July 31, 2017

Book Review: Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown



Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown

1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society in this stunning series starter that fans of Downton Abbey will love.

Rowena Buxton

Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

Victoria Buxton

Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever...

Prudence Tate

Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey

There are elements in Summerset Abbey that did remind me very much of Downton Abbey - besides the titles, the time period, and having three "sisters" at the center of the narratives.  There is also an upstairs-downstairs contrast, as Prudence is forced to be a lady's maid once her beloved benefactor dies while Rowena and Victoria continue living as the gentry.  Victoria reminds me very much of Lady Sybil, in that she is vivacious, independent and the most loving of the girls. 

Despite the similarities, however, Summerset Abbey has enough of its own unique merits to stand apart from the comparison. Once I got a few chapters in, I was fully invested in what happens to these three (Rowena not so much because she seemed a bit cold).  Some of it is predictable, even the twist that I saw coming from the outset. However, there is a development at the end which left me very puzzled as it came out of nowhere. The author seemed to have sacrificed one of her characters for an illogical turn of events - something that character didn't even need to do, but I suppose complicated the next book's plot. And, in case you didn't know, as I didn't (grrr), this is the first of a series and ends in a bit of a cliffhanger. 

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