Julie Klassen has rocketed to the top of the historical romance genre. You might say she’s had a lot of practice -– she’s been a fiction editor for several years at the Christian book publishing company Bethany House. She has honed her skills mightily, producing three very satisfying, original works, that while being very avant garde still manage to evoke the essence of Jane Austen.
Austenites will find much to love here. Klassen’s novels are electric with suspense, her heroines finding themselves in more perilous situations than you can shake a stick at. And each of her books has included a quite unusual situation for our spirited heroine, especially when you consider the time period of Regency England.
In her first, The Lady of Milkweed Manor, the heroine Charlotte finds herself at a home for unwed mothers. The decision she makes before leaving that home is among the most wrenching that we can find in literature. Her journey is one of utter desperation, yet she still clings to her own wish for a fulfilling life. In this novel, we learn about wet nurses, the plight of unwed mothers in this period, and what some mothers did for their children.
In her second novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, Klassen delves into the world of the apothecary, or pharmacist of their day. We learn that in those days, the apothecary was much more independent of the doctor and often was the only medical person in town. Again, her heroine, Lilly, is full of spunk and finds herself in a most unusual situation, the roots of which go back a generation. Also, in that time, it was actually illegal for a woman to be an apothecary. So that aura of risk permeates everything.
In each of her novels, Klassen includes little quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Pay attention to these. They will inform and possibly provide some portent of what to expect in the coming chapter. They may be from popular magazines or journals of the time, or published diaries, or medical books. In all, they are very interesting, and in the context of the book, they can provide valuable background information.
In her award-winning novel The Silent Governess, Klassen has revisited the time-honored occupation of governess, but with a very decided twist. Again, her main female character is spirited, ambitious and little interested in romance, but Olivia is so lovely, romance finds her. But not without harrowing danger and the threat of a life of sheer drudgery -– or worse.
The Silent Governess won a Christy Award (the Christian publishing industry’s highest honor) in the historical romance category, was a Finalist for a Minnesota Book Award, and also a Finalist for a RITA award (the romance genre’s finest). Surely Klassen’s star is rising. Her next novel, The Girl in the Gatehouse, brings us an author (a la Jane Austen, maybe?) writing in secret, whose world is turned on edge by a wealthy stranger. Watch for this in December.
Find out what Klassen has to say about her writing, how she came across her heroine’s unusual occupations, research and more in this author Q&A.Powered by Sidelines