Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
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. (Goodreads)
The Darlingtons, a respected and elite family who lives at Wentworth Hall, a sprawling estate once dripping with opulence, are taking in the twin son and daughter of a recently deceased (and very wealthy) family friend. The twins are to remain with the family until they turn eighteen and receive a large inheritance. Lord Darlington thinks he’s playing like a sly fox, hoping to get some of the money for himself as the Darlingtons aren’t quite as well off as they’d like everyone to believe–but it’s obvious his intentions are less altruistic. As the twins, Teddy and Jessica settle in it becomes clear that Teddy has his sights set on Maggie Darlington, the eldest daughter of the family. Maggie couldn’t be less interested because…she has a secret (and an old crush on the stable boy, Michael). None of this helps her relationship with her little sister, Lila, who’s pretty sick of Maggie getting all the attention.
A gossip column that is clearly about the Darlintons begins to circulate and it’s obvious the author is someone inside Wentworth Hall. Most every character, from the Darligton girls, the houseguests and the young servants, could have a possible motive and now no one knows who they can trust.
I was looking forward to reading this because it held the promise of scandal, love and this fabulous 1912 Titanic-era setting, complete with gorgeous fashions and men in hats (le sigh). There were some interesting moments and I could see where Grahame was going with it all, but it fell flat for me. The story itself felt like a soap opera and I was unable to feel truly invested in the characters. Some were downright difficult to like.
While I was interested in the history between Maggie and Michael, there wasn’t great detail there and as it all impact’s Maggie’s big secret, her story, which could have been powerful, was a sidenote in a book with multiple stories that really didn’t go anywhere. It was as if the interesting stuff had already happened and I was hearing about it after the fact. And the writing, though I believe it was well-intended for the era of the story, felt overdone at times.
I wish I had more positive things to say as I was so pleased to have the chance to review this and relished the opportunity to interview the author recently, but unfortunately I just didn’t love this book.
Crush Intensity: 2.0/5
Sincere thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.