Secrets & Sapphires (aka Cinders & Sapphires in the US) is a delicious read full of intrigue and scandal!GoodReads Summary: One house, two worlds, dark secrets...
The year is 1910. For the past decade, the Averley family has lived a life of luxury in India, but now they must return to Lord Averley's ancestral estate, the sprawling, majestically beautiful Somerton Court. As the household staff hastily prepare for the family's arrival, they receive shocking news: Lord Averley is bringing back a fiancée with three children of her own, and on top of that, there are rumours of a terrible scandal surrounding Lord Averley's resignation as Lieutenant Governor of Bengal.
As the family settles in, tensions arise both upstairs and downstairs. Lady Ada must choose between her honour and her heart, Sebastian must fend off ruinous threats from a former servant (and lover...) and gentle housemaid Rose will find herself at the centre of a scandal so enormous it could destroy the Averleys' reputation forever.
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After a decade spent in India the Averley family are returning to Somerton. Lord Averley is to be wed to Fiona Templeton and this means that his children, Ada and Georgina, have to learn to adjust and get along with their new step-siblings - the cruel and ambitious Charlotte, mischievous Sebastian and boisterous Matthew. Ada longs to study at Oxford, but her father would rather see her marry well. Sebastian has to fend of threats of exposure from a former valet (and lover). Rose has been promoted to a lady's maid but can she handle the responsibilities that come with it? As tensions arise both upstairs and downstairs love, scandal, and drama ensues.
The story is told from multiple points of view, and this is one of those books where it actually works. The individual arcs flowed seamlessly together and each voice was distinctly different from the other. Rasheed has a lush writing style, and her portrayal of the characters is well thought out for the time period.
On their journey back to Somerton Ada stumbles upon Ravi, a handsome, young Indian who happens to be traveling to England to study at Oxford. Although they're from different worlds the two hit it of. Ravi isn't like other young men - he doesn't look down at Ada for wanting to be independent and have an education. Their paths continue to cross once they arrive in England, but alas their romance is forbidden so they have to revert to secretly sending letters to one another. But soon Ada realises that she has to make a decision, she has to choose between what she wants and what is expected of her. I really enjoyed Ada's story, kind and passionate she was a character I could easily connect to and empathise with.
The romance between Ada and Ravi was, imo, a bit bland. I wish it had been slowed down and given more time to develop. I also have to admit that while I liked Ada, Ravi's character fell a bit flat.
There is a whole cast of characters that I could mention here, but I've decided to go with Rose and Sebastian. Rose's quiet strength and loyalty never failed to amaze me and my heart ached for Sebastian, especially towards the end.
Secrets and Sapphires isn't just about gossip and scandal, though. It also tackles issues such as women's rights, homosexuality, social class, and Imperialism. I loved the exploration into India's tyranny during the British Empire and the two different perspectives we get on it from Ada and Ravi.
On a side note I liked that there was diversity in this book, it's something that's lacking in YA and I hope to see more of.
If you're a fan of Downton Abbey I definitely recommend giving Secrets & Sapphires a go.