My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It is April of 1912 and Katherine Ramsey has come to London to do the “season.” Under the sponsorship of her aunt, Lady Louisa Gatewood—her own parents have both died—it is her goal to come out as a debutante, enjoy a flurry of balls, teas, parties, and other social events, in the process find a sufficiently well-heeled man and arrange, to the satisfaction of all, a suitable marriage.
Of course things don’t turn out quite that cut-and-dried in Carrie Turansky’s The Daughter of Highland Hall. Kate’s own guardian, second-cousin Lord William Ramsey is betrothed to a commoner (Julia Fowler) the governess of his children by a previous marriage. Soon Jon Fowler, Julia’s brother and a medical student, complicates things by proving an attractive distraction for Kate. William’s own careless-living brother David gets in the papers, causing society’s tongues to wag.
In the shadow of the scandal, the ever-critical and nagging Aunt Louisa and her young charge find themselves ignored and on the outs. This gives Kate more time to spend with Jon, who gets her involved in volunteering at a London East End hospital and attending lectures sponsored by the Salvation Army. Thus Kate’s eyes are opened to issues far bigger than whether her calendar is full, what dress she should wear, and how to style her hair.
Turansky is good at delving into the minutiae of the English social season, describing the clothes, food, etiquette, and small talk.
I never felt a heart connection to any of the characters, though. They were likeable enough but felt a little wooden and stock to me—the good ones too good and the bad thoroughly bad.
The writing was adequate though did seem to bog down in parts with excessive author description and explanation versus telling action.
However, I felt Turansky did a good job of exploring issues of social class and custom, showing how the rich were preoccupied with superficial concerns while the poor suffered in need and squalor. By bringing the Salvation Army and the London Missionary Society into the plot, she showed how Christian organizations were beginning to tackle social justice issues at home and abroad. She also did a good job of connecting such movements to the wellspring of a personal faith.
This Edwardian tale reminded me of a Jane Austen story of English manners meeting the upstairs / downstairs life of Downton Abbey, but delivered from an outspokenly Christian point of view.
I received The Daughter of Highland Hall as a gift from the publisher Multnomah Books through Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing a review.
Star rating based on the Goodreads scale:
***** – It was amazing
**** – I really liked it
*** – I liked it
** – It was okay
* – I did not like it