Endsleigh House stands, crumbling and gracious, on the south-west coast of England, it's rooms shut up and abandoned. But what secrets do they hold?
Cate, a gifted young artist, arrives in London from New York, determined to remake her life and escape her recent past. Working for her aunt's auction house, she's sent down to Devon to value the contents of Endsleigh, the grand Georgian home of a former socialite between the wars. Inside, its once elegant interiors are now worn with age and dust. There Cate discovers, hidden in the back of one of the bookshelves, an old shoebox containing an exquisite pair of silk dancing shoes from the 1930s, along with a mysterious collection of objects—a diamond brooch, a photograph of a handsome young sailor, a dance card, and a beautiful pearl and emerald bracelet from Tiffanys.
Unable to resolve the questions in her own life, Cate quickly becomes immersed in solving the mystery of the shoe box and begins to unravel the story of Baby Blythe. Bright, beautiful and reckless, Baby was the most famous debutante of her generation—and also the most dangerous. The clues in the box reveal a tale of destructive, addictive love, a tale that will lead Cate to face some dark truths of her own.
I absolutely ADORED this book. I felt like I was in a Masterpiece movie. There's mystery, romance, historical stuff and BRITISH people! What more could you want in a book? Also don't judge the book by this cover. I was expecting a fluffy, light chick lit read because of the pink cover but instead there was deep, engaging and wonderful story that I found instead. Even though the description of the book had caught my eye, I didn't realize what gem I had in my possession until I started reading.
Right from the beginning I found myself being sucked into the story. I love anything set in England and especially dealing with old manor houses. As soon as you start reading, you can tell the book is set in England. It just off this British feeling that I can't explain but you get it when you watch a program that's on Masterpiece Theater. Going through all the treasures in the house would have been a dream job, but it would have been very sad to know that the house was going to be demolished. The characters are all very interesting. I really liked the housekeeper Jo, as I had been expecting what Cate had been picturing her to be as well. The house is a character in itself as well, with all the stories it had kept hidden inside its walls all these years.
To be honest, I cared more about what was going on in the 1930s past than I did with the present day situation with Cate and Jack. I mean, I did find their story and their growing relationship very interesting but the real meat of the story was finding out what happened to Baby Blythe. There's so much intrigue about socialites from that time period and the protocol that had to be kept in order to maintain a proper image. Reading about what happened between the relationship of Baby and her sister was just so sad. It was heartbreaking and made me feel distraught but in a good way.
I don't want to spoil anything because that is half the fun and intrigue of reading this book. But I will say that this book is one of my favorite reads of this year. It's one of those books where I forced myself to not look at the ending even though I was dying to find out what about the ending. I have not read any of Tessaro's previous works but after this gem of a book I'm going to have hunt her other books down. I really think this book will be making my top reads of 2010 at the end of the year. I would LOVE to see this book made into a movie or a miniseries on Masterpiece Theater. I can already picture Keira Knightley cast as one of the sisters. Anywho, make sure this book gets put in your TBR pile. HIGHLY recommended.
The Debutante by Kathleen Tessaro is published by Avon A (2010)
This ARC was provided by the publisher