Aug 09, 2019kwylie04 rated this title 2 out of 5 stars
When I read the inside of the jacket, I was immediately drawn to the book, just like any fan of Downton Abbey would have been. However, I ended up being ultimately disappointed with the result.
BTB introduces us to the Ingham family, who have held the Earldom of Mowbray for the past few centuries, and their uber-loyal retainers, the Swann family. Both families are blessed with practically every virtue imaginable - they're all good-looking, kind, intelligent, etc. Then a terrible tragedy befalls one of the Earl's daughters, which threatens the family's reputation should the truth ever get out, but the day is saved by the timely arrival of an estranged cousin who comes back to the bosom of his family after being away for over twenty years. This whole situation is stretched to about 400 pages, but really, could have been wrapped up in half that were it not dragged out. Things like World War I are treated as pesky side-notes, even though the earl's eldest son dies during at period.
There are a plethora of characters in the Ingham family alone, but the reader never really feels that they get to know them on any deep level. Possibly the most potentially interesting of them, the eldest daughter, Dierdre, is written off as bitter and difficult, and only appears in about a total of ten pages throughout the entire story.
The majority of the story focuses on Daphne and her tragedy, with a secondary plot of seeing the marriage of her parents, Charles and Felicity Ingham, fall apart and Charles' resulting romance with Charlotte Swann. In all honesty, though, it's boring as hell. Daphne is saved by the timely arrival of her cousin, and Charles' grief is swept away by his suddenly noticing Charlotte, who has been one of his closest friends since childhood and even had a romance with Charles' father. Meanwhile, Felicity is written off as selfish and unfeeling towards her children when she has the temerity to go off to move on with her life as Charles does.
Then there is Cecily Swann, a younger member of the family who shows a keen talent for clothing design. Several of the Swann women are determined to get Cecily away from Cavendon Hall and the Inghams, constantly citing the emotional tangles that crop up between the two families and their seeing the beginning of that between Cecily and the Earl's second son, Miles. Their plot is a C plot at best, but is thrust to the foreground in the epilogue, an obvious set up for the second book in the series.
There is so much potential in the characters and the story, but little of it is ever truly realized.