Amanda's Reviews > Wentworth Hall

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
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's review
Feb 08, 2012

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bookshelves: 2012-releases

Whoever thought that the semi-soap opera-like lives of a family of Edwardian period British nobles would be so darn addicting? No one could have predicted the somewhat strange public obsession with the British TV show Downton Abbey, and it didn't take long for publishers and others to pick up on that obsession and start pumping out similar works to ride the latest trend. I've seen almost half a dozen other similar-themed books on tap for the next few years -and Wentworth Hall was the first one.

In this Edward period drama, young Maggie Darlington has just returned from abroad as a grown woman -and ripe for marriage to a reputable man of good fortune. She returns to her family's ancestral home, Wentworth Hall, only to find the family's wealth dwindling and a wealthy heir living at the house -ready for the marrying. Yet, Maggie harbors a secret for the handsome groom named Michael, and the family's new French nanny Therese hides secrets of her own. And secrets never stay hidden for long.

This book isn't very good. Let's just get that out of the way first. Wentworth Hall just isn't very good. It's poorly written, badly edited, is filled with holes, lacks historical detail and, especially closer to the end, kind of ridiculous. To me, it seemed like this book may have had some good ideas at its core, but was very rushed through the entire writing and editing process (especially the editing part) in order to get it out quickly, thus little attention was paid to things like setting, historical details and writing quality.

Basically, this book steals many elements from Downton Abbey: Maggie is essentially an amalgamation of Mary and Sibel, the younger sister is much like Eleanor, the servants' politics and drama strangely echoes that of Downton. But, there were at least a few other elements added in that kept this book from becoming too much like Downton, like the wild family twists, the harsh and somewhat brutish Lord Darlington and the wildly entertaining passages from a mysterious satire of the family.

Somewhere, in this strange combination of low writing quality, soap-opera-like ridiculous plot lines and the assumption that the reader can fill in all of the "blanks" because he/she has seen Downton Abbey, there was a strangely entertaining and addictive book. Yes, you heard me: Despite all of the issues, I read this very short book from cover-to-cover and still found a few things that made it worthwhile. The secrets, though way too out there, are still incredibly compelling and fun, though of course frothy and absurd.

This may be worth a quick summer vacation read if you enjoy Downton Abbey, are suffering from withdrawal, and just want something that's easy. Just be warned -don't expect incredibly quality.
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