Tuesday, January 15, 2013

ARC Book Review: Cinders & Sapphires

Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, #1)Author: Leila Rasheed
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Series: At Somerton # 1

One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Aversely 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

“‘Listen, Annie, we all have a place. We’re born to it, and we need to stick to it. You step out of your place, and you’ll regret it. The gentry can be as friendly as they like, but if you make a mistake, it’s you who’ll be out on your ear – not them.’” – ARC Copy pg. 29

“On the corridor below, a huge arrangement of roses had been placed under a window. Somerton was famed for its roses and especially this one, the Averley Pearl, first bred by Lord Westlake’s great-grandmother. They had a powerful, sweet scent and a dewy sheen to the white petals that gardeners everywhere had tried and failed to reproduce.” – ARC Copy pg. 35

“She could feel Somerton around her even when she not aware of doing so, sensing her place in the house, as familiar and secure as the stays she had put on every day since she was fourteen. For better or worse, her life was here.” – ARC Copy pg. 56

“Those who ride high horses have a long way to fall.” – ARC Copy pg. 79

“Some girls do read books and still marry, Papa. Some even – even go to university.” – ARC Copy pg. 128

Fans of Downton Abbey are sure to relish in this fascinating new series that highlights life in luxurious London at an estate called Somerton. Lady Ada and her family have just returned back to London, England from India at the beginning of this novel, when Ada’s father announces his plans to remarry again to the elegant, prestigious Mrs. Templeton. Everyone in the manor is shocked by the news but understands that Mr. Averley needs the good name and fortune of Mrs. Templeton in order to save what is left of his family and their beloved manor. Ada has enough to worry about on her own after just being proposed to by a man that she doesn’t love and never will, while juggling her affections for a man whom would never be found worthy enough for her hand in marriage by her father or anyone for that matter.

This story focuses on the accounts of Ada Averley and her ladies’ maid, Rose Cliffe. Readers will experience life with the upper classes staying at Somerton as well as the working class. Rose soon becomes a personal friend of Ada’s and helps Ada to sneak around and visit Ravi, the young man she has secretly fallen in love with of which she knows no one will approve. I loved the relationship that was developed by Ada and Rose because I cannot stand when the working class is treated poorly and I love how Ada takes Rose under her wing. It is also nice to think that maybe situations like theirs really did happen every now and again. I am sure that ladies of the ton were likely to befriend their ladies’ maids and their relationship seemed very realistic and personable to me.

Ada was the perfect heroine for me because she had such a strong desire to be educated and not live under the confines normally placed on a woman during this time. Ada was at first a monotonous character and I was worried that she might bore me; however, once her passions started to rise to the surface and I saw what she was all about, I began to see her develop more and more. Her love interest was another of my favorite things to read about. Ada has feelings for an Indian student staying at Somerton called Ravi. Ada knows that no one, including her father, would ever approve of her union but her burning desire will not let her stay away from him, and he is just as persistent. For some reason I always relate India to London and I can see the areas in which their cultures intertwine. Ravi and Ada are an unlikely pair but I think their union works really well with the storyline.

This novel fit perfectly in between both the young adult and historical fiction genres. Fans of both will surely love this book. I have read many mixed reviews regarding this book and I am still trying to figure out what everyone doesn’t like about it. I found no problems with the book, other than having so many characters to keep up with. The story was a fabulous account of the life of the rich and famous as well as what it was like to be part of the working class in a large estate such as Somerton. I really did not care for Mrs. Templeton, but I believe this was the point, as she was supposed to feed into the evil stepmother archetype. Overall, very well written story! I will be reading the sequel whenever it releases.

***A huge thank you to the publishers at Hyperion for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest & unbiased review***

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