Review: Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown
Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown
Published: January 15, 2013.
Published by: Gallery Books.
1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society in this stunning series starter that fans of Downton Abbey will love.
Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.
Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever...
Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.
I have to say I'm not entirely sure how to classify this one as I've seen people call it YA and others call it Adult. I'd actually almost say NA considering the ages of the young ladies who serve as our MCs. Despite not knowing where exactly it fits, though, this was a really enjoyable novel for both plot and history.
This is marketed as a perfect read for fans of Downton Abbey and while I have never seen the show, I did find this an interesting look at the "upstairs" and "downstairs" of society at the time and what the implications were of being where others did not believe you belonged. I think this novel was quite well lay out. There were characters I grew to understand and a clear representation of how important societal rules were at the time, with a few mysterious circumstances added in. I especially appreciated how for the three main characters, all young ladies, there were possible romantic interests who were enjoyable to read about but didn't interfere with the main purpose of the plot, instead often enhancing it.
The three main ladies, Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence, were all interesting in their own ways. I have to admit that there were occasions that I didn't like Rowena at all because of her complete lack of backbone, however in the historical context I understand why she felt the need to be silent, so I suppose I can't blame her too much. I enjoyed Victoria because despite being a little naive, she was determined to be strong and stand up for what she believed in. Prudence is the one who seemed to have drawn the short straw and it was interesting watching her deal with being demoted, in a way, from a genuine member of the family to a simple ladies' maid to the girls she considered sisters.
I also enjoyed the little mystery surrounding Prudence and her treatment. I have to say I had my suspicions and they turned out to be correct in nature but slightly misplaced, as they were pointed in the wrong direction. I really liked this because I felt like I was following along with the mystery well but there was still some surprise for me. It wasn't totally predictable, which would have been boring. It still managed to keep me on my toes a bit.
Overall this was an interesting look at the social rules of the upper class and their help around the turn of the 20th century and what the implications of those rules were for three young women following the tragic death of their father (be he real or adoptive) and their uncle's taking over of their futures. I'm looking forward to the second novel where it looks like things are going to pick up and get more exciting.