Title: The Governess of Highland Hall
Author: Carrie Turansky
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
Worlds lie between the marketplaces of India and the halls of a magnificent country estate like Highland Hall. Will Julia be able to find her place when a governess is neither upstairs family nor downstairs help?
Missionary Julia Foster loves working alongside her parents, ministering and caring for young girls in India. But when the family must return to England due to illness, she readily accepts the burden for her parents’ financial support. Taking on a job at Highland Hall as governess, she quickly finds that teaching her four privileged, ill-mannered charges at a grand estate is more challenging than expected, and she isn’t sure what to make of the estate’s preoccupied master, Sir William Ramsey.
Widowed and left to care for his two young children and his deceased cousin Randolph’s two teenage girls, William is consumed with saving the estate from the financial ruin. The last thing he needs is any distraction coming from the kindhearted-yet-determined governess who seems to be quietly transforming his household with her persuasive personality, vibrant prayer life, and strong faith.
While both are tending past wounds and guarding fragile secrets, Julia and William are determined to do what it takes to save their families—common ground that proves fertile for unexpected feelings. But will William choose Julia’s steadfast heart and faith over the wealth and power he needs to secure Highland Hall’s future?
Julia Foster has spent the last twelve years in India, working with her missionary parents. Due to her father’s illness, she and her family have returned to England. Now Julia must work to support her parents. She becomes the governess at Highland Hall, despite her new employer’s reservations. Sir William Ramsey is desperate for a good governess for his two young children and his teenaged cousins, as well as a way to save the large estate he inherited. Although he finds a good governess, albeit a rather young one, he still can’t seem to find a way to raise enough money to save Highland Hall. When a young American heiress enters the picture, she offers the money he needs for the estate, but is he willing to forsake love and marry just to save Highland Hall?
From the start, Julia was a rather perfect character. Even in her flaws she showed perfection. She has a habit of speaking her mind rather bluntly at times, but she instantly regrets speaking so plainly when she would have been better off thinking a little longer before saying anything. Her pious nature, while admirable, becomes somewhat grating after a while. So does the fact that she instantly becomes the favorite person of nearly every major character and appears to be something of a superhero in that others often comment that they don’t know what they would do without her and that things are ever so much better now that she’s there. While this could be believable, when it happens a week into the people knowing her, it’s a little overblown.
Then there’s William, baronet and master of Highland Hall. His main concern throughout most of the book is money and how he is going to raise enough to pay the ridiculously high death duties for inheriting the estate. His other big concern is how society will view him and his family and whether he can maintain Highland Hall so he will be acceptable to the upper class. While his money woes make sense, it doesn’t make sense that a man so concerned with appearances would share his financial difficulties with so many people, including his newly hired governess and the overbearing aunt of his two young cousins, a woman he can’t stand.
The rest of the characters are a mixed bag, ranging from lovely yet timid to downright unbearable. The housekeeper in particular is a character I kept hoping would get fired. William’s sister Sarah could have benefitted from her own book, but her story did play a significant role in this one.
Between William’s constant worry about finances and appearances, Julia’s extreme piety mixed with a longing to return to India, and all the drama of the servants, it’s a wonder anything ever got resolved. The story dragged on with the same concerns repeated over and over and the same general nasty attitudes shown time and again until I wondered if the story would ever end. Even when the big conflict appeared, it only served to strengthen the concerns and attitudes already shown.
The message of faith and trusting God is a strong one. At times, it felt as though I was being preached to, but at other times the characters’ faith felt genuine. Honestly, I preferred the head gardener’s quiet faith to Julia’s in-your-face version, but just as in real life, each person has their own way of living out their love for the Lord.
It is a well-written historical novel that does an excellent job of depicting the time period and the struggles faced by many families, as well as the occasional strife between servants and family. If you enjoy novels set in the time just before World War I, you may enjoy this one. Unfortunately, as much as I love Downton Abbey and stories of a similar vein, this just was not the book for me.