Author: Leila Rasheed
Series: At Somerton #1
Genre: Historical, YA
Published (UK): 1st January 2013 (Hot Key Books)
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.
Secrets & Sapphires fits right into the niche of the likes of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. The book follows a multitude of characters all related in some way or another to Somerton Court and the Averley family. The characters are wide-ranging and well written and although the books is told from various points of view, it doesn't take too long to adjust to each one as each has a distinctive voice.
At times it could be a little predictable and cheesy; The book is full of petty scandals, but isn't that the best part of this genre - that the drama isn't always that dramatic? I couldn't quite work out if this was done on purpose though. However, the story also covers more serious issues like women's rights, social class and homosexuality. I was a bit disappointed though that while the author seemed to have really good knowledge of the history of the era (the bits there was were really well done) there wasn't nearly enough included for my liking.
I enjoyed reading this book and will most likely read the second of the series ... it just wasn't amazing.