Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secrety by Catherine Bailey

For fans of Downton Abbey: 
the enthralling true story of family secrets and aristocratic intrigue in the days before WWI

After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servants’ quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: The Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family records—but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I.

The Secret Rooms is a historically factual novel about author Catherine Bailey who accidentally stumbled upon a dark, yet fascinating family secret while doing research for a completely different book. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Catherine Bailey was given access to the Munitions Room in the Belvoir manor house, the home of the Duke of Rutland. There she searched through decades and centuries of letters and records pertaining to the family. The Duke of Rutland died in the Munitions Room, laying ill on an old couch, and refusing to leave the room for more comfortable surroundings. Why did he refuse to leave the room? What secret was he guarding? Why, in a room where records were so meticulously kept and catalogued, were there so many letters missing between specific dates. What follows is the author's own journey as she searches for the missing letters and the dark secret the dying duke had struggled to keep buried, and the ruthless mother who would stop at nothing to protect her son.

This is a very detailed book about the author's step-by-step research in uncovering the missing letters. I became engrossed in the description of the vast labyrinth of rooms and corridors in the manor and the lives of its past and present inhabitants. The novel begins with a bang and gripped me from the first page. Sometimes, the details of the search became a little dry, but overall, the story was fascinating and definitely worth following to the end. It gives reader excellent insight on the powers that come with the great wealth and aristocracy of a noble family.

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