Friday 18 January 2013

Secrets & Sapphires - Leila Rasheed

Pages: 295
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 3rd January 2012
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

England, 1912

Housekeeper’s daughter Rose Cliffe has always looked up to Ada Averley, the young mistress at Somerton Court. The girls have grown up together in the formidable big house, even though their destinies are so utterly different...

But behind their dutiful smiles and glamour of the Averley family, ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction and unspoken dreams are entangled with Rose and Ada’s lives. And the secrets of Somerton are just waiting to be revealed...

Part one of the sumptuous and compelling At Somerton saga...

Following in the insanely popular footsteps of Downton Abbey comes Secrets & Sapphires. It didn't quite hit the spot for me though.

Ada and Rose are both strong and likable heroines who carry the story well, but they were rather stereotypical in some ways. Ada is politically inclined, reads, supports women’s suffrage and wants to study at Oxford – she’s a ‘new woman’ restricted by her social requirements. Rose is a housemaid with talents and desires far above her station. This is a common set up for a novel set in England in the early 1900s and I wasn’t all that taken by it.

I also found the villains to be obvious in their actions and haven’t yet been given very much grounding for it. I hated Stella. Violently. She’s manipulative and vindictive and every time she appeared she enraged me. This was quite similar to Charlotte in some ways: spiteful, spoilt and jealous, she was a classic evil stepsister that when Fiona was added in to the mix made me think of Cinderella every time they were all together. But I guess that fact that I hated them so obviously meant that their characterisation worked!

The characters that I did end up liking a lot tended to be more peripheral: Emily, Oliver, Sebastian and Lord Fintan. I really hope Emily pops up more frequently later in the series; in fact I’d love to hear from her more directly. She’s very interesting. I feel the same about Oliver. I think there are lots of skeletons in his closet and I’m really looking forward to seeing how his relationship with Sebastian develops.

The problems I had with some of the characters were easy to get past, but the predictability of Secrets & Sapphires was something that I struggled to move past. Al of the elements of the story that should have had a big dramatic reveal had already been given away for me.  The heavy-handed foreshadowing and obvious hinting gave the game away so, so early on. This made it a lot less enjoyable for me; I like surprises!

Although Secrets & Sapphires wasn’t for me, I’m sure there are loads of people suffering post-Downton Abbey syndrome who will be captivated by it.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for providing me with a review copy.



  1. Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and this book has intrigued me for a while now. I'd like to try it out just to see what it's like but it does seem like they're playing on the idea of Downton Abbey a little bit.
    Great review! Some of your points are really interesting and I look forward to reading it myself so that I can see where you're coming from in greater detail.

  2. I love historical fiction and love it even more when there are manipulative crazies that I would never want in my life, but love in my books. This is not tops on my list, but I imagine that I will give it a try at some point.
    Wonderful review!

  3. I don't know, I think having strong feelings about characters must mean that you've connected to the story more than you've realised :)


Leave a message, I'd love to hear from you!