Published: January 15th, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Copy: Publisher through Edelweis
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.
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
Calling all Downton Abbey fans. I'm sure there must be a few of you out there. Are you ready for a reading fix that will help fill your cravings? Summerset Abbey pretty much fits the bill. There is a certain allure to that time before the First World War isn't there? There still seemed to be a kind of innocence. Class divisions were still firmly in place; women were still very much protected and sheltered; society still had very strong rules that had to be followed.
In Summerset Abbey we see what happens when 3 girls have been brought up in such a way as not to follow society's stringent rules. Then circumstances occur where they are plunged back to reality, and are more or less powerless to do anything about it. Rowena, Victoria and Prudence are victims of circumstance. They don't like what happens when their father dies, but can do very little to change what happens.
I found it very interesting to read about what happened to them and kept wishing and hoping that they would react to the events with modern sensibilities, but of course they can't. Something happens with Prudence that terribly disappointed me, but when I though about it, I understood why she acted the way she did. In our present society, we forget just how much freedom we girls have. In the early 1900's that freedom was not available. Summerset Abbey tells a marvellous story about what happens when the girls lose control of their own futures. It was a compelling and interesting read that left me mad with society and frustrated that Rowena, Victoria and Prudence couldn't do more for themselves.
As I said, a sure fire hit for Downton fans, and probably for anyone who likes reading about that time in history. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the girls.