Manor of Secrets
by Katherine Longshore
Author Katherine Longshore’s latest novel takes place in the yesteryears of British aristocracy – a subject with which she has extensive experience. It was a time when the lifelong ambitions of Ladys, Lords, and Earls consisted of an elevation through marriage or a larger castle. A time when adhering to etiquette was immutable. A time when cricket and hunting, silks and chiffons, bridge and balls were the major delights. A time when there was a chasm between those who lived upstairs and their servants who lived downstairs. Perspicaciously, the author exposes the root of the predicament through the characters of Lord Broadhurst and Lady Charlotte: “What makes me better than [the servant] over there? Or better than you [a woman who can’t vote]? Nothing.” “Nothing except the circumstances of your birth.” “Which I don’t accept as a good enough reason. The greatest injustice is that I never have to work a day in my life, while someone like [that servant] will one day get sick or break a leg and will be out of a job with no food, no doctor, and nothing but squalor to look forward to until he dies.”
This story is an excellent choice for young readers who want to live vicariously within the glamorous strictures of early 20th Century British society, i.e. Downton Abbey or Upstairs, Downstairs. The language and scenes are appropriately filtered for a young audience. There is a mixture of romance, realism, decorum, adventure, and mystery, not to mention secrets. Even within the strict confines of 1911 politesse, there were secrets and betrayal which alter the destinies of several of the characters – both upstairs and downstairs. Throughout this story, I believe the author artfully proposes a grand argument: that there would not be the need for so many devastating secrets if there were more choices within their society. The ending is satisfyingly complete, but does leave room for the possibility of a sequel.
This captivating story with endearing characters is recommended for ages 12 years and up.
Education Resource Center
University of Delaware