I’m thrilled to discuss Summerset Abbey, T.J. Brown’s historical fiction novel, on my stop on the Summerset Abbey blog tour, brought to you by Rockstar Book Tours. I have a review and a giveaway to share with you today! Grab your cup of tea and join me, won’t you?
About Summerset Abbey:
Book: Summerset Abbey by T.J. Brown
Series: Book One of a trilogy
Interest: Adult Historical Fiction / New Adult crossover appeal
Publisher: Gallery Books/ Simon & Schuster, pub. Jan. 15, 2013
Format: Trade Paperback 320 pages & ebook. Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
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 “under class” 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. Now, 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 ladies 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…
First, a confession: I’ve never seen the PBS series Downton Abbey. I keep meaning to, maybe the hype put me off. But, you know I may just have to give it a go sometime because Summerset Abbey has given me a taste for the Edwardian era. I’m just a casual reader of historical fiction, and sometimes my eyes glaze over with all the details, but in fact I found this story captivating and straightforward to read. The historical backdrop is the perfect setting for this intriguing story of sisters, class, and scandal, and the first book of the trilogy whet my appetite for more.
Summerset Abbey is the story of three girls (Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence) raised as sisters, though Prudence is more an honorary sister, since she is the daughter of their (deceased) governess. Their world is torn apart when their father dies, moving them from London to Summerset Abbey with their aunt and uncle. The only way Prudence can move with them is if she assumes the role of her sisters’ ladies maid, putting them all in an awkward position.
It was interesting to me to see the girls’ lives uprooted and changed so dramatically. They were raised in a loving home that valued curiosity, education, and fairness- rejecting wealthy traditions and debutante balls. Now their time is spent on various social events, suitors, and very little in the way of mental stimulation.
The book changes its point of view to focus on each of the girls separately, and also their meddlesome aunt, Lady Summerset. Though the focus changes frequently, I never got confused between the girls. I connected the most with Prudence I think because her life changed the most, and also because there is some mystery about her. Victoria is a breath of fresh air and has a curious nature that’s appealing. Rowena has some good qualities, but I think she could have handled the new living situation with a lot more class.
Through Prudence we also get to see the servant’s side of things, and learn more about the class divisions. It’s a lot of work to run Summerset Abbey – so many dinner courses and wardrobe changes, and the help have their own social hierarchy. Prudence is caught between these two worlds and doesn’t know where she belongs.
It’s obvious that the author did her research with regards to historical facts. And though historical context is given throughout the book, the story doesn’t get bogged down with too much detail. T.J. Brown’s writing is accessible and a pleasure to read.
All the sneaking around, secrets and mysteries appealed to me and made Summerset Abbey a fun read. And that ending totally caught me off guard! Can’t wait to see what happens next. Though Summerset Abbey is considered adult historical fiction, it has crossover appeal for New Adult and YA readers and is a quick and enjoyable read.
Summerset Abbey is the first book in a trilogy & the sequels also come out this year:
About the Author: TJ Brown is passionate about books, writing, history, dachshunds and mojitos. If she could go back in time, she would have traveled back to England, 1910, Paris, 1927 or Haight-Ashbury, 1967. She resides in the burbs of Portlandia, where she appreciates the weirdness, the microbreweries, hoodies, Voodoo Donuts and the rain. Visit her here: Twitter | Goodreads | Website