The Tutor’s Daughter is Julie Klassen’s latest Christian Historical Romance. I’ve read and mostly enjoyed most of her books, though my favorite has always been The Apothecary’s Daughter (no, they’re not all titled after someone’s daughter). The Tutor’s Daughter follows Emma Smallwood as she travels with her father away from their fledgling school to become private tutors to prominent family, the Westons. Two of the Weston sons, Henry and Phillip, previously attended the Smallwood’s school and Emma had very different relationship with them. Henry was antagonistic towards Emma and liked to play pranks on her. Phillip was sweet and friendly. And you will never guess who she ends up with.
The Smallwoods are greeted coolly by Lady Weston, Henry and Phillip’s stepmother, whose sons, twins Julian and Rowen, are supposed to be tutored. Sir Giles Weston is affable, but generally absent. Also residing with the Smallwoods is Lady Weston’s ward, Lizzie, who strikes up a friendship with Emma, but is hesitant to talk about her past.
Emma is tormented through increasingly threatening pranks and a good deal of the story is dedicated to trying to discover who is behind them. Other central themes include discovering the secret of the North Wing, which is figured out about half way through (I found this plot development reminiscent of Jane Eyre); Emma’s growing friendship with and affection for Henry; and Henry’s desire to help rescue shipwrecked sailors, which there is apparently a lot of in their coastal town.
I felt like there was too much going on and it was all happening very slowly. The pranks on Emma were mostly nothing more than an annoyance, until the final one that actually is life threatening. The discovery in the North wing was not very surprising and there was too much build up for it.
The romance between Emma and Henry, like all of Klassen’s romances, was sweet and probably the most enjoyable part of the book. It felt organic, developing over time and not “at first sight”. The only bad thing I’ll say about it is the cliché of falling for the man you initially can’t stand. But this is no surprise to readers of Romance novels or viewers of Chick Flicks.
When it comes to the Christian part of “Christian Fiction”, I feel Klassen handles it well. She is never preachy, which can put off non-believing readers, but she lets the characters’ lives provide the witness. The discussions Henry has with Emma about God seem like natural segues and are never forced.
Overall, The Tutor’s Daughter was a quick and pleasant read. It was not one of my favorite Julie Klassen novels, but one I would recommend to those interested in the genre. I would also recommend The Apothecary’s Daughter and The Girl in the Gatehouse.