NY Times bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford invites us to an early twentieth century family saga, to Cavendon Hall, Yorkshire, where we meet the Ingham family and their servants, the Swanns. The Swann family has served the Inghams for several generations and will let nothing mar their reputation. Long-lost members of the family arrive, a brutal rape threatens the prospects of an Ingham daughter, all is not well with the earl and countess’s marriage, and the threat of war hangs over the household.
I found this book to be a combination of Downtown Abbey and Atonement, where you have the ultra-loyal staff providing for and protecting the noble family they serve at all costs during the tumultuous period before and during WWI (Downtown), but a personal tragedy involving an heiress provides the major undercurrent of tension in the novel (Atonement and Downtown).
I have never read anything by Ms. Taylor before but am anxious to read her breakout novel, “A Woman of Substance” (first published in 1979) having heard so much about it. From what I’ve read here though, I don’t believe this book will live up to the earlier work’s reputation. The novel feels rushed – particularly the ending where the war is squeezed into the last few chapters and personal differences are resolved abruptly. Some improvements in dialogue, repetitive wording, and predictable plot points would have greatly enhanced the storyline. This book feels more like a lightweight, beach read – a kind of twentieth century reality show – rather than a gripping historical read.
Any author who has written over twenty-eight bestsellers and has earned an Order of the British Empire (OBE) is immensely talented, but I have a feeling that Ms. Taylor’s earlier works will prove more lasting than this one. This novel might hold over some Downtown Abbey fans until Season 5 premiers, but personally, but I’ll be reaching for “A Woman of Substance” the next time.
Amazon link for the book is here. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.