I do not know about you guys, but I crave Downton Abbey something fierce when it’s not on TV, especially when I need to relax. I love watching the upstairs and downstairs refinement and the microcosms of Great Houses.áManor Of Secrets by Katherine Longshore is quite the departure from her previous Tudor-based fiction. Longshore rises to the challenge of breaking her mold quite admirably. Friends, I am ALL aboutáManor Of Secrets, especially because it’s like my BBs Sybil and Mary are on the cover and you know, I am a shallow person like that. Overall,áManor Of Secrets is a quick and engaging historical fiction about the intersection between Upstairs and Downstairs, also romance and girl power.
Katherine Longshore’sáManor Of Secrets takes place in exactly the same era asáDownton Abbey.áIt opens with Charlotte, one of the ladies of the house, contemplating her lack of freedom and options — kind of reminded me of that part in Titanic where Rose is about to jump and Jack stops her. Charlotte is different from the aristocracy in that she enjoys writing fiction and fiction was looked down upon as an occupation, especially the romantic, adventurous sort that Charlotte is writing. So anyways, Charlotte is at a party and her mom is all, here date this guy because he will become a duke and Charlotte is like BUT MOM HE IS BORING HE TALKS ABOUT WEATHER, so she decides ahhh what the heck, why don’t I follow this maid, Jenny, I think her name is and see what adventures she is up to. Charlotte dips her toes into some muddy water, finds out the maid’s name is actually Janie AND manages to piss her BFF Fran off. So, she sneaks back into the house so she doesn’t piss her mom off and comes across a super hot footman named Lawrence. FYI Lawrence is tall and has pretty eyes. IT IS LOVE. Well, not quite. So, anyways to make a long story short (too late!) Charlotte begins a friendship with Janie, who is a kitchen maid. OH OH and Charlotte’s unorthodox aunt is visiting which totally stirs things up. FYI you guys, the story alternates between Charlotte and Janie. Janie is desperate to keep her job, now that she’s working back in the house with her mother. Unfortunately, a series of mishaps keeps getting her into trouble. Will she stay or will she go? ReadáManor Of Secrets and obviously you will find out the answer to this question.
Charlotte is kind of a wet blanket at first glance. I mean, she does not have Lady Mary’s rigid spine nor does she have Sybil’s feminist mettle. She’s clearly not similar to the Crowley sisters at all. Well, except that she wants to tussle with the help HEYOOOOO. Anyways. After I got to know Charlotte, I stopped thinking she was such a drip. It just turns out that she has been living her life to please a mother, named Lady Diane, who is a total jerk and in desperate need of affection and acceptance. She’s also braver than one would expect. I actually really liked Charlotte’s creativity and the arc her character undergoes. She’s someone whom you root for to get a happy ending. ALSO, the big secret concerning Charlotte. I liked that. She really is kind of like Rose in Titanic, living in a gilded cage and Longshore rocks at portraying this.
Janie is the kitchen maid and she’s portrayed as fearless at first. You learn she broke her collarbone on a dare while jumping from this thing called a “ha-ha”. I don’t know what that is and I am too lazy to look it up. However, when we get to it, Janie is actually not fearless, she’s scared of a lot. She does not want to lose her job because she’s finally in a place where she gets meals on the regular. She loves what she does which is cooking and she does not aspire to more. She’s a quick thinker, helping Charlotte to get out of some pretty intense situations. I liked that she didn’t take Fran’s rudeness lying down. (FYI, Fran is the utter worst). I quite liked how Janie knew what she wanted in life and was pretty content with what she was doing. I also loved that she was a good friend, taking the fall several times when what happened was not her fault. Basically, she is great and you will see that too when you readáManor of Secrets.
If you remember how Longshore did tension ináGilt andáTarnish, chances are you are chomping at the bit to hear about the romance ináManor Of Secrets. Friends, she dials the sexytimes down quite a few notches in this book. I think that her latest book skews a bit younger as far as romance and sexual explicitness goes — meaning that there is not really any sexual explicitness at all. Barely even some kisses. But boy howdy those kiss scenes, YES. The romances are of the slow burn I didn’t know I liked you all along variety, but you will read and be like, yes this makes perfect sense and these two characters really do belong together, they are meant to be. I have to state, I liked Janie’s love interest, the servant Harry better than Charlotte’s two love interests – Lawrence and the Duke whose name I am blanking on because I am writing this on scattered sleep. Henry and Janie just work because they challenge each other and those feelings have basically been there all along. Trust, you will think that it is perfect. As for Lawrence, he’s more like Thomas the footman, only not gay, just the worst. The Duke, whose name is Andrew — yay for getting off my chair and grabbing the book — is a rather pleasant surprise is all I will say.
The setting ofáManor Of Secrets is basically a manor in England, lol the title says it all. It’s got all the drama of Downton Abbey. You guys, I had no idea that living in a great house would cause so much drama, whether it is upstairs with the aristocracy who are all concerned about society and reputation and getting married or if it is downstairs where they are concerned about moving up the ladder and keeping their jobs. It certainly is entertaining. I found the impressions Charlotte and Janie had of each other’s worlds to be quite illuminating. Charlotte finds Janie’s world to be freeing and fascinating. Janie finds Charlotte’s world to be luxurious and full of unimagined riches. I will also tell you guys that if you were expecting this book to be full of stuffy, old-timey era dialogue, you would be off the mark. While the characters talk in ways that make sense for their time period, it’s nothing where you need a dictionary to decode what they are saying.
I want to end this with the disclaimer thatáManor Of Secrets is not my favorite of Katherine Longshore’s books. It doesn’t have the tension or heat that I so admired witháGiltáandáTarnish. The book has a very slow start. It took me about 50 pages to become fully engaged. Once I got into the swing of things as a reader, it turns out that this book goes relatively quickly. I could not stop reading about Janie and Charlotte and was constantly curious about their secrets and what would happen next. I totally stand behind the romances in this book and give them my stamp of approval, it’s just this book is rated G whereas her other books are totally PG-13. If you are into books that read similar to your favorite TV show DOWNTON ABBEY minus Carson and Branson and Mrs. O’Brien’s Bangs, then you totally need to get on reading Manor Of Secrets by Katherine Longshore while you patiently wait for the next episode to air or even the next season.
Disclosure: Review Copy Provided By Publisher, Also This Post Is Part Of A Blog Tour
Katherine Longshore grew up on the northern California coast. At university, she created her own major in Cross-Cultural Studies and Communications, planning to travel and write. Forever. Four years, six continents and countless pairs of shoes later, she went to England for two weeks, stayed five years and discovered history. She now lives in California with her husband, two children and a sun-worshiping dog.
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