Title: Summerset Abbey
Author: T.J. Brown
Original language: English
Summerset Abbey tells the story of two sisters Rowena and Victoria Buxton, alongside their adoptive sister Prudence Tate. The latter was born to a governess in the Buxton household and, upon her death, Prudence was adopted by the lord of the house and brought up alongside the Buxton sisters. After the death of Lord Buxton, the three girls are sent to live with their uncle and aunt, a side of the family who does not care for the servant’s daughter Prudence, and banishes her to the servants’ quarters to serve the household. The girls try to escape their fates by going against their uncle however, 1913’s society will not permit it.
Summerset Abbey was an easy and light read. It fell short in its ability to mimic early 1900s writing and style but was still entertaining nonetheless. The sisters were fairly well developed, albeit annoying and self-centered for the most part. I thought that the side characters were lacking in terms of relatability. I didn’t particularly find any of the suitors stirring, unlike what would be expected of gentleman from the Edwardian period.
The drama behind the whole story was at times tedious and repetitive. Throughout the book, we focus on Prudence’s struggles as a demoted lady, working as a servant and at her sisters’ beck and call. She feels betrayed by her sisters and hates them for it, especially the eldest Rowena. She remains entitled during the whole book, forgetting that in fact, she is not the daughter of lord. Rowena is expected to be the backbone of the sisterhood but in reality, she is weak minded and has no drive to save her sister from her fate. Instead, she decides to focus on herself and try and find some happiness with a man whose family has bad blood with hers. Finally, Victoria, the youngest and most irresponsible, is constantly the center of attention because of her asthmatic condition. She uses this to her advantage numerous times, even turning against her blood relatives in favour of Prudence. She contributes to the driven wedge between Rowena and Prudence, siding with the latter in arguments and accusing her sister of being passive.
All in all, this book was very “Downton Abbey”-esque, with petty feuds and sibling rivalry. I will say that it was enjoyable but, as I mentioned earlier, the lack of elements characteristic to that time period was disconcerting. I would have liked to see the author plunge into the Edwardian era and describe it to us as if she had lived it herself.