Publishing Info: January 5, 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: December 15, 2012
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 and the distant rumblings of war. . . .
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.
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 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.
I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but the premise of SUMMERSET ABBEY really intrigued me. I had started the novel and was a bit confused at first with all of the different point of views we get all at once. It doesn’t jump around too much, but we get a third person narration that switches from Rowena to Prudence to Victoria, and a dash of a couple minor characters (actually, I think only Lady Summerset from time to time). The switching around wasn’t really a big deal once I realized how the book was written but with three different female point of views in the beginning, I was having a difficult time figuring out which was which.
I really liked the character development and how different each of the three girls were. I felt like I got a very specific feel from each one and that they had very distinct personalities so I was really glad that I didn’t feel lost there! I think out of all of them, I connected with Prudence the most except towards the end when I felt like her character changed just a little bit and some of her reactions didn’t feel genuine.
I loved the feel of the abbey and the historical setting so that was something I wasn’t expecting. I’m not a Downton Abbey person (or at least not yet, my friends tell me) so I had no pre-conceived notions of how it should have felt.
The plot was definitely interesting, weaving in little twists and mysteries that I could guess at parts but anxiously awaited answers towards the end. I guess the thing I was a little disappointed in was the ending itself. We finally get some answers and then POOF! The book is over!! Wait, the book is over? The ending just happened so quickly and even though I know it’s left open for a sequel, there still could have been a cliffhanger without cutting it off so quickly. I also was not a fan of Prudence’s choices at the end and didn’t even see that coming.
It was a very interesting read, great history behind it, and really nice character development. Will I read the second book? I’m not quite sure.
Prudence Tate: Even though Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence all share the narration pretty evenly, I think Prudence comes out at the main character I associated with. I think that’s mostly because she had the biggest struggle and issue to overcome, so naturally I was rooting for a character that needed the help! I really felt for her and liked her story. I actually think the book may have been a bit more focused if we just had Prudence’s POV. I feel like that would have allowed more searching, more discovery, more emotional connections.
Victoria Buxton: Victoria was definitely my second favorite. I loved her spunk despite her illness and I think she was a character that really stood up off the page. I was hoping for just a bit more story from her and that we made it about 75% of the way there. Still missing a little piece of that connection for her part in the story to feel full.
Rowena Buxton: Rowena’s character is not what I thought it was going to be, but I really thought it was so nicely done. She really has a hard time with her father’s death and even though she’s the oldest sister and trying to do her best, she’s overwhelmed and upset by the task. She’s kind of lost throughout the book and doesn’t really know where to go or how to act. I was really hoping for much more development between her and Jon the pilot. I think she needed a little more time with him to turn into a fuller character as well. With her being upset most of the time, I felt like I just got lost in her depression and was still hoping to see her pull through!
It was an interesting book but I wasn’t totally sold on it. I recommend if you’re a Downton Abbey fan — maybe grab it from the library to feel it out.