Summerset Abbey by T. J. Brown (publication date January 15, 2013)
I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
From the Goodreads description:
"Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition.... But everything [they believe] will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey."
My review, originally shared December 23, 2012:
I suspect that this book was written at least in part to appeal to the fans of Downton Abbey, as it takes place in a very similar time and setting. I have only seen a couple of episodes of the show and so can't say how they compare. I enjoyed the book and found it a light, pleasant read with enough questions and revelations paced throughout to keep me interested. I did notice a few phrases and observations that seemed out of place for the time period, but nothing jarring. As with much historical fiction, contemporary sensibilities are frequently projected onto the historical backdrop and into the mouths of characters.The writing style itself was workmanlike but not bad, though Brown does "tell" in many places where she could simply "show."
Most of the characters were flawed but sympathetic and I was interested to see how they dealt with and adapted to the challenges they faced; I particularly liked how each girl had her own unique struggles and coping mechanisms in her new environment. All three of the main characters frustrated me with their lipservice to independence, however. The girls all talk about women's rights and abilities but spend most of the book sitting around waiting for fate to solve their problems for them.
Not all of the various story lines were tied up at the end, and the last section as a whole felt a little rushed. The main characters were almost willfully dense about not suspecting the "big surprise" until they finally did; readers will see it coming long before anyone in the story does. Apparently a series is planned to follow, so I expect that some of the unresolved threads will be revisited in their own books. Even with the unsurprising surprises and the hasty wrap-up, Summerset Abbey will entertain readers looking for a light period novel.