Friday, January 11, 2013

A Dramatic Kind of History

"We detest that kind of showy, excessive waste. 
Did you know you could feed one hundred families for a year 
on the money spent just on the flowers for one ball?"
--T.J. Brown, Summerset Abbey

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books, Imprint of Simon & Schuster, 288 pages
Publication Date: January 15th, 2013
Source: eARC received from NetGalley

Goodreads Description:

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.

My Thoughts

Ok, so that is quite the long descpription, is it not? Wowza, apologies on all that text. Anywho. So Summerset Abbey has that beautiful historical fiction feel that gives me warm fuzzies the entire time I'm reading it. Turn of the century for the most part, aristocracy is on the way out, women are speaking up, old stodgy men with their tumblers are being left speechless due to the "audacity" of the talk of mixing of the classes. *sigh* It's all so brilliant isn't it? I love the the idea of the old British aristocracy system...but after reading this book I've come to the conclusion that all this servant stuff was a bunch of bull. I mean, c'mon, all this talk about duty and honor and loyalty? You people are hired help, servants, the owners of the huge mansion you sleep in don't care about you. It made me sad. Oof, but my thoughts are all jumbled, ok, small rant over, let's get to the meat of the book.

I enjoyed reading Summerset Abbey. It was a lovely historical picture of a time when lots of changes were happening so I loved reading about this. The talk of dinners and tea and changing into multiple gowns a day had me day dreaming about balls and petticoats. The characters for the most part I enjoyed. The main focus of the story is Prudence, the governess' daughter who grew up with Victoria and Rowena as another sister. When their father dies the girls are forced to move in with their Uncle who does not see Prudence as an extended member of the family, but rather another servant. This does not bode well with the girls. Enter the plot thickening.

I loved Prudence. She was a beautifully written character. She was strong, she made the best of her dire circumstances, she held her head high, and she stuck up for herself when necessary. I really, really liked her and I was rooting for her completely the entire novel. Victoria, the younger sister, was amazing as well. Frail in physical stature but fierce in persona. This girl was a fighter. She constantly stuck up for Prudence and fought for her to be by their side and did not give up until she...well, you read it for yourself to find out :) Rowena, on the other hand, I could not stand. Ugh, she was so weak and malleable and just so unlikable. I'm sure she was written this way as to further the plot or we would have no story...but still, I didn't like her. She let her Uncle treat Pru the way he did and her excuse every time in her inner monologue was 'Well, what can I do?' Uh...stand up for your supposed SISTER!? Aggravating. Immature. Useless. I felt so bad for Pru and Victoria because with them being so strong, seeing their sister as such a weak individual was probably heart-breaking.

The plot moved a little bit slower than I would have liked. While I loved reading about the times and the dressings, I could only take so much. There was a mystery involved in the story that was pretty predictable. Not every detail did I have worked out but the big picture I caught on to straight away which had me mentally probing the plot, c'mon, move faster, there ya go now, let's get movin'. The supporting characters were good but forgettable. There were small doses of romance interspersed with the rest of the story. I liked these. I would have liked to see them develop a little bit more but there is a second book coming out in March so we don't have to wait long to see what happens next.

I liked the ending but it was a little abrupt. The story built slowly and then felt like it just dropped off the edge of the cliff. The epilogue was informative but vague at the same time for me. I see how things wrapped up but it didn't go into a lot of detail about it. I wish there would have been a little bit more of an eloquent conclusion. But, like I said, there is a book 2. 

I liked reading about the historical drama of English aristocrats. The descriptions were lovely, the main characters were beautifully written, the only downside was the pacing. I will be reading the next installment of Summerset Abbey mostly because I can't wait to see what is in store for all three sisters...Rowena included :)

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