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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

The first book of a sweeping trilogy set in Edwardian England. From the blurb:

1913: In a sprawling manor on the outskirts of London, three young women seek to fulfill their destinies and desires amidst the unspoken rules of society and the distant rumblings of war. . . .

Rowena Buxton: Sir Philip Buxton raised three girls into beautiful and capable young women in a bohemian household that defied Edwardian tradition. Eldest sister Rowena was taught to value people, not wealth or status. But everything she believes will be tested when Sir Philip dies, and the girls must live under their uncle’s guardianship at the vast family estate, Summerset Abbey. Standing up for a beloved family member sequestered to the “underclass” in this privileged new world, and drawn into the Cunning Coterie, an exclusive social circle of aristocratic “rebels,” Rowena must decide where her true passions—and loyalties—lie.

Victoria Buxton: Frail in body but filled with an audacious spirit, Victoria secretly dreams of attending university to become a botanist like her father. But this most unladylike wish is not her only secret—Victoria has stumbled upon a family scandal that, if revealed, has the potential to change lives forever. . . .

Prudence Tate: Prudence was lovingly brought up alongside Victoria and Rowena, and their bond is as strong as blood. But by birth she is a governess’s daughter, and to the lord of Summerset Abbey, that makes her a commoner who must take her true place in society—as lady’s maid to her beloved “sisters.” But Pru doesn’t belong in the downstairs world of the household staff any more than she belongs upstairs with the Buxton girls. And when a young lord catches her eye, she begins to wonder if she’ll ever truly carve out a place for herself at Summerset Abbey.

This first book in the trilogy lays strong foundations. By the end of the book I liked each of the three female lead characters, and was keen to see them find love and their place in the Edwardian world. I loved the setting – Edwardian England was such an exciting time, with new battling old – and the themes explored, from the suffragists and the upper class versus the serving class, to the newfangled contraptions known as aeroplanes and the right of a woman to make her own, independent choices.

Prudence Tate feels like the main character for me in this first book, though we do see the story from other perspectives as well. She’s a likeable character, and a good deal of mystery surrounds her past which, as I read on, I was keen to find unravelled. There is more than one suitor on the horizon, making this a less obvious romantic read than many.

For me, the expert handling of three characters’ points of view makes this a very readable book that moves along at pace. There’s plenty happening to hold your interest, but also lots of exploration of characters’ thoughts, feelings and motivations, which I like to see in a book. The book feels well grounded in research and believable in its time and place; indeed, I enjoyed learning some new facts about the era. And the writing style hits just the right note, and makes for an easy, page-turning read.

If you read this book, you’ll find yourself keen to read the next in the trilogy – not least because while there is an end point for the story, it is very much left open for the next book to take up the tale. I shall certainly watch for the publication of the next title, and I look forward to seeing where the author will take the characters next.

Summerset Abbey is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.

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