Book Tour Review: Ravenscliffe by JAne Sanderson

Thursday, January 30, 2014
Title: Ravenscliffe
Author: Jane Sanderson
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Eve Williams #2
Pages: 544
Published: January 28 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

Yorkshire, 1904. On Netherwood Common, Russian √©migr√© Anna Rabinovich shows her dear friend Eve Williams a gracious Victorian villa—Ravenscliffe—the house Anna wants them to live in. There's a garden and a yard and room enough for their children to play and grow.
Something about the house speaks to Anna, and you should listen to a house, she believes...Ravenscliffe holds the promise of happiness.

Across the square, Clarissa and her husband, the Earl of Netherwood, are preparing for King Edward's visit. Clarissa is determined to have everything in top shape at Netherwood Hall—in spite of the indolent heir to the estate, Tobias, and his American bride—and much of it depends on the work going on downstairs as the loyal servants strive to preserve the noble family's dignity and reputation.

As Anna restores Ravenscliffe to its full grandeur, she strikes up a relationship with hardworking Amos Sykes—who proposed to Eve just one year ago.

But when Eve's long-lost brother Silas turns up in their close-knit mining community, cracks begin to appear in even the strongest friendships.

As change comes to the small town and society at large, the residents of Netherwood must find their footing or lose their place altogether.

The second novel featuring (mostly) the same cast of characters in the same area of Yorkshire during the turn of the century, Ravenscliffe is a return to form for Jane Sanderson. Fans of Netherwood will find more to enjoy with the series' second outing, though it can also be read on its own merit as a standalone. It's a more than solid follow-up to a promising first novel, and will likely cement Sanderson's status as an author who can be counted on to create atmospheric reads peopled with lifelike characters.

The strength of both these books lie in the characters and their many, varied relationships with one another. They are the big draw when it comes to this series. As both the books have been mostly character-driven, rather than plot-driven, pieces, it pays to pay attention to who is who and how they relate to the other characters while reading Ravenscliffe. There are some new faces added to the cast for the sequel, but the best aspect is how real this community, as a whole, feels.  This has been advertised for fans of Downton Abbey (and I can't vouch for the accuracy of that) but I can tell you that if complex and difficult character relationships are your thing, Ravenscliffe has that in spades.

For all that both books (and an upcoming third) are billed as the Eve Williams' series, I find myself interested in the supporting/side/bit characters more than the supposed main one. For me, Anna Rabinovich, the Russiam emigre introduced midway through Netherwood has always been the real heart of the books. Henrietta, as well, deserves a mention for being a thoroughly engaging and interesting woman. It's both refreshing and just plain nice to see a novel that features so many strong, different kinds of women. I liked a lot of the male characters, but the women are definitely my favorites to read about.

I say this is character-driven (and it is) but that doesn't mean there's no plot to be found. There is and while it wasn't my favorite plot, the family dramas and the upstairs/downstairs tensions are handled well. They both form the main conflicts in the story, but it feels stretched when applied to nearly 550 pages of novel. The beginning, which takes a while to get moving, and middle suffer the most from the misguided plotting. There's just not enough plot to last the entire page-length. I did enjoy Ravenscliffe but it could stand to have several sections edited way, way down.

Edwardian Yorkshire might not be the most popular area for historical fiction, but Jane Sanderson has put her stamp on the era. Her characterization is strong, her atmosphere is all encompassing and her novels are dense historical stories. It might take a bit longer than you'd like to read it all, but Ravenscliffe has more than enough to recommend it for a read.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like the kind of book you need to read slowly and really pay attention to - I love that kind of book!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.


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