Ivey's Reviews > The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
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Apr 09, 12

Read from April 05 to 08, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I bought this book from a used bookstore thinking I would get a light romantic read. I had just finished an epic series and wanted something not as time consuming. I got what I wanted. A modern romantic story set almost like a movie backdrop to Regency England. I overall liked the story, but found myself criticizing the reasons why our protagonist was in her predicament. I didn't understand how she allowed herself to get there and just accepted the situation with whole-hearted trust. *sigh* I'll explain.

The author opens the book with Olivia's childhood inviting the reader to understand the parental disappointment she had experienced. Fast forward until she is 24 (which is quite surprising considering stories like this fast forward to 18, 19 or at the very oldest 21). Olivia returns to her home after a long day of work tutoring the local people when she sees someone strangling her mother. She reacts quickly and hits the man over the head and he falls to the floor. Years of paternal disappointment instantly makes her think that she had just killed her father who had been strangling her mother in a drunken bender. Conveniently, Olivia's mother convinces her that she must leave her home and not come back until she retrieves her as Olivia could be punished by death for killing another person. But didn’t she just save someone’s life??

Armed with a small purse with very little money in it, Olivia abandons her house and mother to run through the woods with hopes of perhaps getting a position as a teacher in a different town. If only getting a job was just that easy! Now, I don't know if this is my modern woman take on the situation, but why would Olivia leave her mother? Her mother had just been strangled by a man (presumably her father) and Olivia leaves her? What about the police or a strong neighbor? Why does she scamper off into the night leaving her mother to fend for herself without any reassurances that she will ever see her again?
Okay, I can understand she is a young woman and when her mother tells her she should flee for safety, she will trust her, but there must be more you can tell a child who depends so much on you than she will see her later. Meh. Go to this random place and perhaps you will get a position as teacher there. I’ll see you next decade!

But for the love story to occur, she must be in the vicinity of the man so Olivia runs into the woods dogging would-be rapists like she was a linebacker. When Olivia and Edward finally meet its misconception at first sight. Olivia interrupts their riding party (faux pas!) and then accidently overhears a secret between Edward and his father. Instantly, Olivia is captured and taken to 19th century jail. After she is attacked in jail (like you do…) she is taken by Edward to his home where he convinces her that she will pretend to be the new under nurse in his home. And her response? Okay! Is Olivia trustworthy enough to not tell a secret? No, but to be in charge of two children? Of course she is!

This is my main problem with the book. Olivia is told she will be an indentured servant to him for three months as punishment and she is completely fine with it. Even thanks god for transporting her to a place where she can be around children. *sigh* Why didn’t Olivia put up a fight? Why didn’t she try to run away? Why didn’t she let him know she wasn’t friendless in the world and he couldn’t just take random 24 year old women off the street? There were so many ways the story could go, but because she has to be there for the man to fall in love with her, the story keeps her there.

Without ruining too much of the story, I would like to say I could have used more of Olivia’s inner struggle. She only every once in a while remembers her mother’s plight and instead is worried more about fitting in at the house and pretending to be mute.

Like many of the reviews I read, I think the story doesn’t get good until Olivia is settled as the governess to the two children. If there had been more satisfying story before Olivia becoming a governess, I would have liked it more. There is one redeeming quote near the end of the book. Edward describes his cousin in a particularly vulnerable position and thinks, “Perhaps… that was how God saw all His children. Selfish and fallen, yes. But in the forgiving light of His son, each wore an unmerited halo” (403). It is how I feel about this book. The plot markers were a little slippery, but overall it has a pleasant glow of regency romance. Its Diet Pamela and Jane Austen with a splash of “Female Gothic” overtones.
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