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.
Cinders and Sapphires landed squarely on my list of books to acquire, shortly after it released, when I caught several bloggers mentioning it was a very Downton Abbey-esque, period, YA book. I love me some Downton Abbey, and I adore period novels so I knew this was a book I'd probably really dig, once I had a little wiggle room in my reading schedule. So when I ran into the shiny new paperback, shortly after Christmas while a chapters gift card burned a hole in my back pocket, it was a done deal.
Like Downton Abbey, Rasheed follows the story of several upstairs characters, but only two downstairs characters, one of whom is only very topically touched upon so we really don't get to know her (sad face), interweaving them to show not only how the staff and gentry mix but how they cohabit-ate in a lifestyle that is otherwise hard for us to imagine in our insanely futuristic lives where we date our cheques with 2014. She mixes period issues with one part moneyed ego, one part impossible modern dreams for a girl, and one part tangled love story. It makes for a fun, light read that I whipped through in just over a day and left me excited for part deux, Diamonds and Deceit, which wasn't releasing for another couple of weeks.
If you picture one of Downton's slightly more sedate story lines you'll have an idea of the tone of this book (in other words, not the season when Mary kills a man by having sex with him and then enlisting her mother and maid to move the body to avoid scandal) (double sad face).
Although I liked the switch between various characters I did find the younger sister Georgie and her story line with Michael a bit dull, and found myself rushing through her bits to get on with the slightly more juicy bits. The big reveal at the end is not much of a surprise as Rasheed spells it out within the first chapter by mentioning how Rose could be Ada and Georgie's sister they looks so alike. DUN DUN DUNNNN! But I can forgive this as I didn't feel like the entire book was centred around stunning you with that reveal.
A series I definitely feel I could get on board with, and hope for it to be longer running than a trilogy (it has that potential), Cinders and Sapphires was a fun read. It won't be winning any prizes for depth of emotion or poetic prose but it had excellent entertainment value. It practically screams beach vacation book, but for those of us bereft of such fantastic getaways it works very well as a snowy day, cup of tea, couch book too.
Cinders and Sapphires, by Leila Rasheed
Published by Hyperion, August 16, 2013