Thursday, January 23, 2014

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: Janurary 21, 2014 

The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems... Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance. Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions. Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives... forever.

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I'm not sure what amazes me more, that it's been two hundred and fifty one days since I last issued a one star rating or the fact that I can make that calculation. Either way it is a personal best, a record now broken by Katherine Longshore's Manor of Secrets. 

Had I been at all familiar with Longshore's work, I would have avoided this title altogether. Simply put, modernist historicals aren't my cuppa tea. I think context is an essential element of good historical fiction and to me that means a lot more than a few turn of the century gowns. It's about recreating a bygone age, ambiance authentic to the period, characters who embody a society with different rhythms, norms and expectations. Unfortunately for me, Longshore, like the creators of CW's Reign, isn't particularly interested in historical accuracy and while I recognize there is an audience for this type of literature, I stand firmly outside that demographic.

Were my criticism limited to the novel's tone, I might have gone two or even three stars on Longshore's work, but it extends far beyond that. Her characterizations are blatantly shallow, her themes are downright campy and I had some concern regarding the continuity of the story. When we first meet Lady Charlotte she isn't entirely sure of Jenny's name, or is it Jean, oh wait, that's right, it's Janie, but only a couple of days later her ladyship is emphatically declaring she loves Janie like a sister and has for some time. I'm sorry folks, but I don't buy it. 

The biggest objection, however, is that The Manor's so-called 'secrets' can be seen a mile and half off. From the moment Lady Beatrice arrives at The Manor, I knew exactly where this story was going and unlike some authors, who can bring an element of creativity to an otherwise predictable course of events, Longshore's story plods slowly to its obvious conclusion without fanfare or flourish. 

A tedious and rather forgettable piece, Manor of Secrets held no entertainment value for me whatsoever, but I can't say the time spent with it was entirely wasted. Negative though it was, my experience firmly destroyed any interest I had in reading Gilt, Tarnish or Brazen, and at the end of the day, removing another three titles from my TBR list isn't all that bad a consolation prize. 

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"Only when I came here did I know what it was like to be loved. No, to be cherished. To love without need or dependence, but with simple generosity. And I never want to lose that.”
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Melinda Ott said...

I was looking at reading this book...I'm so glad I read this review before I took the plunge on this book!

CLM said...

A pity that the desire to cash in on Downton Abbey results in something that sounds like a waste of paper. And could the heroine look any more like Lady Mary?

I had Tarnish on my TBR too! In fact, I think it is on reserve for me at the library, but that won't last.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you both found my commentary helpful. :)