Sparkling water fanatic. Lover of random crap. Goodreads member curious to see if the grass really is greener on the other side.
Recently, I had someone ask me to explain the t.v. show Downton Abbey to them and the closest explanation that I could find is that it's like an older version of a soap opera, without the demon possessions and twins being born with two different fathers.
Since Summerset Abbey is sort of like a book version of Downton, then I guess I'd have to use the same explanation for this review. I mean, you can't really call Summerset a historical romance because there's too much attention paid to getting all of the period details just right, yet the read is slightly too fluffy to be called a true historical fiction. When you have a book full of gossip, scandal, social politicking, and whatnot (don't ask me to explain whatnot), but it's all wrapped in this package of decadent historical detail (I loved that I could see so much of the surroundings in my mind's eye), what else could I call it?
Let me go ahead and address right off who would likely enjoy reading Summerset. I can't say that this book would be for everyone. Only the hardcore fans of shows like Downton (or possibly Upstairs, Downstairs?), as well as those who love early 20th century fluff lit (is this a real category? I don't even know.) would appreciate the book. The time period is set pre-WWI, right around the Titanic mishap.
While I did find myself entertained by some of the upper class/lower class separation and how the characters dealt with it (the upper class ignored, while the lower class/servants gossiped about the upper class), I struggled a little with attaching to all of the characters. Much like how I felt overwhelmed when I first started watching Downton because I had so many characters thrown at me, I also struggled with the same situation while reading this book. Unfortunately, it's harder to recall multiple character roles to memory as you proceed, when you're going strictly off text descriptions. This area is where television has an advantage.
Of the three main girls featured as prominent characters, the only one whose story really captured my attention was that of Prudence. I couldn't help myself from wanting to know how this young woman who was once considered a friend of the family at Summerset had been relegated to a new position of handmaiden once her mother had passed on. Her story is the reverse of a rags-to-riches, which made it that much more interesting to observe. If I were to continue reading the series, it would mainly be out of curiosity to see what happened to her.
"Wait," he said, his voice almost urgent. "I don't even know your name."
"Prudence," she said, before pulling her arm away and moving down the hall.
"But who are you?" he called after her.
She couldn't tell him, for at that moment she didn't know.
Even though I struggled somewhat with trying to recall everything, the book was charming in so many ways. This author completely nailed it with describing the surroundings to me. I could almost imagine the change in scenery between the section of the house belonging to the haves, and the section belonging to the have-nots. Every small detail was constantly debated as to who was allowed the luxury of what.
"You have to wonder what sort of duties one has to perform to get a dress such as that."
Forbidden desires - hidden dreams - secret lives. This is Summerset Abbey.