Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for. It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been…even as their carefully constructed facade rapidly comes undone.
Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one…the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever. When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.
My Thoughts: I just resolved to give YA novels a chance this year so when I was offered the chance to review Wentworth Hall, I decided to give it a go. Though I have not had the pleasure of viewing Downton Abbey (something I need to remedy-and soon!), Wentworth has been described as sort of a DA for the teen crowd. While I don't know if this is quite true since I have yet to see the show, I do know that Wentworth Hall brings fun and a heavy dose of drama to the YA genre.
The Darlingtons of Wentworth are a once great family whose fortunes are on the decline. The story focuses on the two Darlington daughters: Eighteen year old Maggie-the once wild and carefree elder sister who underwent a transformation during her time in Europe that turned her into a serious and reserved young woman, and 16 year old Lila who longs to conquer her shyness and be viewed as the beautiful young lady she is becoming. Everyone at Wentworth Hall has a secret-Maggie, Lila, Therese-the beautiful French maid, Lord and Lady Darlington, even Michael the handsome stable groom! Adding to the drama are the Fitzhugh twins-the rich orphaned offspring of Lord Darlington's recently departed friend who have come to stay at the hall until they turn eighteen and come into their inheritance. I thought Grahame did a good job of showing the inner workings of early 1900's society in England. If your family has an old name, you must do everything you can to keep the appearances of wealth and prestige even if you no longer have the finances to do so. Also the focus on marrying the Darlington girls off in wealthy matches seemed spot on too. I really enjoyed the character of the younger sister Lila and also the Fitzhugh twins-Teddy and Jessica. The intrigue surrounding who was responsible for the scathing satires being written about the Darlington family in the local paper was quite entertaining.
There were a few issues for me while reading though. One is the consistency of Lila. Even though she is supposed to be 16 and desperate for people to view her as more adult, some of her inner dialogues at the beginning of the novel seemed a little juvenile-like something someone younger than 16 would think/feel. She did seem to grow up a bit as the book progressed though. Second, I thought there was a great opportunity missed with the characters of Teddy and Jessica Fitzhugh. I found the gorgeous and entitled Teddy and the snobby mean girl Jessica to be diverting characters who were sorely underutilized. They seemed to fade further into the background as the book went on which I was sorry to see because I thought they could have caused much more havoc if given the chance. Third, I thought the ending was kind of abrupt. The secrets start to unravel, the pace of the book quickens as the characters react, and then the book springs a bit forward in time rather unexpectedly as we are given the conclusions for all the story arcs with the various characters. I would have liked to see the ending fleshed out a bit more. Also since almost all the novel was confined to Wentworth Hall, you don't get a lot of historical content beyond the society circles.
This novel was a quick and enjoyable read. I think it works well for a YA adult audience or for an adult reader looking for something light and fun. It might not be your cup of tea if you're not big on the drama or prefer a lot of historical content though.
I received this book from Big Honcho Media in exchange for an honest review.
Undecided? You can read an excerpt of Wentworth Hall here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/88290355/Wentworth-Hall-Excerpt
And now for the giveaway!
To celebrate the release of Wentworth Hall, I have up for grabs a Simon & Schuster YA prize pack consisting of: 1 copy of Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame, 1 copy of This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel and 1 copy of Changeling by Philippa Gregory!
To Enter: Leave your name and email address in the comments. One extra entry each will be given for spreading the word via Twitter, Facebook, or on your blog :)
Giveaway is open to: US
Giveaway Ends: Midnight May 20th. Winner will be announced on May 21st.