The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen and published by Bethany House Publishers (2012) is an enchanting and suspenseful page-turner that may just keep you up at night–finishing chapters. The story takes place in London in 1815 and revolves around Margaret Elinor Macy who flees her home and finds employment as a common maid.

Margaret’s mother has recently married a greedy, controlling man, Sterling Benton. He has his heart set on Margaret marrying his nephew, Marcus Benton, to keep her fortune in his family. But in a few months, Margaret will be twenty-five, inherit a fortune, and be free of Sterling’s control. Marcus Benton tries to force his affections upon her.

Margaret runs away with her maid, Jane, who has been dismissed for stealing some coins from Sterling. Margaret took the money, thinking she would need some to survive. Her maid was blamed for it and sent away, but not until she found a maid’s outfit and a black wig for Margaret to use as a disguise. They flee to Jane’s sister’s home, in another section of London. After a short stay, Jane’s sister thinks it best they leave. The young women travel to Maidstone. At Maidstone there is a hiring fair for maids, and Margaret, as “Nora Garret,” obtains employment.

Margaret finds herself at Fairbourne Hall where she goes about learning the duties of a housemaid. This country estate is  the home of a former suitor, Nathaniel Upchurch, and his sister and brother, Helen and Luis Upchurch. Nathaniel had once proposed to Margaret, but she turned him down. In time, Helen Upchurch recognizes the disguised Margaret, who explains she fled her home because of Marcus Benton. Helen understands and appears to be willing to keep her secret.

Over time, Margaret prays and seeks help from the Lord. She notices that Nathaniel has changed, and has grown in his faith and character. She experiences the hardship of service and realizes she has always taken servants for granted. She also comes to see that Luis Upchurch, whom she had admired, is immature and never had any real affection for her.

At one point in the story, Sterling Benton comes to the estate, looking for her and passing her picture among all who reside in the house. She is not discovered and is greatly relieved. Helen persuades her to write to her mother, brother and sister to let them know she is safe and in good hands.

Sterling Benton, determined to find Margaret, circulates a story in the newspaper that Margaret’s sister is set to marry Marcus Benton. But Klassen ends the novel happily.

In this story, we see the true godly character of Nathaniel and how he has loved Margaret for the past several years. He comes to guess her identity, but he does not reveal this to her. She finds herself falling in love with him. At times he seeks her company.  They both share their love of Jesus and the Bible.

Reading The Maid of Fairbourne Hall I learned so much about the duties of housemaids in English households. I also thought a lot about how to appreciate the people who show us kindness and who perform services for us every day.

Patsy Ledbetter says she has many titles, but her favorite is being mom to her five children. Her two daughters, two sons and one son-in-law are her joy. A teacher with forty years experience Patsy has taught children of all ages and also special needs children and adults. She writes occasionally for a local newspaper and performs in church theater productions on a regular basis. Her husband is the church choir and orchestra director. They have been married for 32 years. She says, “It is my desire to bring honor and glory to my Lord Jesus in every area where He has allowed me to minister.”

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