12 Days at Bleakly Manor
Once Upon a Dickens Christmas, Book 1
By: Michelle Griep
Narrated by: Nan McNamara
Length: 5 hrs and 35 mins
Release date: 01-11-18
Publisher: Oasis Audio
Genre: Christian, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Victorian
My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0 Overall; Story 4.25; Narration 4.25.
A mysterious invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home may bring danger...and love?
England, 1851: When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet feels compelled to attend - for if she remains the duration of the 12 day celebration, she is promised a sum of 1,000 pounds.
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, 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.
Pour a cup of tea and settle in for book 1 of the Once upon a Dickens Christmas series - -a pause-resisting Victorian-era holiday tale by Michelle Griep, a listener and critic favorite.
©2017 Shiloh Run Press (P)2017 Oasis Audio
Clara and Ben were separated on the morning they were to be wed. He was sent to the jail for theft and she was left jilted at the altar believing her fiancé’ had run off with the family fortune.
Clara is struggling out a meager living caring for her elderly aunt and wondering: “Why, God? Why?” She receives a strange invitation that promises her 500 pounds if she spends 12 days at Bleakly Manor. Although a strange request, and reluctant to leave her ailing aunt, Clara welcomes this one chance to restore her circumstance.
Ben believes Clara abandoned him during the rigged trial proceedings and wonders: “Why, God? Why?” When Ben is called to the warden’s office, he suspects that his time to be deported has come. Instead, he is given an invitation that promises his freedom if he stays at Bleakly Manor for 12 days without trying to escape.
As Clara and Ben arrive at the bleak manor house, they realize they are not the only guests invited. There are a handful of others and each person has been promised something unique to their circumstances but only one of the participants can gain the promise by staying the full time. At first, the manor seems warm, if dark, but as soon as everyone has arrived, most of the staff disappears leaving the group to fend for themselves without proper food or warmth.
Tensions are high between Clara and Ben who are shocked to see each other and even more startled when they finally agree to listen to what happened to each other. Soon tensions begin to rise among all of the guests as the conditions deteriorate starting the first morning with an alleged jewel theft. The police inspector guest claims he will investigate but his procedures leave a lot to be desired. Meanwhile, Ben is certain he feels “eye” watching from the halls.
This plot was great fun, reminding me of the Agatha Christie mystery “And Then There Were None” and making me think of the movies Clue or Murder by Death. It appears that I haven’t read enough Dickens recently enough to catch all of the connections to Dickens's characters and locations (Bleak House). Still, I had great fun following the mishaps that helped to eliminate the guests and the dilemmas that Clara and Ben had to face.
I have enjoyed several books by Michelle Griep and look forward to more! I recommend this to fans of Victorian and noir mystery, and clearly to any true Dickens fans.
Audio Notes: Nan McNamara’s narration drew me into the setting and kept me following the characters. I thoroughly enjoyed the audio presentation.
Source: December 2019 Audible Sale purchase $5.24. This qualifies for Ladies Book Club and 2019Audiobook goal.
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