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Publisher's Summary

In Nell Lillington's small Midwestern town of the 1870s, marriage is the obvious fate of a young woman of some social standing. Yet Nell is determined to elude the duties and restrictions of matrimony. So when she finds herself pregnant at the age of 17, she refuses to divulge the name of the father and even her childhood friend Martin is kept in the dark.

Nell's stepfather Hiram sends Nell to live at the Poor Farm of which he is a governor, to await the day when her baby can be discreetly adopted. Nell is ready to go along with Hiram's plans until an unused padded cell is opened and two small bodies fall out.

Nell is the only resident of the Poor Farm who is convinced that the unwed mother and her baby were murdered, and the incident prompts her to rethink her decision to abandon her own child to her fate. But the revelations to which her questions lead make her realize that even if she manages to escape the Poor Farm with her baby, she may have no safe place to run to.

©2012 Jane Steen (P)2014 Jane Steen

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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A pleasing surprise!

The book The House of Closed Doors, by Jane Steen, tells the story of Nell Lillington and her quest for independence. Nell is only 17 years old and lives with her mother and stepfather in a small town near Chicago circa 1870. Nelly’s experience taught her the lack of autonomy a married woman suffers and her skill with the needle gives her the idea of a plan of escape: staying single and independent – which an unexpected pregnancy threatens. This is the outset of a deeply interesting story of personal growth and of the pursuit of one’s own female identity, particularly at a time when women hardly had any space for themselves. Nell’s opposition to marriage is a choice, a desire to be able to choose her own ways and not to be in bondage, and this makes her very relatable. But, at the same time, she is very young, innocent and protected from the world, so she will make mistakes, and she will discover that marriage is not the only kind of bondage she has to face in her search for independence. It is the story of a very naïve person starting to build her character, choosing links that are important to her and trying to get rid of those that are imposed, with all the difficulties the time and the environment imposed on her.
When I first read the summary of The House of Closed Doors, some time back, I got the very wrong idea that story would be a sort of gothic tale about the terrors visited on a pregnant girl took away in a hospice and her struggle to survive. Nothing like that. When I saw that Nell's story would be told in a trilogy I revised my initial idea (learning how the story would somehow progress) and decided to listen to the book as a historical fiction with some mystery, which is much closer to the truth. Even the mystery, in my opinion, takes second place in relation to Nell’s personal story and the historical reconstruction of the time, which is quite nice. In the end, I was very pleased to listen this book and I am anxious to know how it will continue, since the characters’ stories are indeed captivating.

I was given a copy of the audio book in exchange for an honest review and I would recommend it to everyone who likes historical fiction. Jane Steen’s prose is really good and the narration is outstanding with an excellent range of voice and tone, improving the listener experience.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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An unlikely, historical, cozy mystery

I wanted to like Nell for her independent thoughts and non-traditional gender roles. That part of the book description is probably what convinced me to buy the book. However, the very unlikeliness of her home life, her step-father's erratic behavior, her mother's acceptance of the poor house, the improbable nature of that establishment, the lack of all female friends her own age...it was just too much for me.

This was more of a cozy mystery, which is not my style. Had that been more clear, I would not have purchased the book. And, for me, the book lost an entire star when she refused to trade a bottle of whiskey for a solution to the mystery. Seriously?!? What a ridiculous plot device.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Historical Mystery

The House of Closed Doors wasn't what I expected. I thought it was going to be a gothic romance or something similar. It turned out to be so much more. I cannot wait for the next books in the series.
Nell is a tough young woman who doesn't want to strap herself down to a marriage. Unfortunately she finds herself pregnant, but refused to give the father's name. So she is sent to Poor Farm. In this place she really grows up. She is not afraid of hard work, and luckily forms easy friendships. After falling in love with her new baby, Nell is afraid to give her up to strangers. She ends up discovering another unwed mother and her baby dead in an unused cell, making her more nervous about her own fate and that of her baby.
Jane Steen is a brilliant writer. I was excited to see where her story would take me next. Elizabeth Klett was the perfect choice for narrator.
This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of Audiobook Blast.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Enjoyable listen

If you could sum up The House of Closed Doors in three words, what would they be?

Enjoyable, fast-paced story.

What did you like best about this story?

The main character Nell. Very strong, independent young lady.

What does Elizabeth Klett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narration by Elizabeth Klett was a big part of making this story enjoyable to listen to.

Any additional comments?

I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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So glad to be born in our times.

What made the experience of listening to The House of Closed Doors the most enjoyable?

I enjoyed Nell's independent streak. She was very brave in such a time that she lived in.

What other book might you compare The House of Closed Doors to and why?

Downton Abbey. Prim and proper with a dose of reality.

What does Elizabeth Klett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Her gentle voice lulled you to keep listening to the story.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Be strong and independent and true to your dreams.

Any additional comments?

"I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Waiting for More

What did you love best about The House of Closed Doors?

I loved the dialogue and the characters. You could feel the love and the hate between the characters.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The House of Closed Doors?

When they talk about Jo and her baby. I will not forget the moment when they talk about how she died.

Have you listened to any of Elizabeth Klett’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I do not think so but she does a terrific job on the characters on this one. You lose yourself in the book

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I cried when someone died. I cried because she was so young. In those long ago days they did not live very long. So many died at a young age.

Any additional comments?

This audiobook was provided by the author/narrator/publisher free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Murder mystery set in 1870's Chicago suburb.

Any additional comments?

The House of Closed Doors by Jane Steen is an interesting tale about a 17-year-old girl from a small town near Chicago in the 1870s. Although at first I thought it was a romance novel, it's actually a murder mystery. The story centers around Nell who finds herself pregnant after a few sweet kisses goes a little too far with a distant cousin from the East Coast. Nell's cousin is much older and more experienced than Nell and he takes full advantage of Nell's innocence and naivety; then, he wants nothing to do with her as he soon departs to travel back East.

After Nell is sent to live at a poor farm for the duration of her pregnancy and "confinement," Nell discovers in an unused part of the farm the bodies of an unwed mother and her baby who were murdered. As Nell investigates the murders, a few other residents start to die under suspicious circumstances. Because Nell's Puritan stepfather practically runs the poor farm and demands that Nell give her baby up for adoption, Nell runs away fearing for their lives.

The rest of the story is primarily about Nell's determination to remain independent as she refuses to name her cousin as the baby's father and the restrictions of matrimony. She even refuses marriage to her long-time neighbor and childhood friend Martin, who stands by her side and helps her out on several occasions, even hiding her and her baby for awhile when she runs away from the poor farm. Her refusal to even consider marriage to Martin when it was clear he loved her and the baby is actually the most unbelievable part of this story. I loved Martin's character and felt so sorry for him!

I listened to the Audible version of this story narratedg by Elizabeth Klett who did a fantastic job. She really brought the characters to life, giving each character their own distinct voice. She was very believable and helped me become totally engrossed into the story. Elizabeth Klett has quickly become one of my favorite narrators. Bravo!

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fantastic historical

Loved listening to this! Rich historical setting and an intriguing story that kept me hooked and made me feel like I was there. Great characters too, loved Nell and Nan. Amazing narrator, her performance made the listening experience with her unique voices for each character. I received a free review copy of this audiobook at my request and I have voluntarily left this review.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good mystery, light on romance

Overall, I found this story ok. I very much enjoyed the mystery aspect which was solved and resolved by the 5th or 6th hour. Author, Jane Steen, wove a very good mystery. Then it was kind of dry. I felt the Chicago fire storyline and Elinor preparing to 'move on' a little drawn out. I realize now the author was setting the reader/listener up for book 2, but it was a tad bit dry.

Narrator, Elizabeth Klett did a wonderful job with the various accents of Blackie, and Bette. I could easily distinguish the male and female voices. And I always knew when Nell's mother was speaking or Tess and the other women at the farm. Sometimes I was confused when Nell and Mrs. Landry?? (the headmistress on the farm) were in the same scene, but not for long. Ms. Klett has a lovely clear voice.

Sometimes, Ms. Klett's narrative portions were a little too 'distant' or aloof. I forgot that it was Nell who was supposed to be telling the story. It almost became robotic in spots.

Having listened to the first book, I don't have a strong urge to follow the rest of Nell's story. The ending didn't leave me with an urgency to find out what the next leg of Nell's journey would take her, baby Sara and Tess.

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A Nice, Clean Mystery

Nell is an independent spirited 17 year old in the late 1800s, who because of ignorance of how babies are made became unexpectedly pregnant. She does not wish to marry the father of her baby and refuses to tell his name. But she is willing to give her baby up for adoption, so her step-father sends her to be confined to a Poor House where she matures and falls in love with her new daughter. After a series of mysterious events she discovers the sins of her stepfather and runs for her life…

The narrator did a good job interpreting the characters.

I received this audio-book free for an honest review by the author, narrator, or publisher. Thank you!!!

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