by Leila Rasheed
To be published by Hyperion
on January 22, 2013
Source: ARC sent by the publisher for review. See my FTC disclosure here.
Summary, excerpted from Goodreads:
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.
My take: I'm a fan of Downton Abbey, the BBC series that follows a British earl, his family and their servants through a bunch of historical events and personal issues. The show started with a plotline that featured the sinking of the Titanic, then went on to have characters serving in the British army in World War I, and has just moved into the 1920s.
Cinders and Sapphires is definitely a Downton Abbey readalike, complete with a huge cast of characters and a plotline thick with scheming, longing, backstabbing, and intrigue. Like Downton Abbey, Cinders and Sapphires also draws in timely social issues like women's suffrage and education and the declining fortunes and influence of the British nobility in the 20th century.
As Cinders and Sapphires opens in 1910, we meet Lady Ada Averley, who is sailing home to Somerton House in England after living in India with her father, a Lieutenant Governor. One moonlit night on board ship, Ava bumps into Ravi Sundaresan, a middle class Indian traveling to London to attend school. They fall instantly in love.
This was the one part of the book I struggled with, and I don't just mean the insta-love. I applaud the idea of a cross-cultural relationship between a British noble and a middle class Indian student, and, in fact, this plot brings to mind one of my favorite historical series, the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. But in Cinders and Sapphires, the reader never sees the relationship between Ava and Ravi. The opening scene between the two aboard ship is brief, ending in a discreet cutaway. We don't really know what happened. Did they have a one-night stand? Did they spend every day on the ship together?
Ava and Ravi then spend most of the rest of the book apart, aside from a few brief encounters. I never really felt the love between them, and and certainly not the passionate, epic kind of love that would make a noble-born British girl face the disapproval of polite society and ruin her chances on the marriage market.
But, never fear, there are plenty of other romantic relationships in Cinders and Sapphires. The book is so full of love triangles and squares that it could take up an entire geometry textbook. I made a diagram: