Here is the summary of the book:
One house, two worlds...
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.
Truly fans of Downton Abbey (still need to watch it) and of historical fiction genres will love this. The accurate portrayal of pre-war English society and India, the secrets , forbidden love, deceit and betrayals and scandal. Rasheed paints a perfect plot with each decidedly entertaining us with her strong, simple and lyrical penmanship.
Change is life and if you don't or can't change as your surroundings does, then you can never progress in life. Likely the era of our story is that of change (albeit slow), for the education rights of women, the rising revolt in India.... and the Somerton estates seem to be on the track order of change as well. The father is getting married, the daughters are getting a step-mother and siblings and 'tis the season of their debuts..... As stated ripe for change.
In a genre, where a choke full f characters play the norm, let me now get your attention towards our two characters, Lady Ada Averley and her maid Rose. This is an intriguing time period, the brutal ways of society and danger of doing something new, paving your way. Lady Ada wants to study at Oxford, a notion that is enough to shake the foundation of her family life and not mention her secret paramour, the handsome Indian, Ravi. This is an era where women are the most slaves to the societal norms and I commend Ada in her drive to follow her desires.
Ada is quite the refreshing heroine and i'm in awe of her for wanting to pave her own way. This is also the first book where the accurate conditions of India at the time are put forth through Ravi, if the coming revolution. Another character deserving of mention is Rose. Poor Rose. She is a gifted individual but instead of being able to freely express that talent, she must do what a girl of her station must, i.e., wait on her mistress. I liked the fact that both Ada and her sister Georgina are sympathetic to Rose's plight and try to help her as much as they can.
With the narrative written in third person, I would like to point out another fact, there is a big cast to this book and Leila Rasheed incorporates them each in ways that so they can tell their stories and not at all confuse the readers. Everyone of them is a piece of the puzzle that is Somerton and they play their part seperately and beautifully. Every small aspect, every tit-bit, every line, every sentiments and the myriad characters and their world views.... they all come together into this one perfect book by Rasheed and i'm very thankful I got to read it.
"Leila Rasheed paints a colorful and intriguing portrait of the life and times of pre-war England through the eyes and ears of the Somerton estates"