Manor of Secrets

manor-of-secrets-katherine-longshore-book-coverFirst Lines: Adventure awaits.  Charlotte Edmonds stood on the patio and looked out across the wide expanse of lawn.  The canopy glowed flat white against a backdrop of trees, surrounded by men in linen jackets and women in pastel silks and floaty chiffons.

You guys, my school awesomely gave us a 3 day weekend this week, and what did I do with all that time?  I GOT HOOKED ON HAMILTON.  Lin-Manuel Miranda is a frigging genius.  Oh, and I guess I did a fair amount of reading too.  This was one that caught my attention because Katherine Longshore rocked it out with the Henry VIII novels of hers.  So I wanted to try this.

The year is 1911 and Charlotte Edmonds feels suffocated.  Rich, titled, and privileged, it seems like Charlotte has everything…except the freedom to be who she wants to be.  She longs for adventure and romance in a world where Charlotte’s life is planned out ahead of her.  But Janie Steward, a kitchen maid, also feels trapped by her life.  With no way advance, Janie fears her entire life will be spent in kitchens with no opportunity for her to follow her passions.  Both Charlotte and Janie yearn for change, and when their paths cross in the Manor, it seems that that change may soon be coming…

First of all, I feel like I need to mention that this time period is not my favorite.  The only thing I really like about the early 1900s England is the whole saga over Titanic.  I really don’t know anything about this whole Upstairs Downstairs/Downton Abbey stuff.

There are interesting parts to the story, like how Charlotte and Janie both think the other has it better.  Charlotte, constrained by her mother’s expectations and a mapped-out future, thinks Janie’s recklessness and daring equates to freedom.  Janie, trapped by social class and dead-end jobs, sees Charlotte’s wealth and extravagance as a kind of freedom.  So it was kind of cool to compare the two and see what they thought of each other.

These two characters were pretty interesting, especially when they had to interact with male minor characters.  (In this respect, I honestly have to say that the men were vastly more interesting to me than the girls.  Perhaps that’s because a major theme in this book is to avoid judging people before you get to know them, and the men were frequently judged incorrectly.  I liked seeing the transformation from what the girls thought of the guys in the beginning change to what it was at the end.)

While there’s definitely a lot of drama in the book–sometimes going into the land of Melodrama–there were also some parts that were just plain boring.  There was a section of the book about 100 pages in where I seriously considered giving up on the whole thing because it just never seemed to be going anywhere.

Overall, I think it was partly a miss because of the time period and the fact that it just didn’t grab me like I thought it would.


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