I love to read just about anything, as long as it's fiction. I read for me - that means I read what I want, when I want. My reviews tend to mostly be based on how I'm able to personally connect with the story/characters. They are not intended to influence someone to read, or not read, a particular book. I always encourage people to take a chance and make up your own mind.
Oh, and I love chocolate.
This book was given to me as a gift a couple years ago for Christmas. I had put it on my list, needing to give my family some ideas. I think I had fallen for the "Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal..." line on the cover.
Yes, there was a Downton Abbey feel, mixed in with some Upstairs Downstairs. But no, it was not a good substitute for either one.
Overall I liked the story and the direction it took. There was never any real 'drama' that played out beyond the usual for that time period. In general, I liked most of the characters for their individual differences. I felt that much of it was true to that time - the mother who wanted to purchase a title for her daughter, the spoiled rich heiress, the Duke who married for either money or love, the conniving mistress, the disapproving mother-in-law, and the awkward sister-in-law.
While the cast of characters was what you'd expect, I was a bit pleased that Cora wasn't exceptionally weak. She was naive and spoiled, but I do think she showed tremendous grace in some truly awful situations.
One of the issues I had with this book was the relationship between Cora and Ivo, the Duke. He proposed marriage in less than a week - which I'm OK with given the time period. However, we're never given a reason why he married her. We know that Cora agreed to marriage as a way to get away from her mother. As the story progresses, we're told from Cora and others that they are in fact in love with each other. However, I never figured out why she loved him other than his kiss made her weak in the knees. We also never see why Ivo asked Cora to marry him or that he actually loved her. His one 'proof' that he gives Cora near the end of how he was publicly declaring his love for her (at least to one person specifically) is, in my opinion, complete crap. That's not a show of love - just the opposite. Yet Cora believes him without hesitation. It was all just a stretch for me.
This book is told through multiple PoV's. In general, I'm not a huge fan of more than 2 PoV's in a book, but I have read some where it's done very well. This is not one of them. It was too many, resulting in my inability to become attached to any of the characters. It could have been so much better had it been limited to the perspective of Cora and her maid Bertha.
Finally, this book was way too long. A good 100 pages could have been cut. Way too much descriptive detail about dresses and couches and tapestries.