Author: Leila Rasheed
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Romance
Rating: 5 Stars
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.
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.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was given to me on a whim by a local librarian (thank you so much!), and at first I was a little hesitant to pick it up. It’s not a small book at over 389 pages, and as much as I love the historical, romance, and YA genres… having all three in one book is a tall order. YA books so often make romance into a silly affair, and history into a simplified, dumbed down alternate universe that is often woefully inaccurate. However, after having read Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed, I can assure you that you have nothing to fear.
The book was excellently well-written. The narrative was appropriately tinted by the dialect and romance of vocabulary known to the early 1900’s. The characters, while often ensconced in scandal, acted appropriately in their dialog, thought, and eventual shame. I never felt the need to question their actions or words, and I never stumbled over any technical errors either. The narrative was easy to read and devoid of any obvious misspellings. The sentences flowed nicely, and it was easy to sink into the text.
The characters were unique and colorful, each in their own ways. I adored Rose, Ada, and Georgina and loathed Charlotte and Stella. I sympathized with Oliver and Sebastian and swooned over Ravi and Lord Fintan. The characters never fell into the trap of fading into the background or melding into one another as time went on through the book—the author did an excellent job of making them all stand out for their own merits, and it made it easy to keep track of them—which, in a historical setting such as this, where the language can be hard to follow at times, was most welcome.
I will say that the plot was extremely busy. There were numerous scandals and intrigues going on throughout the course of the book. Relationships were complicated and intertwined, and everyone had secrets. It could be hard to untangle at times, but it certainly made things interesting. I never got bored with the plot—it always seemed like there was so much going on.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I hate to compare Cinders & Sapphires to anything, but I think it’s a pretty decent analogy to call it Downton Abbey for the YA crowd. I’m certainly glad I read it, and I’m looking forward to more books in the series. If you’re looking for a smart, intricate-plotted YA story filled with scandal, secrets, and romance, it’s a good bet that you’ll like this book. It isn’t going to be for everyone (not everyone can stomach historical novels because of the language and the politics of the Ton), but I’d certainly recommend it.