December 15, 2013

Double Review Plus a Giveaway


Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
Grade: A-
Summary: 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.

The Good: I love, love, love the setting.  My mom watches Downton Abbey, and this reminded me very much of what she's told me about the series.  I love the whole idea of nobility and royalty and debutantes and the like.  This book was very appealing to me.  Ada and Rose were great protagonists.  I enjoyed their interests (Ada loves books and learning, Rose can compose music).  I loved hearing about the dresses and designers (particularly Fortuny and Poiret, since I studied them for a fashion design project), but the clothing wasn't overly described, which can be very annoying.  I'm thankful that it wasn't too much!  Mrs. Cliffe was one of my favorite characters.  You could tell she loves her daughter.  One of my favorite moments was the end of chapter 1 when Stella Ward arrives.  I liked how Sebastian and Michael became more like real brothers with Ada and Georgiana.  I also like the name Georgiana; it reminds me of Pride and Prejudice (and y'all should know how I feel about that book).

The Bad: Some of the time jumps were a bit confusing.  I was glad that it was 3rd-person POV, since the book jumped POVs a lot.  I would've preferred it to be limited to Ada's, Rose's, and maybe Sebastian's POVs, just to keep things from being too confusing.  I wasn't a fan of Ada's romance with Ravi.  They talked a lot about "love," but didn't seem all that in love to me.

The Ugly: Mild language; talk of different romantic encounters ("connections" was how the characters referred to affairs and the like), mostly kissing; there is one homosexual relationship, but it was handled nicely and not inappropriately.  There's a bit of violence towards the end, but nothing too gruesome.

The Verdict: I really liked this book (obviously, since I read it in one 2 1/2-hour sitting).  I got Diamonds & Deceit as an ARC so I knew I needed to read Cinders & Sapphires first.  It was as good as I was hoping.


Diamonds & Deceit by Leila Rasheed
Grade: B+
Release date: January 7, 2014
This book was an ARC provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: London is a whirl of balls and teas, alliances and rivalries. Rose has never felt more out of place. With the Season in full swing, she can't help but still feel a servant dressed up in diamonds and silk. Then Rose meets Alexander Ross, a young Scottish duke. Rose has heard the rumors about Ross's sordid past just like everyone else has. Yet he alone treats her as a friend. Rose knows better than to give her heart to an aristocrat with such a reputation, but it may be too late.

Ada should be happy. She is engaged to a handsome man who shares her political passions and has promised to support her education. So why does she feel hollow inside? Even if she hated Lord Fintan, she would have no choice but to go through with the marriage. Every day a new credit collector knocks on the door of their London flat, demanding payment for her cousin William's expenditures. Her father's heir seems determined to bring her family to ruin, and only a brilliant marriage can save Somerton Court and the Averleys' reputation.

Meanwhile, at Somerton, Sebastian is out of his mind with worry for his former valet Oliver, who refuses to plead innocent to the murder charges against him--for a death caused by Sebastian himself. Sebastian will do whatever he can to help the boy he loves, but his indiscretion is dangerous fodder for a reporter with sharp eyes and dishonorable intentions.

The Good: I loved how Charlotte and Georgiana developed as characters.  Towards the end, Charlotte has several good moments.  Georgiana has grown up quite a bit, and it suits her well.  Throughout the book, I worried Celine would turn on Ada and Rose, but she turned out wonderfully.  Seeing her in the epilogue was one of my favorite parts.  I liked how things turned out for Rose in the end.  She truly deserves her happy ending.  Throughout the book, I felt like something was off with Lord Fintan, and I hate to say I was right.  I was sad with how things ended there, but I think it was for the best.  I hope there's at least a third book so we can see how things go for Ada.  And once again I adored the dress descriptions.  Finally, I think it's cool how elements of the story play into the title (like they did for Cinders & Sapphires).

The Bad: Chapters were very short.  I think Ms. Rasheed could've combined several, and it would've flowed better.  The book felt a bit devoid of any action, just the same social scene over and over again.  It's also confusing, hopping between so many different characters' POVs.  That works in TV shows and movies, but not very well in books.  Lady Emily bothered me; she seemed so nice in the first book, but she seemed bratty and out of character in this one.

The Ugly: Mild language, if any.  The romance stayed fairly chaste, although there were mentions of Alexander's past encounters, a character is pregnant out of wedlock (which was very scandalous for the times), and the homosexual relationship from the previous book continues over.  It was still handled well for the times.

The Verdict: It was a good read.  I liked the first book better, but this one definitely kept me entertained and I really hope there's a third book (and a fourth and a fifth...) because I want more of the goings-on of the Averleys and Templetons and their servants.

And now here's the fun!  I'm giving away my copy of Diamonds & Deceit.  You should note that a couple pages are peculiarly falling out (I discovered this while reading it), but it doesn't spoil the ARC too much.  Just enter below if you want this book!  It'll last until the 27th, and hopefully I'll be able to ship the book on the 28th.

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  1. If I am telling the truth, the whole Downton Abbey sort of thing hasn't really interested me. But reading your reviews, I am definitely going to check these books out!

  2. It's interesting how you didn't like the different perspectives, but I did. Hmm... ;)


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