Thursday, January 31, 2013
Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
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.
And with this, can I officially say that the age of Downton Abbey inspired fiction has begun? Because this book's influences are evident from even the summary. However, the Downton Abbey inspiration isn't a bad thing. I'm a fan of the show, and because this book shares so many things in common with it, I quite like it as well.
Cinders & Sapphires has not only similar(ish) plot points to Downton, but also a similar feel-- and that is to say that it feels like a soap opera even in the most non-melodramatic portions. The wealthy characters or the servants alone would have made for a rather exciting read, but the combination of the two groups means that things go haywire nearly every chapter. This, of course, makes things a bit overwhelming; there are so many people with complicated relationships in this book that I sometimes gave up on keeping them all straight, preferring to focus solely on whatever issue was in whatever chapter I was reading. The worst would be when I'd finish a chapter and the issue would not be present again for a while, but at least this way I was kept interested.
I was also kept interested by the characters, luckily. The main antagonists, Ada's stepfamily, are annoyingly superficial, as are some other family members that do not appear all that often to begin with but who hold secrets important to the plot, but I do like most everyone else. Ada's desire to go to Oxford despite her peers' wishes and her upbringing in India makes her not only strong but interesting, especially when she interacts with Ravi, her love interest. I quite like the Indian background in various parts of the story, for it gave it a unique twist and I do so love the Indian love interests of historical fiction. I also quite like Ada's relationship with Rose, because Rose always remains as important as Ada despite her lower social status. There's an interesting dynamic between the girls, especially when it's compared to the poor way everyone else treats Rose.
There's so much going on that certain characters suffer for it, but Cinders & Sapphires is an undeniably fun, dramatic read.
Book details: Hyperion/Hardcover/$17.99
Source: sent by publisher for review