Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke

Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 2, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "For the Cavendish family, Rutherford Park is much more than a place to call home. It is a way of life marked by rigid rules and lavish rewards, governed by unspoken desires….  Lady of the house Octavia Cavendish lives like a bird in a gilded cage. With her family’s fortune, her husband, William, has made significant additions to the estate, but he too feels bound—by the obligations of his title as well as his vows. Their son, Harry, is expected to follow in his footsteps, but the boy has dreams of his own, like pursuing the new adventure of aerial flight. Meanwhile, below stairs, a housemaid named Emily holds a secret that could undo the Cavendish name. On Christmas Eve 1913, Octavia catches a glimpse of her husband in an intimate moment with his beautiful and scandalous distant cousin. She then spies the housemaid Emily out in the snow, walking toward the river, about to make her own secret known to the world. As the clouds of war gather on the horizon, an epic tale of longing and betrayal is about to unfold at Rutherford Park."

The Cavendish family seems to be living the good life, but upon closer examination, you can see all the tiny cracks that make up their existence.  There's Octavia Cavendish, the lady of the house, that finds herself at a crossroads in life.  Her children are almost all grown up and her husband pretty much ignores her needs.  To make matters worse, she sees her husband, William, kissing his distant cousin who is known around town as having a scandalous reputation.  This destroys Octavia's world and she finds herself wanting more for her life than to be cooped up at Rutherford Park.  Their son, Harry, wants more too. He doesn't want to simply grow up and run Rutherford; he wants to be fly planes, but his family won't have it.  There's also secrets downstairs. Emily, a servant of the house, holds a huge secret about herself and the family that could change all of their lives forever.  Elizabeth Cooke's Rutherford Park is an entertaining historical read that examines the lives of both the wealthy and the poor during Edwardian England as well as the ties that bind them all together.

I was able to feel for Octavia to a point and really empathize with her situation.  She finds out her husband is cheating on her and as Rutherford Park progresses, other secrets come to light as well.  The world she lives in isn't what it seems.  Enter John Gould, a historian, who is staying at Rutherford Park to research old families for his book.  He captures Octavia's eye and she must make an important decision about her life and her place at Rutherford Park. Octavia's story takes up a lot of plot in Rutherford Park, but there are other subplots that Cooke focuses on throughout the novel.

Harry's big life decision as well as his own secret take up some of the plot in Rutherford Park and various servants' stories too.  Also, readers get to hear a bit from William's perspective as well as Louisa, their daughter who is about to make her debut into society.  So, needless to say, there are many points of view in Rutherford Park.  While this technique can work from time to time, I felt it was spread too thin in this book as it tended to jump from plot line to plot line quite often.  There were just too many characters and too many subplots that were picked up and dropped quickly.  I wish the author would have picked three or four characters to focus on rather than so many.  Just when I got into a particular character's story, the author jumped to another character who wasn't as interesting and I was dying to find out what happened to the other more captivating character.  For me, this was one of the downfalls of Rutherford Park.

On the other hand, what I enjoyed the most about Rutherford Park was the setting and the time period.  Rutherford Park is described beautifully and the time period right before the war is captivating as England is on a precipice. I am a HUGE Downton Abbey fan and I am sure there will be many comparisons made. However, I felt it had more of an Upstairs Downstairs vibe, which I also enjoyed. If you are a fan of either show, then you should definitely check out this book as it made me pine for the next season of Downton Abbey.  

There's nothing like a good scandal and Rutherford Park is full of them.  If this time period is your thing and you like the whole Upstairs-Downstairs aspect, you should definitely check out Rutherford Park.  


  1. So I'm not really into Historical but Edwardian and Victorian periods interest me. I understand where your frustration is coming from, though. I, too, would be annoyed with the sudden character switches. Glad you liked it, anyway!

    1. Edwardian and Victorian England are some of my favorite time periods. Thanks for checking out my review!

  2. I don't watch Downton but I can see how this book would be perfect for fans of that show! Nice to see you back blogging, Christina! :)

  3. Thanks for the great review, i've had my eye on this one!! i know what you mean about jumping to a less interesting character-bummer!

    1. It was pretty entertaining despite the jumping around. I think you would enjoy it, Carrie! Thanks for visiting.

  4. I think I ordered this for my library so maybe I'll check it out this winter. I have sometimes been disappointed by these Downton Abbey inspired novels. Sounds like this one might be better if it just focused on the POV of Olivia, her son, and Emily.

    1. Yes, me too. Maybe b/c nothing is as good as DA, so it's all sort of a letdown? I wish the author would have focused on just those three would have been much better in my opinion! Thanks for visiting, Christina!

  5. Downton Abbey lovers, don't miss Rutherford Park, by Elizabeth Cooke! This novel takes place in 1913, when Lady Octavia Cavendish learns a painful secret about her own husband on the same night that a servant in the house attempts suicide. Rutherford Park will never be the same place again as the family struggles to stay together amid turmoil and changing times. Nice Story and great dress on cover page.



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