Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton) by Leila Rasheed

I have a great deal of love for my town library. They have a great selection of books, and they even have a large selection of books for sale for $1 apiece. Children’s books are 4 for $1! I have found tons of great books at the library. It’s hard to say no to cheap books. If there is anything that I cannot find, I can order them through the library network and they are delivered right to my town library. However, if there is something I see at a library in a nearby town, I will drive over and pick it up myself. Not only does this save resources, it also allows me to get the book I want instantly!

One of the libraries in a nearby town is very small. It shares a building with the police station and the town hall. Despite its small size, this library has been a treasure trove of amazing books. I came for a specific book, but then I found so many wonderful books that I didn’t know I needed.

One of the books that I found was Cinders & Sapphires. This is a young adult novel written by Leila Rasheed. The cover featured beautiful young people in opulent clothing, and a quote from Kirkus Review said that this would be perfect for fans of Downton Abbey. Sold!

The story is about Ada Averley, a young lady who is returning to England after several years in India. There are hints about her father having to leave after a scandal, but no details of the possible infraction that Lord Westlake could have committed.

Meanwhile, back at Somerton, the Westlake ancestral home, preparations are being made to open the house after many years of it being idle. Rose Cliffe is the housekeeper’s daughter, and is growing accustomed to the hard work needed to prepare the grand home for its occupants. Through an interesting turn of events, she becomes Ada’s ladies’ maid, despite the fact that she has no experience.

The story is a delightful whirlwind of activity. Right away, there’s a wedding- Lord Westlake marries Fiona, who brings to Somerton three children and the monetary push that the estate needs in order to continue operating.

From the very beginning, the story was driven by gossipy scandals and secrets of one sort or another. Some of the secrets were a genuine surprise, but another was fairly obvious from the first time it was mentioned. Rasheed dropped not-so-subtle hints, but they were unnecessary; the cat was already out of the bag!

There are some plot elements that seem very similar to Downton Abbey, like the gay aristocrat who gets mixed up with a scheming valet. Although the Somerton series takes place in the same timeframe as Downton Abbey, Rasheed does manage to make the story her own. One thing that I appreciated was the inclusion of young Indian characters. Raj is a young man studying in Oxford whose patron has a business relationship with Lord Westlake, and Priya is a young nanny. One of my favorite little moments in the book occurred when Priya was asked if she used “magic” to tame her unruly charge. Priya responded that the only magic she used was to tell the boy, “No!”

Once I started reading, I devoured Cinders & Sapphires. When I discovered that the little library in the next town over had the sequel on their shelves, I made plans to go over there the next day. I am not sure how many more books Rasheed plans to write in her Somerton series, but I am certainly looking forward to them!

If you would like some more information, you can find it here: Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton)

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