Secrets and Sapphires

Written by Leila Rasheed
Review by Pia Fenton

Overall, this is an enjoyable story with an engaging and likeable heroine and lots of intrigue. Set in 1912, it follows Lady Ada Averley as she returns to England from India in order to make her debut into society. During the journey, she meets an Indian young man and falls in love, but how can they possibly be together? She’s the daughter of an earl, expected to marry well, and he is a lowly clerk. Also, Ada wants to study at Oxford.

The author has clearly done a lot of research and descriptions of places, clothes, etc., are very good. However, she doesn’t seem to have looked up the correct use of titles and how to address the aristocracy or their servants. There are too many characters, plot strands and viewpoint changes – almost every chapter gives the reader the thoughts of someone new, even the nursemaid and cook! This is very confusing. Their reactions could have been gauged by the main characters.

The secondary story is of Rose, illegitimate daughter of the Earl’s housekeeper. Towards the end of the book she is adopted by the Earl and becomes Lady Rose Averley, but formal adoption wasn’t introduced in England until 1926, so is this historically accurate? She could be informally adopted, but I doubt she’d have a legal right to be titled.

The novel seems like a YA version of Downton Abbey and follows its approach of flitting from one character’s story to another with no satisfactory conclusion to any of them. It states clearly this is the first book in a series, but even so, the author could have given us a satisfying ending, without a lot of loose ends. I wouldn’t recommend reading this until you have all the books to hand as it’s frustrating to be left wondering.