Manor of Secrets
2014 – YA – Historical Fiction
The Story: Lady Charlotte Edmonds has everything. A title, plenty of wealth, a country manor staffed with servants to command. But her position in society also mandates a number of restrictions. She is expected to follow society customs, marry to her advantage, and stay within the lines. In sharp contrast, Janie Seward is a servant at the manor. Her life is spent scrubbing pots, baking cakes, and staying hidden from the family upstairs. When the two worlds collide, unexpected friendships are formed and both girls begin to wonder if there is more to life.
The Opening Line: Adventure awaits.
What I Loved: The trend of the year seems to be novels that tell two different stories through alternating chapters. To tell the truth, it’s getting a little tiring. However, it really works here because the book really has two main characters. It makes sense to me for them to take turns telling the story. Especially because their worlds are so different. It would be completely different to try to glean Janie’s story through Charlotte’s eyes only, or Charlotte’s through Janie. So this format really works here. The plot was good, the history seemed fairly accurate from my limited knowledge, and it was a light and refreshing read.
What I Didn’t Love: About 3/4 of the way through, things started clicking together very quickly, as often happens toward the end of a novel. What I didn’t like is that everything felt a bit too convenient. Major transformations in characters, revealed secrets, and a lot of convenient plot twists made everything feel a bit too contrived. Chances are, this plot realistically occurring during that time period probably wouldn’t have ever happened.
Final Thoughts: Manor of Secrets was a fun, fast read that reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey. Reading the two stories and how they intertwined gave me some great glimpses into the social customs and lifestyles of the time period. But ultimately, it felt a little too convenient. Overall, a good book with some flaws. Recommended for historical fiction fans, Downton Abbey watchers, or readers who love a great romance with a little bit of scandal.