More scheming servants and conniving debutantes at Somerton.
On the eve of World War I, technology and shifting social mores are eroding the fabric of London society as the pace of life accelerates. In the second installment of this soapy series, the focus shifts to Lady Ada’s secret half sister, Rose, who was raised as a housemaid at Somerton and elevated to a member of the family at the conclusion of Cinders & Sapphires (2013). As Rose attempts to navigate her first London season as a participant instead of a supporting player, she is confounded at every turn by malicious rivals and conflicting messages about her role in the evolving societal landscape. Gossip (and the fear of it) is the driving force at the heart of the story. Although there is some mustache-twirling villainy—and brutal consequences for aristocratic license—most of Rasheed’s characters are satisfyingly complex and flawed. With a few notable exceptions, no one is all good or all bad, leaving plenty of room for outlandish plot twists and changes of heart. Deft descriptions embroider the subplots that provide the historical context and intrigue—the trains of London’s Underground Railway roar “like an imprisoned dragon”—and the anxiety of the age is leavened somewhat by humorous touches.
Add this to the list of recommended reading for Downton Abbey enthusiasts. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)