Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton."

Review:  Set in a beautiful estate called Somerton, we are introduced to what seems to be the YA equivalent of Downton Abbey.  After what feels like a long absence from my favorite Downton characters, this was a nice return to the manners, society, and scandal that I was hankering for, all in the pages of a book.

Set around a diverse set of characters, both upstairs and downstairs, we mainly center around Rose Cliffe, who has been thrust into the role of a new ladies' maid.  She soon finds herself the center of a scandal in the home, one in which she has to dig deep to deal with.  That's not all though.  The Averley's have returned to their estate to money problems in 1910, as many other estate owners of their day, who were trying to figure out how to care for such large homes and grounds.  What were they to do with such properties and grown children who needed to be married before the scandalous word of their lack of funds got out? 

There seems to be a scandal for every single character in the novel, and a modern day solution in tow.  I won't lie when I say that I could see this being turned into a modern, melodramatic television show, made glossy and ready to roll out by the spring.  We have a love child, a gay character, a feminist, a girl who wants to marry for love, a girl who loves a man of another race.  Yes.  I get it.  Eek!  How dare they even consider being themselves!   As each of these characters rolled out though, I kept thinking, "Really? All in one family/story for that period?"  As far as a book goes, with any historical accuracy--I don't think all of these characters could possibly go as far afield as they do from the social norms and mores as are written.  However, that doesn't mean that I didn't smile and keep flipping pages.  I was interested in their stories and could still enjoy the novel and read it for its heightened, overly dramatic sensibilities. 

 Cinders and Sapphires is a really quick read and one that I rather enjoyed.  I'm not going to be referring this one out as a historical reference piece, but I will definitely share it for its fun factor.

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