A Winter by the Sea (On Devonshire Shores)

Written by Julie Klassen
Review by Misty Urban

This second book of On Devonshire Shores continues to follow the Summers sisters, whose family circumstances have compelled them to open a guest home, Sea View, in the town of Sidmouth. In late 1819, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, along with their baby daughter, take up residence nearby, and three of their employees are lodged at Sea View: chef Antoine Bernardi; keeper of the plate chest, Selwyn During; and secretary James Thomson. Mr. Bernardi and Sarah grow acquainted while cooking together, but Emily’s attention is captured by the handsome and upstanding Mr. Thomson, who helps Emily, who has aspirations as a novelist, to write a guidebook for a local bookseller.

Though Viola is now happily married, the Summers family is still shadowed by the disgrace of the elder sister, Claire, which drove away Charles Parker, Emily’s boyhood love. When the Parkers visit Sidmouth, Emily hopes for a second chance. But Charles’s strict sense of propriety troubles her, while she finds the company of Mr. Thomson, who likes to fence and who cheerfully helps serve food at the local poorhouse, much more engaging. Still, Mr. Thomson’s attachment to the royal household makes any future with him unlikely.

Those knowledgeable about the Georgian period will remember that Edward, father of the future Queen Victoria, died in Sidmouth in early 1820, and Klassen uses his residence and ailment as a fitting backdrop for the smaller dramas of the Summers’ household. Her prose is, as always, gently accomplished. Her characters feel realistic in their hopes and heartbreaks, shaped by the time in which they live, with a sweet outlook overall, suitable to inspirational romance. Klassen fans will find this another satisfying addition to her respectable and engaging oeuvre.