Review: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Sunday, March 16, 2014
Title: Manor of Secrets
Author: Katherine Longshore
Genre: historical fiction
Series: NA
Pages: 320
Publication: January 28, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5
The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance.

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

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The nineteen-tens were such a turbulent time in English history, but except for a few references to cars, I feel like this book could have been set anywhere around the Regency/Georgian eras.

Lady Charlotte is the youngest of six and feels forgotten and overlooked. Her mother is an old-fashioned lady and wants Charlotte to follow in her footsteps by marrying a lord, having children, and running a household. But Charlotte’s a dreamer who wants to marry for love and write grand adventure stories. There is literally nothing in that description that couldn’t happen in any time period. I read that story set in 1280. I’ve read that story in 1820. And now I’m reading it in 1911. It’s boring and nothing new is brought to the table.

The other point of view, Janie, the adventurous kitchen maid, is a little more interesting, if only because I haven’t read a lot of novels set Downstairs. Janie was born at THE MANOR, but left for most of her childhood to starve on an uncle’s farm. Now she’s back and determined to keep her head down and do good work so she can stay forever. But Charlotte’s mom is super strict, especially about romance between staff members, which is unfortunate because Janie is trapped in a love triangle between the dashing footman and the dependable hall boy.

For a book with secrets in the title, the story is actually pretty light on them. It’s really about the friendship that blooms between a highborn lady and her servant and the backlash as the staff gossips uproariously and makes Janie’s life miserable for thinking above her station. I do like that idea, but it’s also where my biggest problem lies. Charlotte is a selfish, spoiled, pain in the ass. Her head is so far in the clouds, she can’t see what she’s doing to Janie’s life and she really doesn’t care.

This is highlighted clearly in a conversation between the main characters in which Charlotte throws a temper tantrum because Sarah, her maid, won’t send Janie upstairs. Janie finally arrives, terrified that Charlotte has information about a servant who is going to be sacked, maybe even Janie herself. Charlotte, without acknowledging the distress she’s put Janie through, confesses that her mother’s top marriage prospect is going to talk to her father after dinner. This is why she embarrassed Sarah, got Janie in trouble, and turned the staff upside down. Because she doesn’t want a proposal from a hot, rich lord.

I will shed one single tear for her. Ugh.

The book is at its most successful when Charlotte is Downstairs and learning about the lives and hopes of her staff. Unfortunately, too much time is devoted to the love heptagon, (Charlotte and Janie and Sarah all like Lawrence, who’s a bit of a cad, but Fran likes Andrew who likes Charlotte and Harry likes Janie who also likes him, but she likes Lawrence too, but he kissed...I need a lie down,) instead of the girls learning and growing. The big secret joining them all is actually a surprise when it’s revealed, but the way it plays out is pretty nuts. It asks us to forgive all of the villains, (who now act totally against type,) ignore the fallout of a scandal, and see characters change their lifelong dreams on a dime. There’s also a mysterious illness that is absolutely never explained.

Manor of Secrets is not poorly written, though, again, I wish the time period felt more impactful on daily life. Charlotte and Janie’s voices are different, which is always important to multi-POV stories. I don’t hate any of the love interests that I’m supposed to like. But, I also don’t like the characters I’m supposed to like. Even with the big twist end, I don’t have a single strong feeling about anything but the fact that Charlotte is an overdramatic crybaby.


  1. Good review! I'm glad that you were honest because I really didn't know how to feel about the book when I first read the synopsis. The whole 'secret' thing seemed to vague. And a love heptagon? That's confusing! And I totally get it when you say that historical books can sometimes lap together!

    1. Thank you! The love tangle was definitely my least favorite part, because it's a lot of drama for people to end up pretty much where you expect.

      I wanted to like it, though. Hopefully I'll have better luck with the author's Tudor series.

  2. I was really leery of this one despite my excitement over a new Katherine Longshore book (I loved Gilt). I'm a total sucker for anything Downton but most comparisons aren't deserving. This one sounds like one I'll be skipping on but thank you for the informative review! :)

    1. Thanks for reading it!

      I haven't seen Downton yet, (watching it with my girlfriend this weekend, actually,) so I can't say how it compares. (But I know they deal with the dissolving servant class, the Titanic, the great war...) The book happens closer to the Mod era than the Regency but I never felt any of the time period in the story.


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