I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep
Series: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas #1
Published by Shiloh Run Press on September 1st 2017
Length: 192 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: 2017 New Release Challenge
When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, BENJAMIN LANE.
Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.
Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.
12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep is a Christmas retelling of the Dickens classic Bleakly Manor. I started this story with zero expectations but quickly fell in love with the writing style of Michelle Griep, the mystery surrounding the manor and its guests, and the jilted romance between Ben and Clara. It reminds me a little of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None minus the murdering of course 😉
Clara is a young woman who has lost everything in the last year. On Christmas Eve the year prior she was to wed a man who not only left her at the alter but was arrested for stealing her family’s fortune, leaving her destitute and at the mercy of her older brother and aunt. Clara has hardened herself since that time, but her mind never strays too far from the thoughts of her fiancé and what he done. She’s angry, bitter, yet accepted what has befallen her.
Ben breaks my heart. This is a man who has spent a year in jail thinking his beloved put him there and is living the high life without him. This is a man wrongly accused who has been sentenced to transfer to Australia and a work camp there. Ben is angry and it’s his need for revenge that keeps him going. The kind man he once was is missing and his heart is full of anger.
Then both Clara and Ben receive an anonymous letter inviting them to spend the Christmas holidays at Bleakly Manor. If they stay the full 12 day holiday, each will receive what they want most. For Ben, that’s a full pardon and release. For Clara, it’s the money that was stolen from her a year earlier. Neither knows the other will be at the manor until they arrive which creates some fantastic dramatic irony as the reader knows thanks to the alternate POVs. On arrival, Ben and Clara are faced with what happened a year prior and forced to acknowledge the past and who may have wronged them.
In addition to Clara and Ben there are other guests who have also been promised their own heart’s desires, and it becomes a competition to see who will be left on Christmas Day. I LOVED the mystery surrounding the manor, the guests, their desires, and their host. It was a suspenseful read with just the right amount of romance to balance it out. If you enjoy Victorian era fiction, I highly recommend this holiday tale!