Cinders & Sapphires, by Leila Rasheed (fiction) – British high society & true goodness collide

book cover of Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed published by Disney HyperionEngland and India are so different,
Not even the green of the trees is the same,
But whispers and rumors are too close in both lands.

The objections to British rule over India have moved from prayers to violent demonstrations in 1910, especially following Lord Curzon’s partition of the country to split off Muslim-majority Bengal.

This first book in the At Somerton series will appeal to both fans of Downton Abbey and lovers of historical fiction with its upstairs-downstairs intrigues and political unrest abroad in the time just preceding “The Great War” which we call World War I.

What’s ahead for the Averley sisters and the others At Somerton as 1911 dawns?
**kmm

Book info: Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, book 1) / Leila Rasheed. Disney Hyperion, 2013. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  High society and propriety will encircle Ava’s life in 1910 once the ship reaches England, but an accidental (and unchaperoned) meeting on deck leaves her breathless, hopeful, and confused. People would be shocked if they discovered that she’d kissed a man before her debutante season, utterly appalled if they found out he was Indian!

How dreadful for her father to leave India under a cloud of suspicion after his distinguished career there! Now they are returning to their family estate with her sister Georgiana so that he can marry a wealthy and beautiful widow to keep it afloat for now. The suddenness of the wedding and so many guests descending on quiet Somerton has the servants running to and fro, especially housekeeper Mrs. Cliffe whose daughter is now a housemaid.

Suddenly, Lady Ava and Lady Georgiana will have brothers and another sister (so jealous of everyone), plus a fashionable stepmother who will steer Ava through the intricacies of the London Season to find a husband. Never mind that Ava wants to attend Oxford, wants to think for herself, wants to think at all! And Ravi is at Oxford, might even visit London…

When Rose Cliffe is promoted to ladies’ maid for Ava and Georgiana, she’s sad that her evenings at the piano in the friendly servants’ sitting room are over. Music just flows through her veins, but a country girl like her could never afford piano lessons. The ladies’ maid to the new Lady Westlake hints strongly that learning secrets is the best way to get ahead in this world. The clandestine letters between Ravi and Ava, hinting of violence against the British in India, go through Rose’s hands…

Is there any hope for Ravi and Ava to be together?
What other secrets glide through Somerton’s elegant halls?
Must Ava marry someone, just to keep the estate intact?
As upstairs murmurs and belowstairs whispers collide, more stories At Somerton will follow this debut tale of keeping up appearances, societal expectations, and scandalously delicious secrets. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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