12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2014
I wanted to like Cavendon Hall. Honestly, I wanted to. I wanted a fluffy, nostalgic book to read on rainy days so my expectations were not high going into this. I enjoyed American Heiress and the Lady Darby Mysteries and love Downton Abbey so I was eager to cozy up with this period piece, but what I got was absolute tripe. How has this author published multiple books?
Cavendon Hall is terrible Downton Abbey fan fiction. The characters, from lord to butler to cook are ripped directly from the screen, but stripped of all the foibles and flaws that make Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes compelling characters. The Cavendon Hall versions are idealized, flat, and boring as hell. The dialogue is painful to read; wildly unrealistic and peppered with modern colloquialisms. Ms. Bradford's attempts at conversation are elementary, the first attempts of a freshman creative writing student figuring out how to show instead of tell. She turns everyday conversations into exposition dumps. In what universe would a housekeeper and butler who have been working together for 20+ years discuss their specific duties, step by step, with historical data thrown in to explain the life out of their actions? It's like Ms. Bradford read the wikipedia page on Victorian manners and decided to novelize it to educate her readers.
Even more infuriating is her propensity to spell out every single motion and gesture and sigh her characters take "Lady Boring Version of Mary cocked her head ever so slightly to the right, lifted her hand elegantly to motion to him, stretched her back, crossed the room, stepped onto the stool, and smiled, obviously with pleasure." Yeah. That. That is how she writes. It's torture to read these absurd sentences overflowing with adverbs.
I have low standards for my ideal reading choices, but this bottoms out the bottom. If the plot sounds interesting to you, read The American Heiress. I'm terribly sorry to Ms. Bradford but this is inexcusably bad writing and her editors should be ashamed of themselves.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2014
It's just ok. Perhaps not. A bit hard to suspend disbelief for the whole length of this Barbara Cartlandish book. Stunningly beautiful daughters,stilted cliche ridden dialogue, improbable people and events, mysterious gypsies,secret vows and oaths, all laid on liberally trowel thick. If you like something shallow, something that doesn't require too many brain cells to fire at the same time, you'll enjoy this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2014
The jacket summary piqued my interest, the actual content left me disappointed.
My first BTB reading experience, undoubtedly my last. I was hesitant to begin with, I should have paid attention to my inner voice. I'm not into authors mass producing books, and this experience validated my skepticism.
The narrative had possibilities but it veered off track. The writing was oversimplified, and the characters strained. The relationship between the servants and the aristocrats - absolutely implausible. The ending was frustrating, there was no ending but merely a prelude for the next installment which I find insulting.
I found the entire book to be a bit melodramatic for my tastes, not at all what I was expecting.
An easy read, great if you're looking to kill time without putting forth cerebral effort, and not expecting narrative/characters of substance .
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2014
CAVENDON HALL is a really, really, terrible novel. I mean, to the point of being abysmally bad. It's utterly slow, it's poorly plotted, and these characters are all cliches - not only false to their times, but characters of a kind so beloved of hack writers trying to recreate the Edwardian social scene: Devoted servants who serve unquestioningly - kindly, concerned aristo masters who make friends of the servants - with Big Secrets shared between them. And, all too often, secret love affairs.
*** Edited to add, at a reader's request: This review contains massive SPOILERS, so don't read the following six paragraphs unless you want these details: ***
"I need my devoted Swanns on the estate, where they belong ..." says David Ingham, Fifth Earl of Mowbray, to his secret lover, Charlotte Swann (who recalls these words *lovingly*). "Then I will be able to rest in peace." Another Swann-servant remembers that "The Ingham men were fatal to the Swann women, and vice versa." "All that messing around between the Inghams and the Swanns had gone on for 160 years."
At this point - pretty early in the novel - I wasn't sure if I was reading fiction, or a case history about the longest Stockholm Syndrome of record.
The female characters don't even have pretty names! Dulcie? Felicity? DeLacy? The author overuses their noble titles constantly, just for example: "The Earl of Mowbray, the baby's grandfather, was equally as happy as his wife;" "Charles Ingham, the Sixth Earl of Mowbray, was upset, angry and exhausted," or, "the countess had been suffering from exhaustion lately and was only now more like her old self." "Instantly her mind focused on David Ingham, the Fifth Earl of Mowbray." "I'm glad the fifth earl installed electricity ..."
As for historical accuracy, even though it's 1914, one female character is named Jill, and she's worked as another (male) character's personal assistant - plus, this Jill is referred to as a "P.A." -- this, in an era when a woman would have had difficulty getting training to be a typist. Hugo Stanton knows there's going to be a war and hides his funds in Swiss bank accounts, warning the Earl of Mowbray to do the same. One character, of the servant class no less, speaks of her ambition to be a "famous fashion designer" in an era that had barely yet welcomed Coco Chanel. A footman addresses the butler, Hanson, as "Hanson," and goes on to tell him that he and a maid are going to be married - without causing even a raised eyebrow from the butler, in an era when servants were not generally permitted to be married, and lost their positions when they did. (But we the readers are only supposed to feel this frisson of horror because the footman wants to be married in - da, da, da, dum - August, 1914.) And I can't forget to mention the Romany gypsy girl on the Mowbray estate, who thinks, "que sera sera" - how nice, I wasn't aware that Romany people used that something-like Spanish phrase, popularized by Doris Day in the 1950's, in 1913/14. Wow.
Why a well-to-do man from a neighboring family attacks Lady Daphne, and seemingly hangs around the Ingham family threateningly, is never explained (there's no mention of any enmity between the two families). And why Daphne is content to passively malign the rapist's dead brother, allowing her parents and others to believe it was the gentle brother who raped her, is also never explained. The First World War is quickly started and just as quickly run through in a couple of chapters, conveniently killing off one Cavendon Hall son but also conveniently leaving one other behind, so there's an heir for the 1920's era. (A pity the author didn't kill off one or two of the mostly interchangeable four daughters.)
Characters persistently feel things instantaneously, such as Hugo who falls in love in Daphne the very second he meets her - totally based on her physical appearance, I might add. The love between childhood friends Miles Ingham and Cecily Swann will go on forever, although he "must" marry a girl from a good family to perpetuate the pure Ingham line.
*** (END of spoilers) ***
Oh, my, gentle, Jesus. When I consider there might be a decent historical novel out there, properly *researched*, maybe written by a first-time author who's struggling to find a publisher ....and yet, a faked-historical, melodramatic and downright POOR book such as THE CAVENDONS can get published, AND find a reading public willing to PRAISE it - it just infuriates me.
I think it's the false social picture and bastardized history lessons that bother me more than the poor writing here. I hate the thought that readers may actually think Barbara Taylor Bradford's version of pre-WW1 British society is an accurate one. This actually bothers me more than the plot holes, the shallow characters, and the ridiculous dialogues they engage in. This author needs to be ashamed of producing this crap.
LESS THAN ZERO STARS. Don't waste your time - I wish I hadn't. But, if you must read this travesty, at least borrow the book from a library. Please don't put any money in the pockets of Ms. Bradford or her publisher.