The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey is billed as “a true story of a haunted castle, a plotting duchess and a family secret.” The story starts in 1940 with a dying duke, the 9th Duke of Rutland, a powerful English family. After cataloguing his family’s history he mysteriously omits three periods in his own life. Ill, he makes the doctor wait as he seemingly destroys or otherwise hides papers from his past and perhaps dies as a result.
Historian and award winning television producer and director Catherine Bailey stumbles upon his story when researching a book on WWI and going through the Duke’s archives. As she pores through the story further, she realizes that she’s found a winner.
The book is also being marketed as one that fans of Downton Abbey will love, making it a timely release. It essentially steps into the world of a powerful family with a lot to hide. Such families and their estates basically were more than what we would view as traditional. Their lands and the related jobs often supported whole villages and formed the center of local life. Given the wealth and power dynamics of such great families, personal decisions were often financially or influence based.
In this story we explore numerous buried potential scandals and enter the world of one wealthy family during some key times in British history. Skeletons abound and personalities and motivations are explored.
Bailey is very meticulous and detail oriented, but manages to move the story along anyway, and keep it interesting. I truly enjoyed the book. Having spent many summers in Britain with my grandparents I have a soft spot for books like this. But even from a purely objective basis this read is compelling, interesting and engaging. A great offering.