Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed.
Bookshelves of Doom described this one as The Luxe meets Downton Abbey. As both are things I adore, how could I say no?
It's 1910. After many years in India, the Averlys are back at Somerton, but whispers of the scandal that caused Lord Westlake his job have followed them. Ada is a beautiful and bookish, and longs to be allowed to attend Oxford, but must marry well to save the estate. On the boat back to England, a brief encounter with a super-hott Indian boy (on his way to Oxford) leaves her breathless. But, once back at Somerton, there's a new stepmother, a cruel stepsister, and Rose. Rose was a childhood friend, the daughter of the housekeeper. Lord Westlake as taken a keen interest in her and elevates her to Lady's Maid, but the servants don't like it and she gets advice from all the wrong corners. Fancy dresses! Scheming servants! A boy she loves that her father would never approve of vs. a good match with a good guy who will let her follow her dreams...
I wanted to like this more than I did. I needed more from Charlotte to make her more than just an evil step-sister. The narrative sometimes goes to other characters (mostly Rose and the stepbrother Sebastian) but mostly sticks to Ada. A little less Ada and more of the other characters (would *love* to get some of Ravi's point of view) would have rounded it out a little more. Ada and Ravi are super insta-love, which bugged me. I liked the relationship as it grew, but I wasn't entirely sure what attracted them to each other in the first place, especially given their very different stations. The foreshadowing and clues about the BIG SURPRISE at the end were also pretty heavy--something that would have worked better if the entire story were a little more fleshed out. I just wanted more. All that said, it was still a fun read. I liked many of the characters and want to know more, especially about the minor ones. It's definitely the first in a series, with some very ominous things left hanging, so be on the lookout for book 2.
ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA.
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