Today, we're reviewing the awesome Diamonds and Deceit by Leila Rasheed. It's the second book in the At Somerton series, and trust me: you want to read this.
Hardcover, 420 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Format read: ARC courtesy of publisher
Readers will be absolutely enthralled by the continued lives and loves of Ada and Rose and the rest of their family, and will absolutely be begging for the sequel.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Ada should be happy. She is engaged to a handsome man who shares her political passions and has promised to support her education. So why does she feel hollow inside? Even if she hated Lord Fintan, she would have no choice but to go through with the marriage. Every day a new credit collector knocks on the door of their London flat, demanding payment for her cousin William's expenditures. Her father's heir seems determined to bring her family to ruin, and only a brilliant marriage can save Somerton Court and the Averleys' reputation.
Meanwhile, at Somerton, Sebastian is out of his mind with worry for his former valet Oliver, who refuses to plead innocent to the murder charges against him--for a death caused by Sebastian himself. Sebastian will do whatever he can to help the boy he loves, but his indiscretion is dangerous fodder for a reporter with sharp eyes and dishonorable intentions.
The colorful cast of the At Somerton series returns in this enthralling sequel about class and fortune, trust and betrayal, love and revenge.
So I was given the opportunity to read Diamonds and Deceit ahead of publication - thank you, Disney Hyperion! - I absolutely jumped on it, and was seriously blown away by the story.
In Diamonds and Deceit, Rasheed brings us back to the world of Somerton Court and half-sisters Ada and Rose, who are in the midst of a whirlwind London season. Ada is now engaged to a Lord Fintan, with the possibility of wealth, respectability and a title, now hers for the taking. Even if her heart still belongs to another, she's also starting to believe that the marriage is the only way to save her family's finances.
Even though Rose now has the title and money that comes with being a member of the upper classes, she's finding all of the responsibility more of a burden than a gift. So when a much-sought after Scottish duke offers her a different path, she decides to take it.
Rasheed's second novel in the At Somerton series is just as thrilling as the first. Now that readers are familiar with the world of Rose and Ada, she doesn't hesitate to delve straight back into the story. Readers immediately see how the lives, fortunes (and misfortunes) of characters have been influenced by events of the first novel, and how all the characters are dealing with the ongoing fallout, respectively.
Rasheed makes the smart decision of primarily sticking with Rose and Ada's stories throughout the book again, with minor interludes into the lives of other characters. Their joint efforts to navigate the highs and lows of a London season - and believe me, there are a lot of them! - will both engage readers and propel the novel forward through their respective story lines.
Readers will absolutely empathize with Rose as she navigates through her first London season, with the dawning realization that while her newfound family and wealth should be giving her more opportunities than ever, she's actually even more restricted than when she was a servant. Rasheed does a brilliant job of showing how Rose deals with her newfound status in life - including her decision to bring some of her old downstairs impetus into her love life, while gradually also accepting that she still has power, albeit in more unconventional ways now.
Ada's life is slightly more complicated than Rose's, with unexpected class conflict coming into play from numbers parties. Rasheed does a wonderful job of showing just how an engagement can have a domino effect on a number of lives upstairs and downstairs, while also showing how sometimes, the limitations of society can't always be overcome.
Outside of Ada and Rose, Rasheed has also constructed beautifully-written story lines for the secondary characters. There's high drama both upstairs and downstairs, and I was especially intrigued by the fact that Ada's impossible romance is reflected in the romantic entanglements of two other characters.
Rasheed never lets us forget that it's connections (whether familial or romantic) and wealth that dominate the city and the Season, and Rasheed deftly interweaves all of these plot lines with the type of writing, plotting and historical accuracy that will make readers marvel at how interconnected British society was at this point in time.
Of special note:
While I think that educators, parents and readers will find merit in all of these story lines, I was personally very touched by a specific storyline that showed that class mobility wasn't out of the question, even at this point in time. Even in situations where society could be extremely repressive and unforgiving, genuine talent could still (ironically) have a way of getting a person to the top.
Also, a word of caution:
Rasheed has built another layer upon her already-intricate world, enriching her characters with hidden motives, revenge and personal awakenings, building upon their story lines in a way that will undoubtedly make people beg for the third book immediately.
I recommend Diamonds and Deceit (and the At Somerton series) for all fans of YA historical fiction. I also recommend the book and the series for readers who are looking for an exciting story that features both story lines that will keep them hooked, and characters that they won't easily forget.
Recommended for: Fans of Teri Brown, Katherine Longshore and definitely for fans of Downton Abbey.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of Diamonds and Deceit from Disney Hyperion, in exchange for an honest review! Thank you!