Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book Review: Summerset Abbey

Author: T.J. Brown
Title: Summerset Abbey
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: Jan 15, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: 1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society and the distant rumblings of war. . . . 
Rowena Buxton

Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

Victoria Buxton

Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever. . . .

Prudence Tate

Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.

Review: Summerset Abbey is a book for fans of Historical Fiction and people that are in love with Downton Abbey. It is also the first book in the Summerset Abbey Trilogy, with the second book due out in March and the third in August.

The three girls are so very different and they inspire many different emotions in the reader. Rowena is hard to like, yet she isn't nasty or anything that should make you dislike her, it is more that she's a procrastinator and just plain wishy washy. Throughout the story you want to grab her and shake her to make her do something, besides wait.

Victoria on the other hand is the Buxton sister you really love because she's got spunk. She's not in the best of health. She's got asthma, but that doesn't stop her. She's the type of girl you want on your side no matter what. She's loyal, she's fun and she's smart.

Prudence is the downstairs girl. Sorta. She's been raised with Victoria and Rowena, but she's the daughter of a governess/maid. When Sir Phillip died, the only way Rowena could keep her with them was to say she was their ladies maid.

So right off, Rowena loses points in the friendship department, but this separation of the classes is what makes this book so engaging. She slowly starts treating Prudence more like a servant and less like a friend and she uses the excuse of feeling overwhelmed by new responsibilities to justify her actions,when there are very little new responsibilities she has.

It is the differences in the girls characters that really keep you reading as well as the relationships that they develop with different men.

And every story is not complete without a villain and in this story's case it is Victoria and Rowena's Aunt Charlotte. She is a Bitch with a capital "B." She's the type that does everything for the good of the family name and while you can understand why she's done it, the way she goes about things, well, its just not nice.

All of her nastiness has to do with Prudence, or rather Prudence's parentage. It is easy early on to know that she's more than just the daughter of a governess. I wasn't totally surprised at the revelation of who her father was, but her reaction and the subsequent end of the book left something to be desired. It was a little to abrupt.

Still, this is a great novel that is very reflective of the pre-WW1 years. I can't wait to read the second book!

Rating: 4 flowers


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