Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Secret of Haversham House - My Review

Genre:  Christian, Fiction, Historical, Regency, Romance
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Publication date: June 12, 2018
Francesca Haversham is eighteen years old and about to step into a glittering future – all she has to do is secure her wealth with an advantageous marriage. Then she learns the truth:her entire identity is a lie. Now Francesca faces a horrible choice. Will she give up all she knows or continue to lie about her past and risk everything, including her heart?

Julie Matern is a resident of Utah. She attended the University of Exeter in Exeter, England, and graduated with a double major in French and Education. She was born and raised in England, moving to America after her marriage and is the mother of six children. She has served in the PTA for over 20 years, taught tap dance, and enjoys amateur photography. She is the author of ‘British War Children’ ( for which she received a “Recommended Read” award from the League of Utah Writers) and ‘British War Children 2: An Enemy Among Us’. 

Julie Matern is another new author for me.  Her book, The Secret of Haversham House, is a wonderful read for someone who enjoys books that are set in England or Europe.  And as many know, I love stories that are set in England, and this book is set in the nineteenth-century, which makes it extra special.  The mystery surrounding the main family gives a certain edge for the reader to discover—mostly because the reader wonders if and when the secret will be revealed.  Deception, danger, honor, love, and pain are the base ingredients for this novel, and it is so exciting to discover the never-ending possibilities that are tied to each character. 

Francesca Haversham has lived in England all her life.  Her parents, John and Emily, love her very much—more than life itself.  And they were so thankful when the Lord blessed them with a baby girl.  Growing up in society, Francesca had to learn and understand the rules and privileges that come with being a young lady—a young lady who is in search of a husband.  Her family knows she must marry, yet no one seems to catch her eye, until a dashing young man enters the picture.  However, does this gentleman’s looks hide something about him that might be important to uncover?  Will Francesca unknowingly be swept away to a place she would never dare enter? 

Phillip cares for Francesca from a distance, because he and Francesca are best friends.  He gives her advice, and she tells him about her days.  All in all, it is a lovely friendship and existence.  However, Phillip longs for the day when he can tell her how he truly feels.  Yet, she seems to always be looking elsewhere for love and companionship.  She never sees him standing before her.  Unfortunately, Francesca finds herself in terrible trouble, but Phillip does not know if he can help, and he also does not understand his initial feelings on the matter.  Will he be able to stay a true friend to Francesca?  Or will he abandon her like so many others have done?  
This was a fantastic story that was quite the page turner for me.  I knew how I wanted to the story to end, but I wondered if the actions of the characters would allow certain moments to take place--this is how much I enjoyed this book.  It was surprising the see the twists and turns in the lives of each character only to discover their ultimate fate.  I highly recommend checking out this book.  Happy reading!  

This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to Singing Librarian Books for my copy.

1. If you could go to tea with any of the characters in The Secret of Haversham House, who would you go with and why?
Lady Augusta Haversham firstly, though she might refuse the invitation as I am a social ‘nobody’! I would ask her if she is lonely and whether her pride is worth the price of exclusion from her family. I would also ask her if she has any regrets about her own behavior.
Secondly, I would be very interested to talk to Antonio, Francesca’s birth father, about how he felt when he learned that he had a daughter and all the emotions it stirred up and if he was angry about the contract they made him sign.
I think I might also like to go to tea with Mario and ask what he really thought of Giorgio’s revelation about a secret granddaughter and the search for her.
2. Did you travel to gather research for The Secret of Haversham House?  If so, where did you go? If not, what did you do to gather your research for this story?
I travel to England frequently to visit family and I have lived in France twice and often pop over when I am in England. So my research has been conducted over a lifetime. I have been to Italy once but a daughter spent time there on a study abroad and shared her love of it. In terms of research of the language style, I read Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskill and watch lots of period dramas.
3. What did your writing process look like for The Secret of Haversham House?
This was my first book for adults and though I was careful not to write down to the middle grade readers obviously, the language for an adult regency book needed to be of a higher level. Also, the number of characters was much greater (necessitating some family group sheets and family trees to keep it all straight!) and the plot was more complex. I am not an extensive planner when I write (though many authors are). I know the end and perhaps the middle but then I let the story write itself. It can surprise me and is an exciting way to write. The characters are like this to some extent too. I write a bio of each character for reference at the beginning but they often change during the course of the novel and I have to go back and edit the bio. I also often write amidst lots of noise and activity. I am drawn into the writing so much that I am able to block the disturbance out, fortunately, which means I can be in the middle of my family while writing and not closeted away.
4. What inspired the idea for The Secret of Haversham House?
Social class. It is still alive and well in England but not to the extent it was in this period. One day I wondered what would happen to a person who discovered that they were actually from a much lower class. Would it change the way friends and family treated them? I decided it would and thus a main character with a secret past was born.
5. What did you as a writer take away from writing The Secret of Haversham House?
When I started the novel I did not know that Phillip was going to experience an emotional crisis. His reaction to Francesca’s heritage showed me that we all might have hidden prejudices that we only discover when circumstances tease them out. I also firmly believe that through Christ we can overcome all and any prejudices.
6. What is your current WIP?  What can you share with us about this project?
Arranged marriage was obviously the standard during this period. Jane Austen’s writings show us that marrying for love was an often unattainable wish. It is a concept so foreign to our culture that I wanted to examine it. In order to do this, I created a character who is thrust into different households as a governess. She experiences the difficulties of arranged marriage as an observer. I plan on writing a third novel from the viewpoint of the bride of an arranged marriage.​

Book covers are somewhat of a science, incredibly. I recently took a class at a writer’s conference where the presenter shared a story about an author who was having moderate sales of a book and then changed the cover, after researching popular covers in the genre, and how the sales soared. Covers matter.
My publisher creates the covers of their author’s books. They asked me some questions about the plot and the main character and what I might like depicted on the cover. They also explained that I would not have the final say, though my input would be considered. Then the graphic designer created the cover. Fortunately, I loved it immediately. If I had not liked it I would have been able to say why and they would have again considered my opinions but that does not mean it would have been changed. Like I said, it’s a science and they are the professionals in that area and I trust them.
If you do a quick search of the genre on Amazon, most of the covers have a photo of a girl in period dress on them so mine fits right in with what is trending. 

10 Behind the Scenes Facts About the Book

  1. The view from the villa in Grasse, France is the view from my apartment when I worked there one summer. I pulled back the shutters ( all French homes have them) and just gasped. 
  2. Septimus Sladden is an actual ancestor of mine. It was such a delicious name I had to use it. Although the actual man was not a vicar the name seemed to suggest that profession to me. 
  3. I have been to Italy but only to Rome. The movie, ‘A Room with a view’ was my inspiration for Giorgio’s empire. 
  4. The first manuscript was full of dates. Then one day I realized that the French Revolution might prevent some of my events and after further research I took out all the dates so that the timeline was more vague. 
  5. My first two books were historical fiction for ages 8-13. There was a small cast of characters so keeping track of them was easy. Not so with this book. Every new event seemed to call for new characters and in the end I had to put them on a genealogical tree and fill out family group sheets for each family to keep them straight. I also had a bio sheet for each character for reference. 
  6. Many of my ancestors are from Wiltshire which made it a good choice for Haversham House. Having been raised in London myself and taking every opportunity to visit the places of interest I think I’ll have to set a future novel there. 
  7. The idea of arranged marriage is a very foreign notion to our culture but quite standard for the upper classes of that period. I am fascinated by it. Francesca’s paternal grandparents, though both selfish and egotistical have managed to build a workable relationship when we first meet them. It makes me wonder how many people were able to be happy in such forced unions? It is a topic I will continue to prod in future novels. 
  8. I do not need a quiet place to write and I am able write in snippets if that’s all the time I have. This year I opened a fortune cookie and this was inside: (picture) ( I’ll send it in a separate email as I can’t figure out how to insert it here on my phone. Hopefully you can make that magic happen!)
  9. I thought perhaps Augusta Haversham was too unrealistically awful and that no one would treat their granddaughter that badly but I am part of a closed FB group and not long after I created Augusta someone shared a true story about how awful her mother was to her and I decided perhaps Augusta wasn’t unrealistic but that I was just blessed to be part of a great family!
  10. I must confess that I have never dated anyone as heartless as Mr Ashbourne. My husband is definitely a Phillip!

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