July 7, 2013 by Alice in Readerland
One house, two worlds…
Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.
For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.
Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton.
Cinders and Sapphires (At Somerton #1) by Leila Rasheed was published January 22nd, 2013 by Disney Hyperion.
For the first time in a long while, Lady Ada, her sister, and her father are returning to Somerton estate from India, though this time they’re also bringing along a new difficult step-family, new servants, and of course, plenty of secrets.
For the servants already working at Somerton, the surprise arrival (and additions of people) means working harder in the house as well as working harder to keep secrets. For Rose, a maid at Somerton, this means that she can’t escape to the piano room anymore and compose music.
But soon, more characters come into play, letters are exchanged, hearts are broken, and status is changed. Does what happen at Somerton stay at Somerton?
There are many different characters in Cinders and Sapphires, and that gives the reader an opportunity to find that special character in the book that is their favorite and made the book stand out for them. For me, that character was Rose.
“Her head was full of music, full of tunes. It was as if, as soon as she had been allowed to touch the piano, they had been born, like seeds drifting from a shaken dandelion clock.”
I haven’t seen many other reviews talk about her too much, but I really loved Rose. While most maids I’ve read about are normally focused on “status climbing,” Rose’s greatest love is her music, and her favorite thing to do is compose melodies on the piano at Somerton when she can slip in unnoticed.
“It felt as if she were weaving a magical web of color and light, an escape ladder from the daily drudgery.”
Another thing that I loved about Rose was that she was a genuinely good character, a refreshing break from all the back-stabbers and selfish characters I’ve read about in period pieces. She’s sweet, kind, refuses an opportunity for blackmail to raise her status, and although she’s not completely happy with her job as a maid, she knows life could be far worse. But what does Rose want? Music.
“A life flashed in front of her eyes like fireworks, a dream of writing music and having it played and being proud of it.”
One of my favorite parts was when Rose got to spoiler spoiler her music, because it was spoiler by a spoiler and was so amazing for her to hear! Okay, so I can’t give too much away about what happens to Rose and her music, but I really loved it and hope to see more come out of it in the sequel!
Since this is a historical novel and there was great fashion back then, I also loved the descriptions of the character’s outfits, such as this one:
“It was white satin, with a lace-and-chiffon bodice and a train decorated with tulle and pearls so it looked like a cloud dusted with glittering raindrops.”
Cynical Cindy Says
I think my main problem with this book was there were too many characters packed into it, and I would have preferred it if the focus just stayed on Rose and Ada. While it is true that estates back in that time period had lots of people in them, multiple characters seem to work better for T.V. shows like Downton Abbey instead of books.
(Okay, so this gif doesn’t *really* apply to my character complaint, but I had to add it because I adore Maggie Smith.)
The only other complaint I had was an editing problem I spotted (in the first chapter, Ada has a hat on; a few pages later, it notes it was scandalous for her not to have a hat on).
All in all, I enjoyed reading this book and am excited to see what’s next for Rose in the sequel! If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey and historical YA novels, or just want a fun read packed with drama, then you should check out Cinders and Sapphires!
“Looking up into the depth of the night and the countless stars, she felt somehow as if she were standing on the brink of a precipice, and that if she had the courage to step forward, she might find that she could fly.”
“If colors were music, she thought, this would be a wild dance.”
“I can’t believe they made all that fuss about a mere fire. It didn’t even spread.”
“The notes of the piano, her music made real, came up the stairs like a beloved friend running to meet her.”
“The noise of the city was like a symphony that never ended.”
3 out of 5 teacups.