Author: T.J. Brown
Release date: January 15, 2013
Publisher: Gallery Books
Reading level: Adult (YA appeal)
Reminiscent of Downton Abbey, this first novel in a new series follows two sisters and their maid as they are suddenly separated by the rigid class divisions within a sprawling aristocratic estate and thrust into an uncertain world on the brink of WWI...
Rowena and Victoria, daughters to the third son of the Earl of Summerset, have always treated their housekeeper’s daughter, Prudence, like a sister. But when their father dies and they move in with their uncle’s family in a much stricter household, Prudence is relegated to the downstairs maids’ quarters, much to the girls’ shock and dismay. The impending war offers each girl hope for a more modern future, but the ever-present specter of class expectations makes it difficult for Prudence to maintain a foot in both worlds.
While Summerset Abbey is very obviously a historical fiction novel, it doesn't read like one. It's a much more fast-paced read than traditional historical fiction and while there are quite a few references to the time period, it's not overdone. The time period isn't thrown in your face, it's subtly shown through every little interaction of the characters and all the little details of the story.
Summerset Abbey is classified as an adult novel but it will hold great appeal to young adult readers. The characters are in their late teens, going into their early twenties and their problems are very easy to relate to even if they do live in a different time period. There is romance, mystery, betrayal, and tons of lies. While the mystery was a tad bit predictable it was still enjoyable to read and left many things open for the next book in the series.
The characters were both my favorite and least favorite thing about the book. Rowena, Victoria, and Prudence are all very different girls and while I loved two of them, the third left me wanting more. Rowena was rather selfish even when she was supposedly trying to help others. She professed to care for Prudence and love her like a sister but she certainly didn't treat her like one. Victoria, on the other hand, did very clearly care for Prudence. Victoria was outspoken, unique, fun, and a true original. The best thing about her though was her kindness to everyone. Prudence was also a great character. She was a little bit of a downer at times but her situation called for it. She was smart, funny, kind, and I hated seeing her treated badly. She and Victoria were easy to love and while Rowena was a bit lacking, I'm hoping to see changes from her in the next book.
Overall, Summerset Abbey is a fabulous start to the series and I look forward to continuing with the story. The second book holds lots of promise after the shocking ending to Summerset Abbey.
Looking for more reviews of Summerset Abbey?
The Lit Bitch's review
The Book Addict's Guide's review
And now, as part of the blog tour, I have an interview with T.J. Brown!
First off, tell us a little more about you and your book!
Not much to tell about me… I make stuff up for a living, love history and enjoy wine. I grew up in Alfalfa, Oregon, have been married forever and have two “New Adult” children but enough of that… let’s talk about my book. I love talking about my books! One of the only times you can talk about people who don’t exist as if they do exist is when a new book comes out. Everyone else gets swept up in my craziness.
Summerset Abbey is an adult novel but it’s been said to have YA appeal. Do you agree? If so, what do you think will make YA readers enjoy it?
I think Summerset Abbey could correctly be classified as New Adult. Why is that? Because the characters are the right age and more importantly on the cusp of some of the major changes that young adults, ages 18-25, are facing. Also, I write young adult under Teri Brown, so my voice tends to skew younger. There’s a lot of debate regarding the term New Adult and over whether it’s actually a viable genre or not. Without getting into all that, I can say if New Adult exists, Summerset Abbey would be it!
What kind of research did you do while writing Summerset Abbey?
Lots of fun research! I watched movies such as A Little Princess and A Room with a View and read books like The Edwardians by Vita Sackville West and The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson. I tried to research a mix of primary nonfictional accounts of the time period as well as the era’s literature and art.
Do you have a favorite character from Summerset Abbey? If not, is there a character you think readers will favor?
Oddly enough, my favorite character is one a reviewer said they didn’t much like… Victoria. It seems I have someone similar to her in almost every novel I write—someone over-the-top personality wise. Someone imaginative, verbose, and sparkling. She is self-involved and impulsive, but at the same time warm hearted and idealistic. She has a lot of spunk for someone who spent much of her early years as an invalid. I love all my characters, but I have a soft spot for Victoria.
What do you think of your cover? Do you think it fits the book? Is it what you imagined when writing?
I feel like I have been so blessed by the cover gods. All of my covers have been beautiful. I was so preoccupied with writing the books that I never thought about what the covers would look like, but they are so much lovelier than I could have ever imagined. I literally gasped when I saw it.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Oh, lots of advice!
1. Don’t ever give up.
2. Write a lot. Not every day, that’s unrealistic, but a lot.
3. Find a good critique group or partner who knows what they are doing.
4. Never stop studying your craft. Attend workshops, read books and take classes.
5. Don’t ever give up.
There’s more, but those are the most important ones in a nutshell.
_________a Rafflecopter giveaway
Along with this giveaway for a signed copy of Summerset Abbey, Teri is hosting her own contest for an ereader so make sure to check that out too.
In celebration of the launch of Summerset Abbey, the first in a trilogy, Teri is holding a book lovers contest. All you have to do to enter is preorder Summerset Abbey through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or through your local independent bookstore and then forward Teri the e-receipt to Teri (at)teribrownbooks.com. Contest runs from 1/3- 1/14. Winner will be chosen at random and announced on 1/15, the day Summerset Abbey comes out! Is that an awesome way to celebrate or what?
Winner (Sorry, US addresses only) can pick from:
--Kindle Fire HD, 16GB
--Nook HD, 8GB
--Kobo Vox, 8GB