Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: Wentworth Hall

Wentworth Hall on Goodreads

Have you heard of a little show called Downton Abbey?

Okay, well, here's a confession: I want to marry Downton Abbey.

Seriously. I can't think of a single TV show, past or present, that has such attention to historical and aesthetic detail, and such an engrossing, compelling story, and such fabulous characters.

The characters are the real draw to Downton Abbey. The haughty, proud Lady Mary, heart-throbby Matthew, noble and kindly Mr. Bates, and my personal favourite, the dastardly evil Thomas... even the lesser characters are fully realized and make you care about them so much. I've actually had sleepless nights over the fates of some of these fictional people. Not even mere "oh, I wonder what's going to happen." No, by "sleepless night," I mean actual tossing, turning, and incessant worrying about whether or not they're going to be okay.

Words can't describe, okay? Really. Truly. It beats me why I so enjoy having my heart ripped to shreds by this damn TV show, but I love it. 

So, that's the background of Wentworth Hall. There's no beating around the bush: this book was written to piggyback off the success of Downton Abbey. I'm almost 100% sure that this book was done by a packager, and I don't know if Abby Grahame is a real person. If you look on the copyright page, this book's copyright belongs to Simon & Schuster -- copyrights always belong to the author unless it's work-for-hire, so. 

I knew about this book and wanted to read it even before I ever watched the entire first season of Downton in two days, though. Just look at that gorgeous cover. You KNOW there's something going on between those characters, and you've just GOT to find out, don't you?

Here's my advice: resist. This book is nowhere CLOSE to the depth and beauty that is Downton Abbey. If Downton Abbey is the ocean, Wentworth Hall is a puddle. You could finish this book in under an hour, easily (it took me a few days but I'm busy and not a fast reader these days anyway). The dialogue is wooden. The characters, while a couple approach two dimensions, never once feel like real people. There are historical errors that even I, someone who only knows about this period and setting through Downton Abbey, could spot a mile away. The butler is called "the head butler" at one point -- um, there's only one butler per household, so the title of "head butler" does not exist. The family's last name is Darlington, and the father is referred to as Lord Darlington. But that's not the way titles work. Using Downton Abbey as an example... the Earl's family's surname is Crawley, but their title is Grantham. Therefore, they're referred to as Lord Grantham, Lady Grantham, etc. The family in Wentworth Hall has a title, but what is it? I dunno. They're always called by their last name.

There are a couple decent twists in here, but they would mean so much more if the characters were deeper and we felt like they were real people rather than cardboard cutouts. If some of the twists were on Downton Abbey, they would have my heart pounding and they would make me gasp at the reveal. But here, my eyebrows barely raised. 

I guess what makes me mad about this book is the sheer wasted potential. So, so much of a waste. A YA Downton Abbey, done to its full potential, would be FABULOUS. Hey, maybe I should write it...

The other thing that made me mad -- but also made me laugh out loud -- was the typos. There were two in particular that actually made tears come from my eyes they were so bad. I would quote them directly but I can't remember what pages and can't be bothered to check.

1) Someone "nooded" hello to someone else.

2) There's a discussion about a secret a certain character is keeping about who the father of a certain baby is, and one character asks, "Who is it?" and the other replies, "She's liked a locked safe!"

BAHAHAHAHAHA. Be careful of typos: because you're only one letter away from making it sound like your main character had sexual intercourse with a locked safe.

In conclusion, I can't recommend this. Watch Downton Abbey and have your heart ripped out (in the most pleasant, perfect way)