The Seamy Side of Life at the Dawn of the Jazz Age

ALL I WANT IS YOU

Cover of All I Want ids You by Elizabeth Anthonyby Elizabeth Anthony
Redhook Books/The Hachette Group
October 22, 2013
Paperback/e-book 336 pages
Disclosure: E-Galley provided by Publisher via NetGalley. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.

 

An innocent girl caught up in a game of Forbidden Passion:

1920. Seventeen-year-old Sophie is a scullery maid at a large country house, Belfield Hall, but what she truly desires is to dance on stage in London.

Glamorous Lady Beatrice offers her assistance, though not without an ulterior motive. A new heir – the seductively handsome Lord Ashley – is about to arrive at the Hall: a man that Beatrice will do anything to ensnare…even if she has to exploit her young maid.

What she doesn’t know is that Sophie has met Ash once before. And as Lady Beatrice’s devious plan unravels, Sophie has two choices: refuse to be a mere plaything for the man she loves so desperately, or give in to the thrill of unimaginable sexual pleasure…

Set in a country house in the 1920s, this tale of forbidden love between a kitchen maid and her aristocratic master is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.  NetGalley.com

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One thing I liked about this book was how the Sophie’s (the main female character) voice changes as she matures. I also like how the relationship between the “hero.” Ash and Sophie develops right before the end.

Even so, Sophie, a poor, 13 year-old sent to the big house to go into service when she is left alone in the world and she  picks up too much sophistication in a short time.  But, the drawing of Sophie’s  character doesn’t really fit the character as far as social status and education. The characters are just sketches — like a black and white drawing you might see from the period World War I and immediately after without a stylized facial feature but nothing really substantial that says “This is what Sophie’s about.”  The story is full of stereotypical characters pulled directly from Downton Abbey, Gosford Park, and Upstairs/Downstairs.

Downton Abbey called they want their creepy footman back.

There’s even a sadistic German female prison guard whose placement is  as a “dominatrix ex machina” for explaining away part of Ash’s character.   And, some aspects of the characters just aren’t explained at all. But my point is, if you’s watched much Masterpiece theater or Agatha Christie style murder mysteries you’ve seen everyone in this book.

Just about every plot device that’s been paraded out the past couple of years is found in this book. Some are combined with different characters than the Downton Abbey plots of the past few years but they’re all there: dead heirs, marrying for money, creepy footmen, philandering counts humping the help, rich men corrupting naive women.

It is true that all the themes used: sweeping change, new freedoms, horrible losses in the first modern war, modernizations, the rise of the middle class, jazz: all those things were happening.  There’s a lot going on on which to hang a plot. But, wait there’s more — there’s a reason they say it’s great for fans of Downton AND Fifty Shades. It involves lengths of cloth and learning to tie knots.  There is one thing I had not personally read lately:  corruption of the simple, innocent maid by the naughty young widow — a little f/f experimentation.

It’s full of highs and lows — very dramatic highs and lows. Well, at the time, there was no social welfare so falling through the cracks was more likely than not.  Therefore the lows would be extreme. And, no one reads a book where happiness lasts, right?

I’d like to say it’s about the girl’s job in service, her coming of age,  her sacrifices, or even about what she reads in the books she “borrows” from the Duke’s library. They must be brilliant because she goes from a country scullery maid to a sophisticated jazz baby in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. But it’s not about those things. Granted she does make a sacrifice, but what I really felt the story detailed was the seamy, seedy nature of all but a couple characters. And, that bugged me and made the read unpleasant for me. Even the main character, essentially good, is without enough moral fortitude and ultimately falls.  About the only nice female is the housekeeper. Every where Sophie turns is like a pit of snakes. And, of course, no one likes her because first she’s innocent, then she’s too good at her job, then she’s not good enough.  Boo Hoo.

There’s a lot of intimacy, but while it’s hot and dirty stuff it doesn’t get too detailed. There’s a lot of “secret place” references and spilling seed. In the end it just gets sort of boring. There is one rather nice, loving scene.

But in the end, I had to force myself to read the book. Just not my cup of tea.