Monday, April 30, 2012


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I will admit that I am one of the legions of fans of "Downton Abbey."  When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued as it sounded like a twist on the "Downton Abbey" genre.  As the book begins, it is very reminiscent of the television show.  The year is 1912 and Emerald Torrington is preparing for her twentieth birthday party that evening.  Emerald and her family are owners of a lovely English estate called Sterne.  The Torringtons are not landed gentry with a long pedigree.  Emerald's father had earned (and lost) all of his money and invested much of it in Sterne in order to build a better life for his family.  Several years prior to the story, Emerald's father died of a sudden illness leaving the family in financial dire straits.  The story opens with Emerald's stepfather leaving Sterne in order to meet with a potential financial savior who will help the family retain Sterne.  Facing the loss of her childhood home, Emerald approaches her birthday festivities with mixed feelings.  When her brother leaves to pick up some guests at the train station, everything is thrown into chaos.  He returns with news that there has been a terrible accident on one of the rail lines and the Sterne residents have been asked to take in the survivors until the Railway can make other accomodations.  This is when everything starts to go awry.  The survivors begin trickling in including a mysterious upper-class stranger who immediately insinuates himself into the Torrington group.  Emerald and her family and guests attempt to go forward with the birthday celebration while the crash survivors become more and more rowdy.  But everything is not what it seems...

The book began in a promising manner. I really enjoyed the writing and was immediately drawn into the story.  By the time I got to the twist, however, I started to get confused and frustrated.  The twist is fairly obvious and unnecessarily convoluted.  I understand what Jones was trying to accomplish but the ending just fell flat. Everything wrapped up too quickly and too neatly and I just didn't buy it.

BOTTOM LINE: I can recommend the first half but not the last half.  The book starts out so well but the last half felt forced and confused.  I was disappointed with it.  I'm not sure what would have fixed the problem.  The idea is very clever but the execution is poor.

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