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Upstairs, Downstairs

Meghan reviews Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed, a sure way to deal with the inevitable, imminent Downton Abbey withdrawal.

Upstairs, Downstairs

BOOK REPORT for Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Cover Story: Gossip Girl, 1910
BFF Charm: Make it Rain
Swoonworthy Scale: An Instalove-Defying 8
Talky Talk: Sudsy
Bonus Factors: Downton Abbey, Feminism, LGBTQ
Relationship Status: I Will Wait For You

Cover Story: Gossip Girl, 1910

I didn't mind this cover -- it's totally appropriate for the book. Secrets, jealousy, major bitchiness, the yoozh. It's not the most dignified of covers, but I think right now Downton Abbey fever will be enough to excuse it in public.

The Deal:

Lady Ada Averley, her father, and younger sister left India for their family home, Somerton, under a cloud of suspicion. Her father resigned from his government post, and gossip follows them wherever they go. It doesn't help that Ada's not the best young lady to save her family's reputation -- not only is she dying to go to Oxford University and get the vote, she totally made out with a stranger on the boat. An Indian stranger.

Her new lady's maid, Rose, is having a tough time, too. She's never had such a position before, and definitely doesn't know who to trust with the secrets from both above and below stairs.

BFF Charm: Make it Rain

There weren't many characters I didn't absolutely L-O-V-E, and that includes the ones I was supposed to hate. Like with O'Brien and Thomas on Downton, the world would be a much duller place without the scheming servants and flat-out EVIL social climbers. Ada's development happens pretty quickly (to make room for more scandal, natch), and I loved watching her go from sheltered colonial girl to young suffragette. Rose is maybe a bit too sweet and innocent, but something tells me that won't last forever. And the many boys? I love them ALL. I don't want to get into spoilers by naming names, but the boys are ADORBS, every last damn one of them.

Swoonworthy Scale: An Instalove-Defying 8

Ok, so it's instalove. But for once, I don't care, because it's H-O-T forbidden instalove! And while in a world where bare hand-to-hand contact is strictly forbidden unless you're engaged, it doesn't take much to make sparks fly, the chemistry between Ada and Ravi is instant and smokin', and based on intellect as much as looks.

Talky Talk: Sudsy

Rasheed's book rockets along on soapy gossip, scandal, and intrigue. It's the perfect recipe for cold (or unseasonably hot), damp winter days, and ensures you won't put this book down until it's finished. Each of the characters has a juicy secret, and it's only a matter of time before they come out in spectacular, destructive ways. What's really fun, though, is Rasheed still manages to talk about things like colonialism, women's rights, and GLBTQ rights, and all in an intelligent, organic way that doesn't read like Issues Inserted to Serious-ify a Soap Opera Plot.

Bonus Factor: Downton Abbey

Last night, I was all, "Golden Globes? What Golden Globes?" mainly because the only TV shows I watch all year are Teen Wolf (and that one only for FYA), and Downton Abbey. I have no DVR (or even a cable box -- gasp!), so nothing else deserves a strict date with my TV. Anyway, THIS is what I want to read when I can't get my Lady Edith and Dowager Countess fix. It's set a bit earlier than Downton, in 1910, which makes for a nice change in the issues explored.

Bonus Factor: Feminism

Why, hello Ms. Pankhurst! Thank you for campaigning so hard for me to get the vote and to be able to go to university, to be allowed to use my brain for more than running a household. Now, where are you and my countrywoman Ms. Cady Stanton now that I would like equal pay for equal work, and to be able to work and raise my children without being looked down on by people on BOTH sides of the working mother/stay-at-home mother debate? Ah, hell, at least I did get to vote.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

I really enjoyed the LGBTQ subplot, and not just because the romance was sizzling. Rasheed seemed to capture the angst and desperation of such a relationship, especially one that's limited by class lines and so subject to exploitation. My heart aches for the young men.

Casting Call:

I'd really love to cast Kartik from A Great and Terrible Beauty as Ravi, but it's probably not done to cast fictional characters, is it? That dashes my hopes to cast three-quarters of the Downton Abbey characters here, too (not the actors, the characters).

Freddie Stroma as Sebastian (one of the delicious boys I can't introduce, but also can't wait for you to meet)

William Moseley as Lord Fintan

Jessie Cave as Charlotte

Relationship Status: I Will Wait For You

Not very patiently, mind, but I will wait. You captured my imagination and my heart, and so I'll be spending the next, oh, eleven months compulsively checking my phone for texts and my email for messages from you. Don't go breaking my heart!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Hyperion.  I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Cinders & Sapphires will be available January 22.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.