By: Elizabeth Cooke
Publisher: Berkley Books, New York
Publishing Date: July 2013
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: July 2013
It is Christmas Eve at Rutherford Park and all the stockings are definitely not hung with care or any other emotion. This is a very cold group of people gathered to celebrate the birth of Our Lord in an English Country Mansion where people ride to the hounds and change their clothes four times a day in order to look better than the person sitting next to them.
The owner of Rutherford Park, William Cavendish, rules the roost; the roost being his wife, Octavia and their three children, son Harry and two daughters, Louisa and Charlotte. He rules with his own ruler without any compassion or guidance for his family besides his RULES. The parents find out that Harry has been a bad boy having a fling with the housemaid, Emily, that results in an unwanted pregnancy. Emily is devastated and can’t imagine what she’s going to do so she walks into the river. She is rescued by the stable boy but eventually passes away leaving a baby daughter. Harry feels guilty but there are RULES for the upper class that state that the upper classes cannot marry below their station and the families have to clean up all their children’s messes.
Octavia seems to be a very cold individual too although she does secretly arrange care for Emily's child. While in London for her daughter’s coming out, she receives a visit from a young man claiming to be her husband’s son from a relationship with a distant relative. This knocks her back a bit and she goes home to Rutherford Park to brood. She can’t even tell her maid or housekeeper as they are not allowed to know the business of their employers even though they always know what’s going on anyway.
In the meantime, World War I is looming over the countryside and Harry wants to be a pilot and get away from his family and all the responsibility for the suffering that he has caused. Octavia wants Harry to stay at home and deal with his problems but Harry wants none of it. There is a definite choice that Octavia will have to make that will change the whole thinking of the family of the privileged and the people who wait on them.
Rutherford Park is an interesting story with very defined characters that has been done before; Downton Abbyand The Forsyte Saga. The author writes about these folks as if she lived the life and that is good for the reader. The novel moves fast and relationships change rapidly to both upstairs and downstairs pre-WWI England.
Quill says: There is excellent historical fiction in this book that covers the contrasts of master and servant in the English aristocracy very well.