Friday 25 January 2013

Secrets and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Secrets and Sapphires (At Somerton, #1)

Pages 295
Published Hot Key Books in January 2013
Lady Ada Averley leaned on the rail of the steamboat Moldavia, feeling the hum of the ship's huge engines through the steel, a rhythmic shudder like a giant's breathing. The black sea glittered with the reflection of the stars above her, and the wind tugged at her hat and loosened the dark curls that framed her pale face. Her features were a perfect mirror of her late mother's, but the grey eyes and the proudly lifted chin were pure Averley.
Goodreads Summary
One house, two worlds, dark secrets...
The year is 1910. For the past decade, the Averley family has lived a life of luxury in India, but now they must return to Lord Averley's ancestral estate, the sprawling, majestically beautiful Somerton Court. As the household staff hastily prepare for the family's arrival, they receive shocking news: Lord Averley is bringing back a fiancée with three children of her own, and on top of that, there are rumours of a terrible scandal surrounding Lord Averley's resignation as Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.
As the family settles in, tensions arise both upstairs and downstairs. Lady Ada must choose between her honour and her heart, Sebastian must fend off ruinous threats from a former servant (and lover...) and gentle housemaid Rose will find herself at the centre of a scandal so enormous it could destroy the Averleys' reputation forever.
I was desperate to read this when I heard about the similarities between this book and Downtown Abbey and I wasn’t disappointed. At first you believe that the story is the historical version of Gossip Girl, full of rumours, gossip and back stabbing your nearest and dearest. But the story is so much more than that, as it brings to light the difficulties the teenagers of the time faced as they came to terms with the rights of women, mixed race relationships and homosexuality. This is a beautifully crafted and richly detailed story of the life above and below in the stunning estate of Somerton Court. The lives of the staff at Somerton are intricately entwined with the aristocratic Averley family. Although the class divides are clearly apparent, reality erases the clarity of that line. Everyone has secrets hidden that they are not proud; as time passes their secrets become common knowledge as the story unravels.
The book has a Cinderella feel to it. When Lord Averley remarries, he brings the new wicked stepmother and her obnoxious self-centred children to live with them at Somerton Court. However the new siblings are not as bad as the ones featured in Cinderella. The characters are intriguing, each hiding something that could risk their social status in society. As the book progresses, each of the teenage characters begins to rebel against society in their own way; they are distinctly part of the generation that changed society and were the ones that helped to crumble the class system.  The characters are extremely well written and seem to defy their historical stereotypes. Ada is very strong willed and determined to go to university, unsatisfied with the prospect of a loveless marriage. Sebastian struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and hoping his family will understand. The bond between Ada, Rose and Georgina was beautiful yet went completely against the rules of society.
The writing is very atmospheric and the author has obviously researched the era extremely well because the descriptions are so detailed. I felt that the writing hit all my senses at one as I absorbed each page.
The book finished at a stage where I felt more story was to be told, so I’m presuming this is the first in the series and I really look forward to reading more. This book was an exciting and enticing read that allows you to delve into the secret historical lives of the aristocracy. I can’t wait for the next book to find out what happens next.


  1. Oh I want!!! I want it now!! This sounds fantastic!! Although I think I prefer the US Cover.

    Fantastic review!!

  2. This one sounds very interesting, I hope I can get it from the library sometime :)

    ~Ailsa @The Book Bundle


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