Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

All secrets have a way of coming out in the end.

Every family has their own secrets that they would rather not become public knowledge….but when your family is rich….the gossip columns love nothing better than a juicy family secret.

At Wentworth Hall, while family fortune might be in short supply….juicy secrets are not.

Maggie Darlington has just returned from a year abroad in France with her mother and new born baby brother and his French nanny. While abroad Maggie has matured, almost beyond recognition….. she has cast off her girlish styles, activities, and friends. The once spirited, will-full teen has now conformed into a model young woman and with the Wentworth name still commanding respect….Maggie Darlington has become very desirable marriage material!

But the Darlington family has fallen on hard times….their money is gone, all that remains is a good name. Lord Darlington has designs for Maggie’s potential match…an old family friend whose son is heir to a diamond fortune could be Maggie’s future husband. Or perhaps their titled neighbor, the Duke of Cotswold who would bring a title and fortune to the match….but he is also old enough to be Maggie’s father.

But before a match can be settled on, a scandalous satire about the Darlington family beings appearing in the local gossip paper. The satire exposes many family secrets and threatens to ruin all of Maggie’s marriage prospects….not to mention those of Maggie’s younger sister, Lila.

Meanwhile, below stairs, the servants are buzzing over the recently published satire and all the changes in the household since Lady Maggie’s return from abroad. Nora, the upstairs maid, has always been close to both Lady Maggie and Lady Lila and can’t help but notice the growing distance between the sisters since Maggie returned from France. Lady Darlington also brought back a new staff member who Nora is not quite sure about….the nanny, Therese who seems to be ‘hiding something’.

With the family secrets spilling out into the newspaper….it is only a matter of time before all the characters ghosts come out of the closet.

Maggie, Michael the dashing young groom, Therese the French nanny, the upstairs maid Nora, Teddy and Jessica Fitzhugh, Lila, and Lord and Lady Darlington are all hiding something….it is only a matter of time before all their secrets are revealed….. secrets that have the power to ruin the Darlington family forever.

When Simon & Schuster brought me Wentworth Hall to review, I was thrilled! I couldn’t pass it up! The cover was fantastic and invoked a visual blend of Downton Abbey and Gossip Girls. I was instantly intrigued and the summary peaked my interest.

One of the things that I liked most about this book was the newspaper satire. I thought it was a clever take on the family and was a comical way for the reader to view the family. I really enjoyed the irony it brought to the story, it worked well and helped keep the flow going.

The setting and period were perfect for a story featuring the rich and ‘famous’ with a host of secrets. With Downton Abbey all the rage right now, I love that the glitz and glamour of the Edwardian era are making an appearance in various genres. I had hoped for the house in Wentworth Hall would become more of its own ‘character’ like Downton Abbey has done in the show but with the plot heavy on the gossip, I think it worked having the house be more of a backdrop than taking on a life of its own.

A couple of things bothered me about the plot though, I thought the ending left a few too many loose ends. I would have either extended the book by 100 pages to tie up the Fitzhugh story line or cut it out all together. The Fitzhugh story line needed to be developed a bit more, it seemed like it was going to be a major part of the novel at the beginning but then virtually disappeared the second half of the book.

I also thought the book was heavy on the use of idioms and conversational conjectures/prose. With this book being set in the Edwardian era and having a distinct Downton Abbey feel to it, I felt the language didn’t quite match the period.

For me, part of Downton Abbey’s lure is the eloquent, formal language. The language used in this book was a little too modern and casual for the period. There were lots of phrases like “Worked like a charm” and “Put a sock in it” that I felt didn’t quite match the period which distracted from the story and setting.

That said, the target audience is teen, so with this bring a YA novel I can see why the author was heavy on the idioms and conversational language so that the story will appeal to a wider audience. Often books written or set in the Victorian/Edwardian eras are wordy….and sometimes, less is more.

Overall, this was a quick fun read! The alluring plot, period, setting, and characters work well together in this novel…. And the newspaper satire added humor and pace to the novel. The audience is clearly more YA but adults will find it entertaining too. I am also excited to add that I will be hosting an author interview and giving away 2 copies of the book so please check back soon for details!!

Enthusiasts of the era and fans of Downton Abbey will not want to miss this book! I would even dare to call this book, my next guilty pleasure and a must add to my growing Project Downton book scavenger hunt list!

If you can’t wait to read the book, check out an except and summary here:

About the book:

And you thought there were secrets in the Abby . . .

The Darlington family of Wentworth Hall, an elite British family, fills their time by caring for their extensive estate, and looking over their shoulders as they struggle to keep up an elaborate charade to hide their scandalous secrets of illicit romances, and bitter betrayals.

Wentworth Hall is a lush historical novel by debut author Abby Grahame, which is spot-on perfect for fans of Downton Abbey!

Read an excerpt:

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

  • Hardcover, 288 pages
  • Expected publication: May 1st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN 1442451963 (ISBN13: 9781442451964)

This book counts toward: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5 (charming YA novel, rich in juicy gossip and cloaked in secrecy)

Genre: YA, Historic Fiction, Downton Abbey inspired lit

Memorable lines/quotes:

Rich people have have been marrying other rich people for so many generations that by now it’s in there blood. They wouldn’t know how to stop being rich (91)

2 thoughts on “Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame

  1. Fantastic review! It is too bad that the dialogue doesn’t always match the time period but like you mentioned, it is for a teen audience who might not appreciate the way the Dowager Countess of Grantham speaks 🙂

    I am eager to read this one and hope I will enjoy it too as a big fan of Downton Abbey. I’ve heard this book compared to the Luxe series by Anna Godberson too, which I also liked. Thanks for your review!

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