Diamonds and Deceit
If I had a penny for every time a book series boasted about being designed for fans of Downton Abbey I would be a rich reader. Or at least a moderately well off one. At Somerton is a series which actually succeeds at being that rare breed, a book that actually reads a lot like that beloved television show. Be warned, this is book two so the rivalries, revelry and tragedy are already in full bloom when we rejoin our characters.
The London Season is in full swing and Rose Averley has never felt more out of place. Just last year she was a house maid, but now that the Earl has acknowledged her as his daughter, she is a lady in name and behavior. But as far as people both upstairs and down are concerned, she is still just a maid. Ada, the Earl’s eldest daughter, has welcomed her into the family with open arms but Ada is mainly distracted, trying to deal with her own complicated love life of being engaged to the proper man while in love with a highly improper one.
When Rose meets Alexander Ross, the Duke of Huntleigh, she behaves as herself, knowing he will never have an interest in her lowly personage. Yet the two have a common bond over their love of music and art. And unbeknownst to them, they also have a common problem.
Charlotte, the Earl of Westlake’s stepdaughter, had hopes that her mother’s marriage into the nobility would secure her a better marriage proposal. But with her best beau now engaged to Ada and the Earl’s by-blow attracting the attention of London’s most eligible bachelor, Charlotte finds herself in a desperate situation. She sets into motion a scheme that will gain her revenge against the girl who should never have been elevated above her and the man who should never have looked away from her.
As his sisters scheme to make their London seasons a success Sebastian finds himself fighting for the life of the man he loves. It doesn’t help that if the knowledge of their love ever became public it would not only destroy his lover but himself. Can Sebastian count on anyone at Somerton for help?
Probably not, given that Somerton itself is in an uproar. Georgiana, not yet out of the schoolroom finds herself running the great house as Edith, the heir’s wife spends her time drunk and William the heir spends his time gambling and womanizing. She also finds herself handling step-brother Michael who has a most inappropriate crush on the nursery maid, Priya. As no one does what they should and everyone does precisely what they want, how will Georgie ever hold the house and family together?
Picking up where Cinders and Sapphires ended this delightful Edwardian era romp takes us through the lives of the blended Averley/Templeton clan as they all discover the epic joy and sorrow that surrounds first love and the first steps into adult life. I adore how the author manages to capture the difficulties that the young women face as they are allowed to have only the smallest of lives centered around the marriage mart. She showcases beautifully how that focuses all their attention into turning peers into rivals and how catty everyone becomes as a handful of eligible men are politely but brutally fought over by eligible young ladies.
I also love how the author shows us that affairs upstairs are mirrored by those downstairs. The ladies maids also have ambitions and the differing personalities of Ward, Celine, Priya and Annie greatly affect how their expectations are met. The writer does a great job of moving the many different story lines along so that each character gets sufficient time on the page for us to thoroughly understand them and each piece of the tale moves along at the proper pace so that we never feel bored. It all leads to a stunning, if not unexpected, conclusion.
The best part of this tale was for me the way the author captured whatever the essence of Downton Abbey is. We had that same mix of rich and poor, that sense of a last hurrah of a way of life, the false nature of that life and the way it often served as a trap for those caught up in it. The not always perfect, not always likable nature of the characters is captured here as well. Ada often made me long to smack her – could she only dream and never take action? Charlotte made me long to strangle her. Rose sometimes made me want to yell. But they all elicited a response from me and that more than anything kept me engaged in the book. I turned the pages fast as I could because I was desperate to learn what happened to them.
Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, but I recommend reading Cinders and Sapphires first. The two are essentially one story in two volumes and you need the first to thoroughly understand the second.