When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend — for if she remains the duration of the 12-day celebration, she is promised a sum of 1,000 pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune.

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 for the Twelve Days of Christmas, 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.

It’s been a little too warm in Kansas for my taste lately, so I was extremely excited when 12 Days at Bleakly Manor arrived at my house.12 Days at Bleakly Manor

The first in Michelle Griep’s Once Upon a Dickens Christmas series, Bleakly Manor introduces us to a memorable cast of characters. The main characters of Clara and Ben were compelling. I really wanted to find out what was going to happen to them.

Griep’s secondary characters were a wonderfully eclectic cast that was in turns hilarious and occasionally horrible — exactly as they needed to be.

The setting of Bleakly Manor also is wonderfully detailed. You can hear the logs popping and the icicles cracking.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story of forgiveness, lovingly wrapped in a carefully constructed mystery.

It is a perfect holiday read for fans of Victorian-era fiction.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor is scheduled for release Sept. 7 by Shilo Run Press.