Carrie Turansky’s The Governess of Highland Hall is full of potential. It is a Jane Eyre plot placed in a Downton Abbey setting, promising a story that will keep the pages turning. Unfortunately, the potential in the book is never reached, and the book remains a shadow of what it might have been.
A telling sign for me in Christian fiction is the presence or absence of silent prayers – italicized wisps of character’s thoughts scattered every few pages. As a critical reader, I can find no purpose for these prayers other than to make a book more “Christian.” They rarely tell readers anything about a character that they did not already know, and they never progress the story. It is preferable to see the Christianity of a character by their actions and their words than to overhear the strands of silent pleas. For those who are interested, there are silent prayers in this book.
Turansky narrates the book omniscient, which, in this reviewer’s opinion, is a mistake. The plot revolves largely around the romance between governess Julia Foster and the widower father of the children she is in charge of (who recently inherited an estate much like Downton, complete with a full staff and grounds, and the stresses of trying to pay off death duties). The mystery of this romance is eliminated, however, as soon as Julia is introduced to Sir. William. Despite the story’s portrayal of Julia as the central character of the book – the point of view from which most situations are seen – the reader is told at this moment that Sir. William is drawn to her. This leaves no room for the reader to ever wonder if Sir. William might not really care for her the way she cares for him – despite the fact that their feelings are not confessed until the second-last chapter.
Perhaps in an attempt to mimic a selling point of Downton Abbey, Turansky tries to tell stories at all levels of the staff at Highland – from a kitchen maid to the butler to Julia, the governess, to Sir. William’s cousins (who are equivalent to Ladies Mary, Edith, and Sybil). This might have worked, except that each story is not given equal time to the others, and none are equal to Julia’s. It becomes confusing and difficult to know how important each of the characters are.
Lastly, I was very confused when, about 3/4 through the book, a name appeared that I hadn’t seen at all before. It turned out to be a nickname for a character who’d been there all along… but if a character has a nickname, it would be helpful if it were introduced much sooner in the story.
All that being said, if you’re looking for a book to read to satisfy your craving for the next season of Downton Abbey and the flaws described above don’t bother you too much, The Governess of Highland Hall might be a nice quick read you need to fill up the time.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.
- The Governess of Highland Hall (reetchampionbookreviews.wordpress.com)