Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cinders and Sapphires - Leila Rasheed

Title: Cinders and Sapphires
Author: Leila Rasheed
Publisher: Hyperion, 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 389 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: May 6, 2013
Finished: May 8, 2013

From the inside cover:

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 be like 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 honour. 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 Somerton.

I picked this up purely because I read the summary and thought, "OMG, this is like a YA Downton Abbey, sign me up!" And I was not disappointed in that regard, the whole book is so full of period drama scandal that it reads like a narrative of a 1912 gossip mag; but in my case I actually enjoyed it because the scandals are believable from an historical context, plus the author throws in issues like Indian independence and the education of women to make for a very engaging read.

The book opens with Ada, her father, and sister Georgiana returning to England after being in India for ten years. We're introduced to Ada and her dreams of going to Oxford and pursuing higher education, something almost unheard of in that time period. I liked Ada almost instantly, she reminded me of myself, feeling out of place amongst the catty attitudes of typical women and preferring to read instead. I loved how the author included her soul-searching about finding a mate that would encourage her to continue her studies and be educated in general, since that's something that women unfortunately still have to deal with today. I enjoyed Rose's character as well since she's a very good person at heart and struggles with advocating for herself while not going above her station.

The base part of myself loved all the drama and scandals, especially Charlotte trying to best Ada for Lord Fintan's affection, it made me want to slap that girl into oblivion. Sebastian's subplot was very intriguing since it deals with hiding homosexuality and what it meant to a man if that was ever uncovered.

If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, then you need to give this a read. I throughly enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the subsequent books in the series.

Thoughts on the cover:
I'm assuming it's Ada in the centre, Rose to the right, and I'm not sure who exactly is on the left...the guy's too pale to be Ravi, so it could be Sebastian? Either way the cover looks very nice, but a little too much like a 19th century Gossip Girl cover.

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