Thursday, January 14, 2016

REVIEW: Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Cavendon Hall
by Barbara Taylor Bradford

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Page Count: 416
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Format: Kindle

How got: free copy from publisher

First attention getter: the pretty cover


From GoodReads:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic saga of intrigue and mystique set in Edwardian England. 

Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, lives there with his wife Felicity and their six children. Walter Swann, the premier male of the Swann family, is valet to the earl. His wife Alice, a clever seamstress who is in charge of the countess's wardrobe, also makes clothes for the four daughters. 

For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl's daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. 

With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again. 

Cavendon Hall is Barbara Taylor Bradford at her very best, and its sweeping story of secrets, love, honor, and betrayal will have readers riveted up to the very last page.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - a VERY generous 2

The only reason I finished this book was because I got it free for review. If I hadn’t, I’d have dropped it long ago! Filled with issues up the wazoo, it’s only saved from total horribleness by a few empathetic characters and good scene-setting skills. I’ve been given book two as well, so here’s definitely hoping that’s it done tons better…

Hugo and at a certain point, Daphne, save this book from total destruction. I found Hugo very sympathetic, caring, and protective. I also found his rage at what happened to Daphne and how he dealt with it towards the end of the book credible and very human. After the devastating event mentioned in the description happens, I found Daphne at least somewhat three-dimensional in her emotional response and how she deals with it. I admired her courage, resourcefulness, and deep heart.

The author is also talented at her writing skills when it comes to scene-setting. Edwardian England has never been more bucolic and beautiful. The grounds of the Cavendon estate and the house itself are lovingly described, and the gorgeous fashions of the times are vivid enough to be seen in my mind’s eye. So good job there.

However, after those two points, this book goes downhill REAL fast. First off is the rest of the characterizations, and even at times, our leads. Every single character falls prey to a stereotype or two-dimensional characterization. Most of them never leave that level. Everyone is oh so beautiful, truthful, loyal, and good. Or they’re slimy, evil, raping bastards. Or they’re degenerate, weak-willed aristocrats who care nothing for others. Need I go on? Even Hugo and Daphne fall prey to stereotypes, but at least they show some development and leaving those behind.

What really gets me is that most of the character stereotypes in this book are ripped right from Downton Abbey, even down to the phrasing of words! The overbearing, loud cook (“Guts for garters” my eye!!!), the timid kitchen maid, the smarmy footman, the self-absorbed, mean sister, the devoted valet…. The list goes on! I mean seriously, if you’re trying to evoke the world of Downton Abbey, fine, but it doesn’t have to be an alternate version of the same…

The author also keeps harping on the whole Ingham/Swann family connection. Where this could have been a neat difference from Downton Abbey, two families devoted to each other over the centuries due to intense historical connection, the author makes this repetitive and boring. I lost count how many times the oath of “Loyalty binds us” was pulled out of the closet, dusted off, and stuffed into the narrative. This story aspect was just used so many times that it lost any individuality it could have contributed to the story and just became a droning cliché.

Yet, the biggest problem this book has, to me, is its pacing and flow issues. The first two thirds of the book is dedicated to melodramatic crises in a pastoral English estate over roughly a year. Even the events that could be truly traumatic, like the devastating event that hits Daphne and what happens to Dulcie, read as easily solved and gotten over. Priorities are truly skewed in these instances as the different people involved focus on how to minimize damage rather than solve issues.

Then once the author approaches the rumble of WWI and the devastating effects this could have on the characters and their relationships, roughly 5-6 years are crammed into 50-70 pages. I mean, really?!?! All that dramatic content tacked onto the end as if an epilogue or lost chapter? Everything is so crammed in that it reads like the author just wanted to hurriedly finish the book and get it to the publisher, pronto! I feel there was a huge missed opportunity here that could have risen this book so much in terms of storytelling and dramatic content.

So while a few of the characters evidence some development and the scenes are very pretty, this book lacks big time in almost every area. From characterization to pacing issues to misguided story ideas, this book lacks any punch at all. Like I mentioned, if I hadn’t received it free from the publisher for review, I wouldn’t have finished. I’ve been given book two as well so I’ll give it a shot. But if stuff doesn’t improve a TON from book 1, that one might end up a DNF. Two stars is being very generous… Look elsewhere for reading material, I advise.

Note: Book received for free from publisher in exchange for honest review (and I was VERY honest!).

1 comment:

  1. I read this book when it was first released and was very disappointed. So much so that I didn't bother with the sequel. A shame really as I had enjoyed Barbara Taylor Bradford's earlier novels.