Saturday, November 9, 2013

October Book Club: Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

As the Averley's return from Lord Averley's appointment in India, Somerton is in an uproar. Not only do they have to prepare for the family, but at the last minute the servants also discover that Lord Averley is bringing home a new wife and her children along with his own daughters. Rose, a house maid who grew up with Lady Ada and Lady Georgiana, the Lord's daughters, suddenly finds herself promoted to lady's maid and thrust into the intrigue and challenges of the upstairs world. Lady Ada misses India, but her dreams of attending Oxford and maybe meeting the charming Ravi again, the young man from India she met by chance on the trip home and with whom she shares a daring secret, keep her going. As the newly formed family tries to settle in and figure out how to live together, marriage proposals, scandals, and secrets swirl around them, threatening to cause everything to fall apart. With the sweeping, intricate feel of Downton Abbey, a touch of the Cinderella story, and the salacious tone of Kate Brian's Private series, this first installment of Rasheed's At Somerton series pulls you into the two worlds of the early 20th century and holds onto you until the last page.

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What we thought:

Rebecca T: I really enjoyed this book. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but somehow they all weave together and it wasn't as hard to follow as I thought from looking at the family tree on the inside cover. I had pretty much guessed the big reveal, but I don't think it was supposed to be a secret for the reader so much as something we were supposed to watch each of the character's slowly discover. I liked how there were so many different story lines developing and the way they wove together throughout the course of the book. An entertaining read that left me wondering what will happen next.

Grammy T: I thought it was a good book. As soon as I finished it I wanted to know if the second one had come out yet, because I need to know what happens! I think that watching Downton Abbey helped me get a better picture of the way the house was run and how the upstairs and downstairs worlds worked. There were a lot of characters and I found it hard to keep track of them sometimes, but I was still able to follow the story. Overall I really enjoyed it.

Eileen: In spite of this book being rather predictable and overly dramatic at times, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The setting in opulent but turbulent pre WWI England is well described. I will definitely be reading the next book in the hopes of seeing things more from Rose's perspective. And hopefully we will not have heard the last of Ravi and the story of Indian independence either.

Melanie: Cinders & Sapphires is a wonderful tale that combines our love for drama with our love of history. I love a book that is not only entertaining but reminds us of those who came before us and the struggles they faces not only socially but also politically. The story weaves in and out of the romantic and dramatic lives of its characters faster than a motorcyclist in traffic, and as I was reading, I couldn't help but be reminded of the play La Ronde by Arthure Schnitzler. That being said, I would argue that there were one too many characters to keep track of. The author might think to put a list of characters at the beginning of the book [to supplement the family tree inside the front cover] so we as readers don't forget who is who. Otherwise, this is a delightful novel that anyone would enjoy and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Jenn N: I loved the premise of Cinders & Sapphires. I loved the similarities to Downton twisted with YA melodrama. I also appreciated the fact that the problems with Ava and Ravi's forbidden relationship were caused by not just money but by clashing political views as well. I suspected the secret of Rose's heritage from the beginning; I would've liked it if the author did a better job of keeping that under wraps, and at times it was hard to keep all the characters straight. However, Cinders & Sapphires was a fun and interesting period piece, and the ending sets up for what should be one awesome sequel. I will definitely be picking up the next installment.

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