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At Somerton #1

Cinders & Sapphires

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From Book 1: One house, two worlds... Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies' maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can't help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada. For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada's beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family's honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept. Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 22, 2013

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About the author

Leila Rasheed

26 books93 followers
Leila Rasheed has gained an MA in both Children's Literature and Creative Writing. She started work at Reading Is Fundamental, a children's literacy charity, before moving to Belgium. Leila now works as the children's bookseller for Waterstone's in Brussels.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 430 reviews
Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews806 followers
May 4, 2016
5 Words: History, romance, upstairs, downstairs, responsibility.

If you like Downton Abbey, you'll love this. I definitely loved it. Secrets and Sapphires nicely filled up that empty gaping hole that's been sat inside of me.

I loved the intrigue and the lifestyle and even the class system. I loved the whole upstairs, downstairs relationships and how Rose was so torn by how those relationships were starting to change. She's such a loyal and proper young girl, such a gem of a character. She has all of this ammunition and never once does she use it.

I also loved how Ada had all of these internal conflicts. As much as she wanted one thing, she wanted another just as much. But there's no way she can have both. And I'm not sure whether she'll be happy with the compromise she was offered at the end, but I think it was a quite happy medium and I hope her feelings start to change.

This book is luxurious and extravagant, deceptive and eccentric... This book has a bit of everything, all set against the lavish backdrop of Somerton.

As unbelievable as the ending was, I even liked that! This book was pure escapism, and such a pleasure to read

I can't wait to get my hands on the next book.
Profile Image for Erin.
131 reviews55 followers
June 10, 2015
All I'm saying is that when you see this book on a list of YA with LGBT characters and the cover features two girls canoodling while some pretty boy stands off to the side and the jacket copy talks about forbidden love, you're gonna assume you're in for a delightful Edwardian Gossip Girl ft. fledgling lesbians. AND THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS BOOK IS. It's just plain old boring Edwardian Gossip Girl. I feel betrayed.
Profile Image for Beth.
980 reviews120 followers
March 12, 2016
Cinders & Sapphires drew my attention because of its superficial resemblance to Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey that I gathered from the synopsis and a review on a YA website I follow. The comparison isn't inaccurate, especially with Downton Abbey. At this point I'd almost call this kind of story a mini-genre.

The Earl of Westlake has only daughters, and has remarried a widow after being widowed himself, so there's a chance that new wife Edith will provide a son and the inheritance won't fall to another branch of the family--in this case, Westlake's wastrel nephew. The time frame is shortly before World War I.

There are two primary point-of-view characters, Westlake's eldest daughter Ada, and Rose, a chambermaid who it's revealed to the reader early on is Westlake's illegitimate daughter. Each young woman has an interest or aspiration; Ada wants to attend Oxford and have her own career, and Rose wants to be a composer. Each also has a SCANDAL! If this gets out, it's the end of everything!

Unfortunately, the characterization never goes beyond this level. There's no internal conflict in these people--every problem they have, anything that needs to be overcome, comes from their circumstances and/or from other characters' plotting against them. Earnest characters are earnest, spiteful ones are spiteful. And that is that. No growth, no change. It gets even worse with, for example, Edith's son Sebastian and his valet Oliver, whose homosexuality and a threat of blackmail is the only thing about them, who don't even have a minor personality quirk between the two of 'em.

One unique point of interest in Cinders and Sapphires is that there's not only mention of the colonization of India, but the idea that its independence is desirable. There are a couple of characters from India in this novel, too. Ada's insta-love interest, Ravi, ends up leaving Oxford to join a revolutionary faction in India. Priya is the nursemaid for the wastrel nephew's awful kid, and she, sad to say, exists in the story mainly to be a victim of microaggressions from white women, and predatory behavior from white men.

Without that sole point of uniqueness, this novel would have been a complete waste of time for me. Scandal, by itself, won't motivate me to keep reading. Actually, at about the 75% mark, I was tempted to mark this "did not finish" and move on, but decided to stick it out a bit longer. The end was a tsunami of scandal breaking over the Somerton estate and even involved a character's death, which, well. It was better than Ada mooning over Ravi for the hundredth time.

I dislike comparing this to Downton Abbey, but having seen a season or two of that show, the comparison is inevitable. The characterization in Cinders & Sapphires is about as deep as a tea saucer, which in my view makes it the weaker offering. Even Downtown Abbey’s wickedest characters have crises of conscience sometimes, and the straightforward presentation of the characters in this novel doesn't allow for nuance of that kind.

Aside from that, its being YA, this novel has to shy away from the more adult aspects of its scandals, whether in merely hinting at them, or avoiding them entirely. Oscar Wilde's imprisonment and eventual death was only a few years earlier than this novel is set in, and that risk to valet Oliver, where his life is literally at stake, wasn't mentioned at all. (One would assume that Sebastian would be immune to that level of punishment, though his marriage prospects could suffer.)

This series isn't worth pursuing more of, for me, but it could be a winner for a more age-appropriate reader interested in scandals among fictional British elites and servants in the early 20th century.
Profile Image for Tiffany (About to Read).
422 reviews412 followers
August 27, 2015
This review was originally posted on About to Read. For Fairytale fashions, reads, and more visit abouttoread.com


loved Cinders & Sapphires. Last summer I read a book called Manor of Secrets, which I was expecting to be like Downton Abbey but ended up just not being that great. You know what I should’ve read instead? Cinders & Sapphires.

This book has been sitting on my kindle app for a while now and I’m so happy I finally picked it up. It started off a bit on the slower side, but I was quickly swept into Ada’s life, dreams, and ambitions. I was also intrigued by Rose’s circumstances and all of the talents she wasn’t able to make use of as a lady's maid.

There are so many great characters in this novel. Some of them or lovable, some are really hateful, and others are just complicated. You’ll find a bit of everything in this one—including a wonderful romance.

Now with regards to the romance, I know exactly who I want Ada with. And it’s not necessarily someone who Ada would choose for herself. But suffice it to say that the romance is great and will leave you wanting more!

Cinders & Sapphires has the perfect balance of upstairs/downstairs drama and relationships, romance, politics and peaks into societal life. If you like Downton Abbey you just can’t miss this one!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
Author 5 books91 followers
Want to read
June 23, 2012
Please please please be better than Wentworth Hall. It's probably not possible for it to be better than Downton Abbey, but AT LEAST be better than Wentworth Hall!
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,005 followers
February 2, 2013
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers

The year is 1910, the place the grand estate of Somerton. Lady Ada, her younger sister Georgina and her father, Lord Westlake, have left India amidst whispers of scandal and disgrace - Lord Westlake has resigned from his post without explanation, inciting the worst possible rumor-mongering - and return to Britain for the first time in many years. Despite the hints of scandal that follow them to Somerton, it is a happy return for the Averleys as Ada's father prepares to marry the glamorous, beautiful and well-connected widow, Mrs. Fiona Templeton. With the marriage comes an expansion of the family, with Mrs. Templeton's three children: Matthew (the devil may care younger son), Sebastian (the rakishly handsome eldest son, with a secret that threatens to ruin him), and Charlotte (the polished and conniving daughter determined to make the most of her station). As the families converge, much drama ensues - Lady Ada struggles to find ground with her new relatives, to prepare for her first Season out in society, and all the while grapples with the demands of her heart as she yearns for Ravi, a young Indian man on scholarship at Oxford (and someone she will never be allowed to marry).

Meanwhile, below stairs, the return of the Averleys and arrival of Mrs. Templeton also threatens to upset the careful balance of order at Somerton. Rose Cliffe - beautiful, quiet, but ambitious for her love of music and composing - is given a chance to advance herself and promoted overnight to become lady's maid to Ada and Georgina. Of course, such a leap does not go unnoticed, and Stella, Mrs. Templeton's lady's maid, begins her own manipulations for power.

These many lives intersect and tangle, as secrets are revealed, proposals are made, and machinations put into motion, with the future of the Averley family and Somerton itself at stake.

Well. If I had to condense my experience with Cinders and Sapphires into a single word it would be: FUN. Because, truly, this is the perfect guilty pleasure read, chock full of scandal and excess (in a good way). Cinders and Sapphires is very clearly, obviously influenced by and riding on the coattails of Downton Abbey, and that is not a bad thing. On a superficial level, there's the fact that the Averleys are without a direct male heir and the estate will pass to a male cousin, there's a Lady Edith, a pair of scheming servants downstairs that plot the demise of their enemies, and so on. That said, there is so much more that is unique to Cinders and Sapphires - for example, take the thoughtful, considered examination of British colonization of India from the Indian perspective. Lady Ada hears the arguments about Indian independence for the very first time - for even though she lived many years in India, she has a very sheltered and colonist-minded view of the country - and she begins to question and challenge her belief system for the first time.

Somehow the At Somerton series manages to pack in crazy, melodramatically entertaining twists on par with its BBC counterpart, too - there's a homosexual young man and a bribery case against him, a murder (but of course), numerous illicit/forbidden romances, a secret half-sibling working on the estate as a servant, a scheming stepmother and horrible Caroline Bingley type character of a daughter...

Which brings me back to my thesis, if you will. In sum, Cinders and Sapphires is wonderfully melodramatic, over-the-top soap-opera fun.

Yes, it has some utterly implausible aspects, and there is NO freakin' way certain things would ever logically happen (especially the father's actions at the end of the book!), but I found myself thoroughly, completely entertained and loving every second of it.

On the con side, however, the characters are perhaps not the most developed - Ada is predictably kind, intelligent, and beautiful, as is her counterpoint Rose. Neither heroine buckles in the face of ruin or danger, and they are both excessively sweet and good. And that's all fine and dandy, but to me, the more interesting characters are the ones who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty - I want to know what happened with Charlotte to make her so venomous, I want to understand how Stella's conscience hardened and what she has done to come as far as she has. I want more of Sebastian and valet Oliver, I want more of Priya and why she has left India for England to work as a governess. There is plenty of room to explore these many different characters at length, and I am eagerly awaiting the next adventure at Somerton to see just where the drama goes next.

Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Ksenia.
796 reviews190 followers
August 16, 2012
Holy moly, what a fun book to read. If you need something to tide you over until the next season of Downton Abbey, this is it. The drama unfolds like a soap opera and can be a bit silly/ridiculous, but it is still a fun romp. I'm happily awaiting the next installment.
Profile Image for Vampire-lk.
305 reviews23 followers
May 7, 2018
OMG!!!!!!!! Highly recommended!!!!! Very sweet & not bawdy at all!!!! Still a breathe of fresh air as all the characters major & minor are so well developed that I feel like I’m right there with them & can for most predict what they might be thinking! I’m swept away with the details that I seriously finished this light fun novel in 2 days!!!!! With work & reality trying to intrude 😢😵😱🤯😂Can’t wait for the sequel I know where I am going after work tomorrow 😉😂🤩😍
Profile Image for Emma Rogers.
29 reviews8 followers
April 25, 2014
I still don't know what to think. But I do think I disliked this book. I thought everyone was much too in love (about 90% of the total characters were in love with someone, often with little foundation for said "love") and much too serious. So many characters are nasty it left me with a sour feeling in my stomach while reading. I like this era and the characters could be solid foundations for more but they're sorely lacking. I thought Ada was almost stupid and immature at points and the love for Ravi seemed too forced, there was no chemistry or passion that came across through the pages, I was bored and grew annoyed with her whining and the way she constantly pined for him. Throughout the novel she is portrayed as a smart girl but she just came across as intolerably stupid, she was hopelessly in love with a boy she knew nothing about and constantly pined for him, she thinks about him all the time and he eclipses her want for education and independence. It's silly and it seems the author threw it in for pure scandal material as he is Indian and could never be approved of. In fact, The whole novel is rife with scandals that all feel as if I've read it before and it's as if the author knew this and felt that compiling it into one novel would make it more interesting or scandalous. Interracial love, a young lady who wants an education, bankrupt estates, illegitimate children, love affairs, a gay guy living in fear, blackmailing, public displays of affection that turn Into scandal, a murder, rumors of military disgrace, and more that I can't even deal with thinking about right now. Anyhow, I can't root for Ada and Ravi because they have no chemistry and they make no sense. They had seen each other, I believe, a total of three brief times when he turned into a jealous maniac because she talked to Lord Fintan, who I like much more. They only saw each other four times in the novel and I'm supposed to sympathize with this "intelligent" girl's sulking and whining? I cannot! They barely spoke at all and had nothing much to say when they did. And several of the names in this novel are so ridiculous I had to make sure they weren't typos by reading forward and seeing them printed just the same. Also there's a blatant mistake towards the end that just annoyed me, but I won't say because of spoilers. But I feel as if I have to read the next one, I don't know why, after writing this all out I see I quite disliked it. And I had such high hopes for this novel *sigh*.
Profile Image for Sophie.
467 reviews189 followers
September 23, 2013
There were some likeable characters, the writing was decent, and it had moments where it really explored things like women's rights, class issues, and the problems of India under British rule. Unfortunately this was buried under the other things: over the top scandals and drama, the "bad" characters, and my favorite, the insta-love. One of the main characters seems willing to risk everything after what, 3 conversations, a handful of kisses, and a few letters?

A few people compared this to Downton Abbey, which, other than the 1912 setting, I didn't see. The only time I got the feeling was how Charlotte reminded me of Lady Edith

It was frustrating because at times I wanted to and DID like the book, but it got bogged down by the desire to roll my eyes all the time at the other nonsense.
Profile Image for Misty.
796 reviews1,230 followers
January 18, 2013
It wouldn't be a lie to say that I wanted to read this because of the cover and its obvious Downton Abbey inspiration, but it also wouldn't be a lie to say I probably would never have actively sought this out, because of those things, and because reasons.  But when its pretty self showed up* in my mailbox before Christmas, luring me in the packets of Walkers shortbread and Twinings English Breakfast tea - well, frankly it was just too tempting a scene to pass up. So picture me, curled up on the couch, dunking my biscuits in a steaming cuppa, ready to sink into a (hopefully) nice little bit of turn of the century escapism. Maybe the tea and sugar (and butter. My god, the butter in those biscuits!) did their job and lulled me after a time, because after a jarring bit in the beginning when I felt sure this book and I were not going to get on, we somehow became reluctant friends. Confidants, even.

But lets get that first bit out of the way, shall we? It's the dreaded insta-love. And I mean insta. Like, pretty sure it happened on about page 2, with two characters who'd never met, had no business being alone unchaperoned (at night. On a ship!), and both of whom acted out of character/station. It had me gasping behind my fan, I can tell you. With this, my guard was definitely up, and when you add in some of the anachronistic/unrealistic approach to the story, I was all prepared to heartily dislike this. BUT as much as I wanted to be bothered by this (and the complete lack offoundation in their sudden "relationship"), I eventually just gave in. I mean, the times, they were a-changin', and it is the lit equivalent of a soap opera, so whatever. I certainly would have preferred anticipation and build-up in the relationship - in a few relationships, actually, as they were all on the risque side; come to think of it, I would much have preferred this to be a sweeping saga that really wrenched every bit of drama out of the interactions... -  but I had to face the facts that this was just never going to be that type of story, and I could dig my heels in or I could enjoy it. And when I came to (grudging) terms with that, I did thoroughly enjoy myself.

Yes, this was heavily inspired by Downton Abbey. Not just the time/setting, but even the plot points - kind of a "ripped from the headlines" approach in some ways, which is fine so long as you make it your own. And that was sort of the point of this book, after all, and the reason I wanted to read it, so I can't really hate... Like Downton, there are a lot of characters to keep track of. Actually, if I'm being honest, there were too many characters to keep track of, especially when they're not all that distinct. There were a few times I had to flip back and figure out who someone was, where they came in, and why they were significant. This is something dealt with much easier on screen, where people have distinct looks and there are all kinds of visual clues in how they dress/carry themselves to remind us where they fit into the story. Much harder on the page, when the story is flitting back and forth between plot-lines and the reader is left to keep track of who's who and how they know each other (compounded by the fact that just about everyone in the book is just now becoming acquainted with one another...). Because of that, I imagine this would be a frustrating book for some people. Eventually I got them all worked out, though, and even grew to sort of care about of few of them (surprise!). It's also very quick-moving, and some readers may feel rushed about. (I've already mentioned I would like a little more lingering... but at least the quick pace kept things lively.)

In the end, I have to say, I enjoyed it. It's anachronistic, but fun; not for diehard traditionalists, certainly - if you like your historical dramas to be sweeping and epic and (most of all) painstakingly researched and historically accurate, this is probably not the book for you. This isn't a book that will have you building ballrooms in your mind, or feeling as if it's so lovingly rendered that you practically lived it with the characters. No, this is not that. But for those looking for something fun to tide them over in between seasons of Downton, or for a nice bit of easy escapism, a good guilty pleasure read, it certainly ticks all the boxes. And though I don't know that the series will ever be one of my jumping-eager, gotta-have-it, breathlessly-awaiting-the-next series, I'm definitely curious to see what happens next at Somerton. I'll have a nice supply of tea and biscuits waiting...

* Thanks, Disney Hyperion!
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Profile Image for Merin.
667 reviews58 followers
February 2, 2013
3.5/5 stars.

As a fan of well done historicals, I eagerly dove into Cinders & Sapphires. I was expecting drama and scandal, mostly revolving around the two characters mentioned in the summary, Rose and Ada. And we definitely get that, in spades. But I wasn't expecting all the other stories going on in this book. Pretty much every character mentioned, from Ada's family members, to her father's new wife and her children, to the household staff, have some sort of point of view moment in this book. While overall I did enjoy the book, I couldn't help coming away feeling like there was just too much going on in this single volume.

It's difficult to even know where to start with my review of this story. Ada is our main character; she's spent the past ten years in India, is a very bookish sort, and desperately wants to attend Oxford, which is not really the done thing. Throw in her unexpected feelings for Ravi, a young Indian man she meets on the boat back to England who is also attending Oxford, and things get very complicated, very quickly, and that's just with one storyline. You then have Rose, who has just been promoted to ladies' maid. She has a gift for music, and has spent the past ten years working at Somerton while Ada and her family has been away. The story would have been perfect if we'd just focused on these two girls and their lives, but when you add in the drama with Sebastian and Oliver, Georgiana's crush on her new stepbrother, Michael (and Michael's crush on the new nursemaid, Priya), and the bad feelings and bitterness of some of the household staff toward Rose's new position, and this book began bordering on confusing. I can't help but feel that some of these storylines were added just to create the scandal and drama promised in the summary; they really didn't add anything to the story, and it almost felt like the author was inserting tried and true ways to create problems for the characters.

Nonetheless, this book had a very easy flow to it. It read at a pretty fast clip - I would have been done much sooner if I'd just been able to squeeze in more reading time - and it definitely keeps the reader engaged. I definitely felt for both Ada and Rose, who both had their worlds turned upside down in different ways. Charlotte, Ada's new stepsister, however, is a mean and spiteful character, as is Stella. Their actions and emotions left a bad taste in my mouth, and I really could have done without reading from their points of view. I also think it perhaps would have added a more mysterious atmosphere to the book if we hadn't known what they knew and thought; now it's just a matter of how they'll use the knowledge to further upset things. In fact, Charlotte's final thoughts made me think of a quote by Gandalf in The Return of the King: "Sauron's wrath will be terrible, his retribution swift." It definitely bodes ill for Ada!

While I couldn't help but feel like Cinders & Sapphires perhaps tries to do too much with too many people, overall I very much enjoyed Ms. Rasheed's style of writing and the two main characters she's created. If you enjoy scandalous historical novels that focus on both the gentry and working class, then do check this one out; I'm certainly intrigued enough to read the next book in the series!

An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


To see more of my reviews, please visit me @ Read and Reviewed!
Profile Image for Angelc.
422 reviews51 followers
January 22, 2013
4.5 Stars

Finally, authors and publishers are catching on to the Downton Abbey trend! Many readers are starved to read more stories about the glittering era in which Downton is set, and finally more books are being published about this time and setting. Is it jumping on the bandwagon? Sure, but I am glad for it, and hope there are more to come. This book fits the bill for readers wanting more of this type of story.

At first, I will admit that I wasn't getting into the story. There was a prologue (I just don't like them) and the beginning chapters were very descriptive of the grand house and its day to day workings. There is one big "secret" that is terribly obvious from the beginning. Add to that a huge amount of characters and names to keep straight (a list at the beginning of the book may have been helpful), and I thought I was going to be disappointed.

However, very soon, the story took off in so many directions, that I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. The characters started to become very well developed, and most were not caricatures or stereotypes. They were well-rounded and seemed fresh, and also current even with the historical setting. New secrets started to emerge that I didn't see coming. I was quickly proven wrong in my initial misgivings about the book.

I can't wait to read more of this series, and I'm so glad that we will get to read more about these great characters. Rose was a bit too normal, or average for me. Sure, she was likable, but things just seemed to happen around her instead of her really taking charge. Ada was more interesting to me, with her hopes and dreams of going to a university. Also, the secondary characters were all extremely interesting and probably a bit more more unique and multi-faceted than the leads.

ARC sent by publisher in exchange for an honest review

reviewed for http://inthehammockblog.blogspot.com

Profile Image for Anissa.
880 reviews264 followers
February 2, 2014
What to say about this one? Hm. It hit all the Downton Abbey hallmarks for good and bad. It felt a bit like Luxe too with a bit of the tone of Gossip Girl. Are these good or bad things to me? I'll say this, it didn't make for the most surprising read but there were things that kept me turning the pages, so it couldn't have been all bad. I did like the historical nods to British Colonialism with regard to India. I think I'd have liked more emphasis on that aspect but this isn't a historical novel in the strictest sense or at least it didn't feel like it to me.

As to the characters, I wanted more of Ada but she was a bit secondary to Rose (who came with a story arc end that was telegraphed in the first few pages of meeting her so it was difficult to feel much suspense by the reveal). Ada had a case of insta-love with Ravi based on one shipboard kiss and I tried my best to ignore that because I thought her trajectory was really going to be about her figuring out how to get to Oxford. Sebastian was interesting enough but his "scandalous secret" was an "of course" moment for me. Fiona & Charlotte were our stock annoying evil stepmother & sister and I really couldn't much care about them as there wasn't much given to flesh them out.

All in all, I'd recommend this to anyone who is looking for a comfortable read, not one looking to be surprised or for anything very complex. These characters are wearing it all on the surface & there's no deep drama but there's plenty of melodrama. Sometimes, that makes for a fun read, so go into this one for that. I don't know if I'll continue with the series.
Profile Image for Katt Hansen.
3,510 reviews96 followers
January 17, 2013
NetGalley's 13 chapter preview was certainly not enough - and leaves you hanging in the most awkward of places. Whew! Where to begin on this one.

Having just gotten though a handful of Austen novels, I can see the influence upon this writer. Think of this as a cross between Pride and Prejudice, Upstairs Downstairs, and a bit of Downtown Abbey thrown in for good measure. Meaning if you love vintage pieces, with lots of characters from varying levels of society, you'll enjoy this one.

The story moves quickly, starting in the servant's quarters and branching out until there isn't a member of the household left untouched. You've got romance, a bit of intrigue, some definite factions forming, and alliances in all kinds of places. And secrets - don't forget the secrets.

My only complaint is in trying to keep everyone straight. I felt a little like I needed a scorecard, or at the least some kind of chart to show the intricate maze of connections and how everyone is related. Though I think if I'd kept going, that might have cleared out a bit (much like in Game of Thrones - so readers of THOSE books who also like historical romance might also enjoy this book for that reason).

I'm hooked, and have no problem with recommending this book. I'll be looking for this one and whatever comes next in the series. It's an interesting premise and I can't wait to see how it all resolves.
Profile Image for Deidra .
251 reviews34 followers
April 29, 2020
This book has been on my TBR FOREVER! I picked it from my Kindle in my attempt to read the many unread books on there. It was a great period piece. I love a good old British colonial society story. The drama, betrayal, and intrigue. It's just too much.

This particular story follows both the ladies of the house as well as their staff. As you read, you get many different perspectives about each of the people in the house. There is a definite element of evil stepmother/evil stepsister trope in there. It gave me some serious What A Girl Wants vibes. (Good old days of Amanda Bynes).

As the oldest daughter in the house, Ada is an intelligent woman that is more interested in books than boys (my kind of girl) and is a budding member of the women's suffrage movement. She is not interested in marrying well to support her, but instead, she wants to have independence.

Her evil-stepsister is completely Ada's opposite. Together with her similarly evil ladies' maid, she plots to take Ada down. And she just might succeed. I can't wait to see what happens in the next book of the series!
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,773 reviews572 followers
January 9, 2013
I have to say, if the complete book is as good as the Sneak Peek, we have greatness coming!

Normally, I look at Sneak peeks and say, nope, not interested, but I took a chance and have definitely added Cinders & Sapphires to my "Gotta Have It" list!

The wealthy Averleys have returned to their country estate after a decade of being away. Tales of scandal have followed them, there is to be a new Lady of the Manor, meaning two families must try to blend into one.

Ada Averley must choose between love and family honor. Rose, a maid, tries to imagine how different her life would be had she been born into a higher station. Everyone else each seems to have their own secrets, lies, dreams and quirks. Will they make a go of things? Is more scandal on the horizon? There is definitely enough in this Sneak Peek to warrant further investigation when the full book is out!

This ARC review edition was provided by NetGalley and the Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review. Publication Date: January 22, 2013
98 reviews1 follower
April 10, 2013
Poor Ava, who is all beautiful-but-too-innocent-to-know-it, is all about being a proper lady and upholding her family's honor, blah, blah. The problem is that she's actually kind of smart and she really wants to go to Oxford, which is NOT a proper thing for a lady to do at the turn of the 20th Century. Oh, and she has the hots for an Indian dude who isn't rich. Not cool. Throw in a lot more scandal, evil step-mother and step-sister, oh yeah and a GAY step-brother! (that's my favorite part) and you have Cinders and Sapphires. Wait! There's also Rose, who is the maid AND Ava's dad's illegitimate daughter. (yeah, the evil steps totally catch wind of that because of THEIR, also evil and super devious, maid.) it's too much!!!!! it's a soap opera. i love it.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,879 reviews1,065 followers
March 11, 2013
Review to come. I actually read a brief snippet of this book as provided from Disney Hyperion on NetGalley. I really wish it'd been the full book, so that I could've had a better grasp on the plot details, and that affected my enjoyment of this selection, but what little I read was a decent periodic story. Hopefully I can expand upon the preview in further reflection.
Profile Image for Pam Pho.
Author 13 books326 followers
January 4, 2013
I couldn't put this book down. It was full of intrigue and courtly gossip. Downton Abbey for teens with an East Inda Trading Company feel. The writing is super good and the characters well thought out and portrayed well for the time period. A completely lush and guilty pleasure read. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for kit.
280 reviews13 followers
April 21, 2021

cinders & sapphires isn't good and i remember reading it for the first time and having this moment of clarity where my smooth 14-year-old brain realised that not only could things be bad because i don't like them but things could be bad because they're just sloppy. for example...
➡️if you took a shot for every simile you may not even get through the first two chapters
➡️the prose is clunky and unclear to the point where i sometimes had to reread a few sentences because i had no idea what the subject was. rogue commas. syntax that's almost BACKWARDS it's so elementary
➡️ada gets proposed to not one, not two, but three times!! THREE TIMES!!
➡️nobody has any sort of defined character except for charlotte, fiona, and stella all of whom are Evil and Scheming
➡️ada and rose are THE SAME in that they're both Good. their characters are interchangeable except for rose being shy. also ada is *not* smart lmaoooo
➡️speaking of characters there are at least a dozen different pov characters, only about half of whom are really necessary, and these povs aren't even divided equally
➡️(really you could cut the povs in half and be fine with just ada, rose, oliver, stella, and georgiana. equal number of upstairs/downstairs characters, no major plotlines lost)
➡️however i would frankly love to cut out georgiana's plotline because she a) does nothing b) spends all of her page time being in love with her stepbrother
➡️i was setting myself up to get queerbaited by ada and rose, remembering that they were secret half-sisters only to be blindsided by georgiana being like "yeah i'm romantically in love with my stepbrother"
➡️their parents get married ON PAGE
➡️speaking of georgiana, who old is she supposed to be? 15? 16? is that ever stated?
➡️speaking of things that are never stated, is there a given location for somerton besides somewhere in generic southern england?
➡️why are all the relationships except for ada and ravi 99% off-page? sebastian and oliver have maybe 3 interactions, one of which is committing manslaughter together like this is rope (1948) dir. alfred hitchcock, but we're supposed to somehow Know they're a couple? those previous interactions were JUST flirting. i don't think they even touched. too many storylines disease
➡️sebastian tells so many people he's gay like this isn't 1912 and he won't lose his entire livelihood if the press tells. you are so stupid god bless.
➡️wait back to ada and ravi. they meet on the first chapter, talk for like two minutes, he tells her he thinks women are people and talks about stars, and then they MAKE OUT?? ada is SEVENTEEN she's never kissed a man before why is she kissing a dude she literally just met
➡️they also break up two or three times and say they're going to be Just Friends and then don't try at all. go girl give us nothing!!

this was somehow dreadfully dull and absolutely off the walls and yet as an adult with my brain turned off i didn't completely hate the experience however my frontal lobe is leaking out of my ears as we speak ❤️ if you see me reading the other two mind your own business
January 5, 2018
Find this review and more on my blog Sometimes Leelynn Reads.

Those who ride on high horses have a long way to fall.

This book definitely had a lot of scandal in it. I don't really read "romance" novels or "contemporary" novels like this book was, so it was interesting to read. In essence, this book was about the two different worlds in the Somerton Court: the elite and the servants. Lady Ada, one of the main characters, is the daughter of Lord Westlake who leans on the more educated side of life. She would rather attend Oxford and learn more about politics than be one of those proper ladies that cares more about the clothes she wears and the potential husband she can have. One of the things I do appreciate about her is that she tries her best to educate herself about what's going on in the world, even if she isn't always correct in her thoughts. The other main character, Rose Cliffe, has become Lady Ada's lady maid, which is technically a promotion from her previous station. The cool thing about Ada and Rose, is that they actually grew up together and were friends when they were younger. Of course, that was before they had to really grow into their proper stations. Will they end up being friends again? Or will they play the game of class, and only be professional towards one another?

Does it even really matter to me? Not really, honestly.

I think the one part that I did appreciate - although it really irritated me - was the discussion on British Occupation in India. Since Lord Westlake had been working and living with his family in India for the past ten years - only now coming back to England because of some scandal surrounding his resignation - and on their trip back to their home country, Ada meets an Indian boy by the name of Ravi. She falls for him after a brief conversation about Oxford, and they end up kissing. At a party, the topic of India comes up, and Ravi - being the only Indian person in attendance of this party - obviously has a differing opinion on the occupation from the rest of the guests. One of the main quotes from Ravi that I loved was this:

I, too have spent several years in India - my entire life, as it happens - and more than this, I am Indian. You must allow me a different perspective on its government by the English than you might have.

Of course he would have a different opinion! Why wouldn't he? How would the British even understand what the native Indians are actually going through when they aren't on the receiving end. Like so many people have said, history is told through the eyes of the victors, and therefore is very subjective to make it sound like this occupation was a good thing. It was the only way these Indian "savages" could have a sustainable government. Of course, right? And yet everyone dismisses his thoughts because he's "young". Of course.

This book was alright for me. It really just shows me that the people during this time were so... difficult to deal with. So much drama and deception for almost no reason. Did it add to the story? Not really. Did it make it enjoyable? Not so much. But other than that, it was an okay read. If you like contemporary, historical fiction romances, then I think you would like it.
Profile Image for Sparkleypenguin.
144 reviews19 followers
April 29, 2017
There is so much going on here in this one book. There is the upstairs drama and the downstairs drama--- both of which, conveniently, collide. I guess in my modern, 21st-century view; this book did nothing to impress me. Firstly, it felt like the typical modern viewpoints thrust upon 20th-century characters who did not actually believe in the things that the author put upon them. Sure, there may have been *some* movers and shakers but like, come on guys. Some women did believe in the constructed society and did what was right for their families, even if it didn't align with their viewpoints. They did their duty because they had to and the believed they had to.
I wish there were more to Ravi and Ada's relationship, instead of just "Oooh we kissed once and now we're in looooove." But there is more to it than that. They have similar interests and believe very strongly in what they believe is right, and I guess that is admirable. But Lord Fintan also is such a good guy for her. Like, poor Lord Fintan. I wish that he got a better end of the stick.
Overall, this book for me was just a bunch of cliches wrapped up into one, singular book and for the first half, I had to push through because there were a lot of characters and I did not entirely process, in the beginning, who was who. But, eventually, I figured it out, and even though I did not care for this one as much, the ending of this makes me want to continue with this trilogy.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Gina.
509 reviews
January 16, 2022
When I first heard this book was like Bridgerton, I was honestly curious how much like Bridgerton it is. It turns out the book is very much like the PG13 version of Bridgerton: same atmosphere, same societal rules (mostly), same discussions of politics (just in a different region of the world), and same love interests everywhere. I liked it. I'm really glad it's a series. I can't wait to read the next one.
April 10, 2020
I loved this book. The suspence was everything. I had to rate it down because I don't agree with the lifestyle some of characters have. But overall a hreat book.
Profile Image for Alice in Readerland.
55 reviews63 followers
July 8, 2013
Review originally posted on ALICE IN READERLAND (aliceinreaderland.com): For the first time in a long while, Lady Ada, her sister, and her father are returning to Somerton estate from India, though this time they’re also bringing along a new difficult step-family, new servants, and of course, plenty of secrets.

For the servants already working at Somerton, the surprise arrival (and additions of people) means working harder in the house as well as working harder to keep secrets. For Rose, a maid at Somerton, this means that she can’t escape to the piano room anymore and compose music.
But soon, more characters come into play, letters are exchanged, hearts are broken, and status is changed. Does what happen at Somerton stay at Somerton?
There are many different characters in Cinders and Sapphires, and that gives the reader an opportunity to find that special character in the book that is their favorite and made the book stand out for them. For me, that character was Rose.

“Her head was full of music, full of tunes. It was as if, as soon as she had been allowed to touch the piano, they had been born, like seeds drifting from a shaken dandelion clock.”

I haven’t seen many other reviews talk about her too much, but I really loved Rose. While most maids I’ve read about are normally focused on “status climbing,” Rose’s greatest love is her music, and her favorite thing to do is compose melodies on the piano at Somerton when she can slip in unnoticed.
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“It felt as if she were weaving a magical web of color and light, an escape ladder from the daily drudgery.”

Another thing that I loved about Rose was that she was a genuinely good character, a refreshing break from all the back-stabbers and selfish characters I’ve read about in period pieces. She’s sweet, kind, refuses an opportunity for blackmail to raise her status, and although she’s not completely happy with her job as a maid, she knows life could be far worse. But what does Rose want? Music.

“A life flashed in front of her eyes like fireworks, a dream of writing music and having it played and being proud of it.”

One of my favorite parts was when Rose got to spoiler spoiler her music, because it was spoiler by a spoiler and was so amazing for her to hear! Okay, so I can’t give too much away about what happens to Rose and her music, but I really loved it and hope to see more come out of it in the sequel!

Since this is a historical novel and there was great fashion back then, I also loved the descriptions of the character’s outfits, such as this one:

“It was white satin, with a lace-and-chiffon bodice and a train decorated with tulle and pearls so it looked like a cloud dusted with glittering raindrops.”

Cynical Cindy Says

I think my main problem with this book was there were too many characters packed into it, and I would have preferred it if the focus just stayed on Rose and Ada. While it is true that estates back in that time period had lots of people in them, multiple characters seem to work better for T.V. shows like Downton Abbey instead of books.
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(Okay, so this gif doesn’t *really* apply to my character complaint, but I had to add it because I adore Maggie Smith.)

The only other complaint I had was an editing problem I spotted (in the first chapter, Ada has a hat on; a few pages later, it notes it was scandalous for her not to have a hat on).

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book and am excited to see what’s next for Rose in the sequel! If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey and historical YA novels, or just want a fun read packed with drama, then you should check out Cinders and Sapphires!

Favorite Quotes

“Looking up into the depth of the night and the countless stars, she felt somehow as if she were standing on the brink of a precipice, and that if she had the courage to step forward, she might find that she could fly.”


“If colors were music, she thought, this would be a wild dance.”


“I can’t believe they made all that fuss about a mere fire. It didn’t even spread.”


“The notes of the piano, her music made real, came up the stairs like a beloved friend running to meet her.”


“The noise of the city was like a symphony that never ended.”
August 1, 2023
Ticked off some of my boxes, but felt like it was missing something

✅ multiple POVs
✅Downton Abbey/Bridgerton vibes
✅ LGBTQ+ representation

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,805 reviews103 followers
January 19, 2013

Source: Received an ARC from Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

Wow-this book basically has everything! It has so many of the plotlines from "Downton Abbey" and similar stories, all jam-packed into a very easy reading style. I polished this book off very fast and felt quite accomplished as I've been a bit behind on my reading goals.

Since I mostly liked the book, I'm just going to point out a few criticisms, not to be a downer but in order to be more balanced. The book is narrated in third-person past tense and although it mostly focused on just a few people, it shifted around, sometimes quite abruptly and caused some confusion. This mostly happened at the beginning so either it was edited out or I became accustomed. My second main criticism is just that there is so much stuff, much of which felt familiar (due to the fact that I actively seek out books set in this time) but also which subsequently didn't receive much treatment. There is only so much space and we have a serious amount of plot threads set up. The upside is that now there is so much to look forward to learning about in book 2. Third and final criticism would have to be the instant love that strikes Lady Ada in the prologue; one kiss and she's a goner, this secret, forbidden love motivating her for the entire novel. Never mind that there are a ton of cute boys to kiss (or at least to flirt with since kissing was much more serious back then); I just didn't feel the love for this guy since we barely got to spend any time with him.

Now that the negative is over, what did I like? Well I really liked our two main characters Ada and Rose, young lady of the house and maid respectively who have the lion's share of the narrative. I especially liked how Ada is a bluestocking, interested in studying at Oxford and promoting women's suffrage, a cause close to my heart (think about it: just 100 years ago, I would not have been allowed to vote! That makes me kind of mad!) Rose is the sweet and shy ladies maid with a secret past (that should be fairly obvious to most readers). Other characters include Ada's new stepfamily with a conniving stepmother, whose portrait was much more cartoonish than the similarly crafty Lady Summerset, really conniving stepsister, and two stepbrothers with their own secrets, more extended family, various politicians, and a household of servants. Although there are a lot of characters, I did not feel overwhelmed by them, keeping their names easily straight for the most part.

I also loved the many themes that were touched on, especially women's education as touched on above. I feel like this book has the potential to be fun and frothy while also exploring the fascinating history. Of particular interest was the British Empire's involvement with India as well as hints at trouble on the Continent (it is only 1910 so we still have quite some time before WWI breaks out-hope the series will reach that point!)

Overall: A light, fast-moving historical novel-perfect for those craving another hit of "Downton Abbey" as well as for people who like lighter stories in general.

Cover: Love! Although the title makes me think of Cinderella, which is not really a part of the story, I don't mind the misleading. I love the swirls all around although I feel bad for the girl (I'm guessing it's supposed to be Rose) having it go through her head.
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