations for murder. Swanford Abbey, a religious-abbey-turned-hotel, makes a spooky setting, with secret passageways, hidden staircases, and a ghostly abbess hau As a huge Julie Klassen fan and mystery lover, I couldn’t wait to read this latest book! It’s a classic gothic mystery with an intriguing plot, interesting characters, humor, and a slow burn romance that completely drew me in. Like the great Agatha Christie, Ms. Klassen brilliantly describes each character, their history, and possible motivations for murder. Swanford Abbey, a religious-abbey-turned-hotel, makes a spooky setting, with secret passageways, hidden staircases, and a ghostly abbess haunting its halls. When unlikable, pompous author Ambrose Oliver is found murdered, there are a slew of suspects at the famed abbey. A lady with hidden past regrets, a loyal sister, a local nobleman whose wife died under suspicious circumstances, an aspiring writer struggling with addiction and mental illness, an actress, an editor under financial strain, and various hotel personnel, all with a motivation for murder. Rebecca Lane, companion to Lady Fitzhoward, returns home after receiving disturbing reports about her brother John. Suffering under some duress, John begs his sister to go to Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to Ambrose Oliver, a surprisingly difficult task. Sir Frederick Wilford hasn’t seen Rebecca since she was young. Though pleasantly surprised by this beautiful woman, his tumultuous marriage and wife’s death make him cautious about falling in love again. Just as the two rekindle their friendship, Ambrose Oliver is murdered. As the local magistrate, Frederick helps investigate the crime by systematically interviewing each person at the abbey. When he realizes Rebecca might be involved, his worst fears are realized. There were so many things I loved about this mystery: fantastic characters, Rebecca’s and Frederick’s slow burn romance sizzling just under the surface, and feisty Lady Fitzhoward’s witty observations. The mystery kept me guessing until the last chapters with plenty of clues and a few red herrings. I also loved the themes of family and forgiveness. Fans of classic mysteries will definitely enjoy this book! I received complementary advanced copies from the author, publisher, and NetGalley. All opinions are my own and a positive review was not required.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kav

    Sqqquuuueeeeaaaaaapppppp alert!!!! I am in an ecstatic swoon of bibliophile delight! Regency! Atmospheric!! Julie Klassen!!! Definitely the kind of novel to sweep a reader off her feet, so have a fainting couch handy! My first 'grown-up' reads were romances by Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney and Mary Stewart...and that's when I fell in love with historical romance and this gothic-y, atmospheric kind of mystery style. I've been smitten ever since. Shadows of Swanford Abbey brought back that o Sqqquuuueeeeaaaaaapppppp alert!!!! I am in an ecstatic swoon of bibliophile delight! Regency! Atmospheric!! Julie Klassen!!! Definitely the kind of novel to sweep a reader off her feet, so have a fainting couch handy! My first 'grown-up' reads were romances by Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney and Mary Stewart...and that's when I fell in love with historical romance and this gothic-y, atmospheric kind of mystery style. I've been smitten ever since. Shadows of Swanford Abbey brought back that old delicious thrill of history and mystery that has left me feeling quite nostalgic. And enchanted because I'm overflowing with bookish euphoria -- the kind that comes from reading a story that speaks to your heart, engages your mind and just plain makes you feel good. I love the leisurely pacing of a complicated plot that has so many intriguing elements to tie together, including stirring faith threads that have the power to change lives. I love the atmospheric vibe right from the start. Struggling orphaned heroine's dedication to her brother. The conflict that presents for her. The fraught moments of indecision and angst. Reuniting with a man she once loved and never forgot. And the spooky Abbey -- an inn that holds so many secrets! Including a mysterious figure that flits in and out of sight -- ghost, intruder or prankster?! And then...murder!!!! That tag-line pretty much sums it up -- Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen! And what a divine pairing that is! I listened tot he audible edition narrated by Elizabeth Jasicki who did a marvellous job of conveying the era and atmosphere to stunning perfection.

  26. 5 out of 5

    AnnaScott

    Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen was my first introduction to the gothic genre, and initially I was not impressed. Then I went to a conference about it, where they explained the cultural and historical aspects of this writing style, and while it still isn't necessarily my favorite as a whole, I definitely appreciate it much more. All that to say, this book had strong gothic/Northanger Abbey vibes, and I loved it. I admittedly went into this book expecting the traditional, run of the mill Christia Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen was my first introduction to the gothic genre, and initially I was not impressed. Then I went to a conference about it, where they explained the cultural and historical aspects of this writing style, and while it still isn't necessarily my favorite as a whole, I definitely appreciate it much more. All that to say, this book had strong gothic/Northanger Abbey vibes, and I loved it. I admittedly went into this book expecting the traditional, run of the mill Christian historical romance, and so I was excited to see that it was not. It contains just enough of the genre (handsome hero, beautiful heroine, etc.) so that I was quite satisfied on that front, but the gothic twist was perfect. Originality is a huge part of my criteria for books, and I have never read a Christian fiction book with a gothic twist, so definitely five stars on that front. On to the plot. To start, I loved that there actually was a plot outside of the relationship. The mystery element kept me engaged, and I enjoyed how Klassen approached the gothic elements (ghosts, etc.) from a Christian perspective, so we got all of the spookiness while still receiving an entirely plausible explanation. It was also quite interesting to learn about the legal procedures surrounding a murder in England at that time. Even though I have read countless Christian historical fiction books, this one will always stand out to me for its originality. The gothic style is often overlooked in the historical fiction genre, and yet it had such a pronounced role in history. I loved this nod to Northanger Abbey, especially since it still met all of my pleasure-read requirements. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own, and I am writing a voluntary review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Ahhhh!! *Fangirly screaming* This book gave off such Jane Eyre and Clue vibes and I enjoyed every single moment of it. I am always down for a spooky story that keeps me turning pages late into the night. And Shadows of Swanford Abbey was perfect! The mystery surrounding the murder. The intrigue. The romance. I loved all of it. . Let’s start with the characters. I really enjoyed both Rebecca and Sir Frederick. Frederick is just the sweetest character ever. Protect this man at all costs. The side c Ahhhh!! *Fangirly screaming* This book gave off such Jane Eyre and Clue vibes and I enjoyed every single moment of it. I am always down for a spooky story that keeps me turning pages late into the night. And Shadows of Swanford Abbey was perfect! The mystery surrounding the murder. The intrigue. The romance. I loved all of it. . Let’s start with the characters. I really enjoyed both Rebecca and Sir Frederick. Frederick is just the sweetest character ever. Protect this man at all costs. The side characters were all very lively as well. I am very intrigued by Thomas. I would love a book focusing on him. Even though there is a large cast, I was able to keep track of everyone easily. They all had distinctive personalities. . And can we talk about the romance? Ahhhh, it was so sweet!!!! *Heart eyes* . Klassen wove a web of mystery with so many strings to untangle before it could be solved. And the amount of creativity and detail that was put into the whole murder mystery. I am amazed. So many questions arose as I was reading this story. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out who did it and why. The setting was fantastic. A rumored haunted abbey turned hotel? Sightings of the ghost of an abbess? Yes, please! It added so much more intrigue to the story. . While some parts felt a bit slow, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. From a murder mystery, rekindled love, mended family relationships, fun characters, and more, this book had it all! .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Trixi

    Touted as “Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen” this Regency slash Gothic novel is a real page turner! Julie Klassen is one of my top favorite authors who first introduced me to Regency romance & I fell head-over-heels in love with this genre. I've read just about everything she's written! She has a way of immersing you into her settings and making you feel like you're right in the middle. Her atmospheric prose and vivid descriptions come to life for me every time. Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a s Touted as “Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen” this Regency slash Gothic novel is a real page turner! Julie Klassen is one of my top favorite authors who first introduced me to Regency romance & I fell head-over-heels in love with this genre. I've read just about everything she's written! She has a way of immersing you into her settings and making you feel like you're right in the middle. Her atmospheric prose and vivid descriptions come to life for me every time. Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a slight deviation from her usual writing but still has her unique authors’ voice. She introduces us to Sir Fredrick Wilford & Rebecca Lane as her main characters. They grew up knowing each other but with a decade between them; Rebecca has always had a secret crush on Fredrick. So after years away and a chance meeting while staying at the Abbey-turned-hotel they have the opportunity to reacquaint themselves. You can feel the underlying sizzle of attraction that's still there between them. For this story however, the murder of a famous author takes precedence and trying to find his killer & motives for doing so occupies Fredrick's time and energy. Plus, you have the mystery of a shrouded figure in black that is rumored to haunt the hotel. Perhaps it’s the ghost of the long ago buried Abbess herself? With all these things culminating, it makes for a book impossible to put down! While not my favorite book by Klassen, it definitely kept my interest as I wanted to know how both the murder was solved & a hinted-at romance developed. I'm more of a Jane Austen romance fan than an Agatha Christie mystery fan. *I received a complimentary copy and was under no obligation to leave a favorable review. All opinions expressed her are mine alone. *

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Bookworm Lisa)

    This was a wonderful book to end the year 2021 on. I loved it. My attention was captured from the beginning and I had a hard time doing anything else. Including not getting out of bed until 10 am so I could finish it. This story has the feel of a gothic novel. But it also carries hints of Regency and suspense. It was set in an old abbey turned into a hotel. There is a murder and the "ghost" of a nun haunting the establishment. The cast of unique characters left me guessing until the end on who th This was a wonderful book to end the year 2021 on. I loved it. My attention was captured from the beginning and I had a hard time doing anything else. Including not getting out of bed until 10 am so I could finish it. This story has the feel of a gothic novel. But it also carries hints of Regency and suspense. It was set in an old abbey turned into a hotel. There is a murder and the "ghost" of a nun haunting the establishment. The cast of unique characters left me guessing until the end on who the villain really was. Just a hint, the murderer was not the true villain of the book, but you need to read it to find out who it was. The romance was slow but very satisfying. I couldn't have hoped for a better ending for the characters. I felt as if all of the loose ends were tied up neatly with a beautiful bow. This is a clean romance with elements of Christianity, infidelity, and murder. There is no graphic violence. Source: I received a complimentary copy. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Becky Lewis

    “For the first time in years, the rusty hinges of his shuttered heart gave an experimental creak.” Julie Lessman entices the reader into the world of the Jane Austen era with beautifully crafted sentences like this. Lessman’s latest offering, The Shadows of Swanford Abbey, is wonderfully stuffed with mystery, Regency-era (even a bit of Gothic) romance, and faith. It is March of 1820 in Worcestershire, England. Rebecca Lane returns home to care for her foundering brother. His problems are deeper tha “For the first time in years, the rusty hinges of his shuttered heart gave an experimental creak.” Julie Lessman entices the reader into the world of the Jane Austen era with beautifully crafted sentences like this. Lessman’s latest offering, The Shadows of Swanford Abbey, is wonderfully stuffed with mystery, Regency-era (even a bit of Gothic) romance, and faith. It is March of 1820 in Worcestershire, England. Rebecca Lane returns home to care for her foundering brother. His problems are deeper than Rebecca realized, and she must board at a nearby hotel, where a famous writer is in residence. A former family friend who is also their landlord, Frederick Wilford, is staying at this hotel. Wilford’s manor renovations, started by his deceased wife, were never completed. Before his marriage, young Rebecca carried a torch for Frederick. Can she hide the embarrassment of that attraction now? So many different characters to puzzle out, whether Rebecca’s brother, John, Miss Selina Newport or Lady Fitzhoward, to name a few of the supporting cast. What fun it is when there are several well-thought-out and presented mysteries to try to work through before all is revealed. Rebecca is greatly loyal, but that lands her in a heap of trouble. “She just wanted her brother back as he had once been, but she feared that John was gone forever.” She wants to help John, but how far will she go in the name of brotherly love? What will that do to the attraction that is finally blossoming between her and her erstwhile unrequited love? One thing she does realize is this: “Family . . . once gone, there’s no replacing them.” A ghost. Secrets of the former convent. Relationships are hidden, some for nefarious reasons, some discarded in the shadows of the past. What will come to light at the end? Lovers of Regency Romance, who also want faith and mystery will devour this Lessman novel, as will historical buffs. Definitely discovering I have not read enough of Julie Klassen’s expertly crafted Regency tales! Hand me another, please!! I received a copy of this book from the author and Bethany House via NetGalley. No positive review was required. All opinions are my own.

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