A True Story of a Haunted Castle - and a Family Secret

By Catherine Bailey

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Very slow moving. Was expecting it to be more like Black Diamonds. This was boring.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Interesting but a little long.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
andra apostol
Fascinating story of a socialite's life. It is a bit hard to reconcile how much opportunity and resources were just left fallow by this woman as she became more and more reclusive. The Father's rags to riches story is filled with rich historical details.The pictures are great. Just a ball to read.
The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark :: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt - Fortune's Children :: Harvester (Book 1, Harvester of Light Trilogy) :: Flare: An End of the World Philosophical Horror :: Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age - When the Astors Owned New York
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
melissa dahlin
This book is a very interesting story about spoiled, selfish dispicable people. I was hooked until about the middle when I realized I didn't like the Manners family, except for Diana Cooper (née Manners). And the ghosts...very little. I don't know why the "haunting" is even mentioned.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I was hoping for more of a mystery story. Very interesting but disappointing. Was looking for more secrets to be revealed.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
leland smith
This is a good story but the title is misleading, and the telling a little dry. I mostly felt sorry for a young boy whose parents were so self-involved that they were incapable of nurturing him. His whole life hinged on that one thing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
At least I thought the ending was fine though my friend thought it was a bit flat. Wonderful window into life on a duke's estate before the 1920's. That and the number of servants required to run the estate was amazing. Would buy anything written by Ms. Bailey in the future.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
natalie moon
Reads like an essay on what work went into the thesis for a master's degree. Perhaps, it does give insight into the class structure of the U.K. In the first decades of the twentieth century.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
siobhan o dwyer
I think this is an interesting story , but not one that rates an entire book. Its pretty obvious what the ending will be , but the author takes forever to get there. I knew some of the Rutland family , they are no where nearly as weird as she paints them.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jessie rosenberg
This overblown account should have been a New Yorker article. There is an interesting, albeit minor, story here, not a full length book. It reminds me of the adage: tell people what you are going to say, say it, and then tell them what you have said. This account is burdened with so much repetitive and uninteresting detail that the forest is obscured by the trees. The author has flogged the story beyond recognition, abetted by a good cover design, and promises more than it can deliver. Save your time and money.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I found it fascinating.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
One of the most fascinating non-fiction books I have ever read. Family secrets are locked in rooms in an estate house that are only uncovered two generations later when an author is allowed access to meticulously-catalogued family documents.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tammy bristol
Really good read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Surprisingly enjoyable!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
mary eskildsen gordon
The story could have been a thriller but the reader had to spend so much time reading correspondence between different people. Also, the ending was a big let down.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
A very strange story.
Its just about believable in tye 1914-18 period, but any later it would be ridiculous.

It shows what you can find out by looking very carefully a documents.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
mae snaer
Poorly edited because it could have been 1/3 as long and perhaps made whatever point the author was trying to achieve. Entire bookclub did not like it.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
cameron cruz
It's a very long drawn out and boring book. If I could delete it I would. I wouldn't recommend the author
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
toha lukman hakim
Very absorbing read about one aristocratic family's reaction to World War 1. I'd never read much about this period of time. This book was well researched. It was a bit of a slog at times.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
karen pirrung
Rarely have I bought a book loaded with such promise which turned out to be such a dud. Page after boring page never seemed to catch my attention long enough to care to find out why there was a gap in the Duke's diary or letters home. There was so much hype in the description of the book which I found to be overblown and pointless. I forced myself to turn the pages and concentrate thinking surely the pace would pick up and I could actually care why there was a gap in the war years. This will be a book I donate happily to some library and hope no one wastes too much time trying to plod through it. With all the great books out there, I feel foolish to have wasted my time on this one.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This novel had great potential and much of it was well written. As sometimes happens with true stories, the details became very repetitive and somewhat boring.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
brian schwartz
Plenty of promise. Lots of true mystery, but the answers weren't satisfactory. In fact, what DID happen in Italy surfing the missing year.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
mel gonzalez
Sure not what the title line leads you to believe. Would not have bought it if I had known the true story line. Mainly the story of one man and the family's manipulative powers due to money and position. Just a line mentioning the castle was supposed to be haunted.. I was very disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea carpenter
Great Read. I would like to see other works by this author. Very well researched. And more on the Manners Family.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Thought this story was too convoluted. I read first 3 chapters and just gave it up. Made no sense.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
erika hill
Drags on far too long in fields that seem to have been already been plowed .
Good for some but I suspect not the casual passerby.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rob nyland
It started out mysterious then turned out to be tedious and redundant. The end was a big let down, disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
barbara manning
I bought this as a gift for a friend of mine since it was so well reviewed. She didn't care for it, but her daughter liked it.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rachel hooten
While the "mystery" part of this book was okay - what there was of it - the reams of pages recounting the history of much of WWI were entirely superfluous.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Excellent book about a horrible family. I really enjoyed the historical value of the book. The research and details were amazing. I was surprised the current Duke and Duchess allowed the truth to be known and actually helped with the research. I looked forward to more true stories by Ms Bailey.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Kept waiting for something interesting to happen... Way to long, and really no resolution ... Waste of a few days..
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A Great Read For Historians of Roylaty or anyone who loves mystery.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kevin andre elliott
I didn't finish it. I seldom do that but I couldn't keep track of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jeremy rathke
Christmas gift, she'll love it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jason baldwin stephens
Was interesting, but kind of hard to follow.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sandra holladay
This book is written by an author who undertook to do a massive research project based upon materials in Britain's Belvoir Castle, home of the Dukes of Rutland, but ends up writing about one thread of the family's history that he did not discover until she started reviewing the vast amount of documents. The book is extremely well-written and organized which is something I find refreshing with this type of research-based book for public consumption rather than academic use. However, I have to say that its one failing is that the mystery discovered and painstakingly researched by Ms. Bailey is not all that interesting and important to British history. This book would have been better if it had been published as a long article instead of a full book-length volume as so much of the evidence upon which she bases her narrative are more like footnote materials instead of text that an average reader needs to review in the text itself.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
This book was tedious. The author reveals "mysteries" as she goes, but then quickly resolves them. Feels like she started writing chapters before doing her research.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A really good book
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
really good read
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
nyeka campbell
Sucked !
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sean bottai
I'm only a quarter way into this book, but I have to give it five stars already. I can't put it down! Mysterious, intriguing, and wonderfully frustrating the way the author gives a glimpse of what's to come only to rein you back in. If you love Downton Abbey, you'll love this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mary lowry
Loved it
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I thought this book dragged and just not sure about ending either:( I did finish it but not sure I would recommend it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
"The Secret Rooms" takes us inside an amazing but true World War I era mystery that had been waiting all these years to be discovered and solved, behind the locked doors of the muniment rooms of Britain's Belvoir Castle, the longtime home of the Manners family and duchy of Rutland.

Enter TV writer-director-producer Catherine Bailey, who'd chosen Belvoir Castle's archives as the starting place for her research for a book about what became of the hundreds of Belvoir estate volunteers who, at their duke's urging, had gone off to France to fight World War I, and how their experiences had affected those who returned and their way of life after.

But Bailey soon found an even more compelling WWI story to research and write about. The 8th duke's son John, after the war and after he inherited the duchy, closed off the castle's muniment rooms and spent his last years locked inside those five rooms full of family history, doing something he considered urgent and private...and so important to him that, when he developed the pneumonia that would kill him, he refused to leave those cold rooms and whatever it was he was doing there. Nor would he let his own or the king's own doctor enter and try to save his life. He died there alone on an old sofa...having almost, but not quite, completed his mysterious task. After John's death in 1940, his son Charles, the 10th duke, ordered that the rooms be sealed and untouched, and so they remained until Ms. Bailey requested to see what information they could give her for her book. Soon it became clear to her WHAT John had been up to, but not WHY. Finding the answer to that would lead to the research that underpins a book the London newspapers would label "astonishing, jaw-dropping, gripping, compelling, remarkable, superb," etcetera. I agree and I suspect most readers will, too.

*pronounced "beaver"
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
maria anastasia
There are no secret rooms in this castle. Don't waste your time! The title is misleading if you are looking for a story of a haunted castle with secret rooms.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
najwa alfaraj
Poor soul. John had an uphill battle to become a man but had great odds stacked against him and finally showed his true self when he reneged on his civic duty to serve. Interfering mothers are a curse. He was first cruelly treated by his parents and we will never know if he was complicit in his brother's death. Photos show his unhappiness from an early age
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
This may have been a true story but I found it a complete waste of time. I kept reading it in the hopes that it would get better but it only got worse. Big deal....a mother kept her son out of war. This sort of corruption was plentiful during WW1. There were also many things unexplained. Totally mistitled. Don't waste your time and money.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Very good book. Quite interesting that it was based on a real story. I was intrigued by the author reached her conclusions
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
crystal bryan
I did read the whole thing - hoping SOMETHING would happen that would be interesting. It's a story of what happened to a rich family during the war. And it seemed like a book version of vapid reality TV - trying to force a story where there wasn't one of any interest to anyone but the immediate family. There were no hauntings of anything, the secret rooms were just closed and avoided, and the manipulative mother is probably like many other mothers who have monetary means to make sure their child is out of harm's way. Dissapointing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A great read!!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
mihaela costache
Disappointing! It starts out strong but then you will struggles to maintain any interest after first 1/3 of the book. The story line is interesting but you are left with many unanswered questions. You come to despise all the characters by the end of the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
andria colvell
Liked it a lot except -- too much info about army captains, generals. All in all a captivating read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rachel long
It's a good read.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
robyn en
If you like old, old war stories I suppose you would like this book.....however it was kind of boring and I quit reading it after about 20%.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I don't like this book at all, i will not recomended
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I found the book to be more suited to a historian interested in British history of this period. The reading was at best boring.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
merwyn haskett
Interesting, but a little wordy.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amber beasley
I found the majority of the book to be a complete bore. I was barley able to read three pages before falling asleep. Would not recommend this to anyone.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Spoiler Alert: There's no ghost & no secret.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Poorly written, hypothesis with no validation or follow through. Not even very interesting, and having been to Belvoir castle, should have been!!!!!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
claudia cayne
Is lacking in resolution. The reasons that the author gives for the gaps in the records seems disappointing in the end.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jere chandler
Very nice. Quite to my expectations.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
dicky stefanus
Very disappointing. I was expecting some good English ghost stories and found myself in a middle of a war with too much details that were boring.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
heather clark
I didn't order this book
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kim langille
A fascinating tale of a woman no one knew until she died at 102. I had never heard of her, and her father was known as the Copper King. He was so wealthy that she never had to worry about the gifts of money she bestowed on the people she cared about. I love biographies of people whot are not the ones who always make the headlines.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Horrible! There was no awful rating
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
paula hatch
The author certainly researched everything well, but the people in this true story are
a whole lot of nothing. Lots of money, no character or values. Makes you glad that
the upper class in England is about over. And the bit about the haunted castle is
a farce. Buy some other book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
greg discher
I have not read this book yet but am looking forward to reading it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
michael s ward
There was really no story here...never tied in the witches or ghosts to the story. Don't expect another Downton Abbey.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
laura kinch
Definitely not a ghost story. I keep asking myself why I wasted my time reading a pointless story. Did anyone figure out like I did that Kakoo was pregnant when she and John married? Another cover-up by that family.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The Secret Rooms was utterly boring. Don't bother, or you'll be sorry because your brain will have melted.
Spoiler alert: Unloved child with narcissistic mother grows up to be secretive, weird and mean. Separately, rich people apparently write endless numbers of wordy and boring letters, gossip with venom, vim and vigor about each other, and arrange to skiv off doing any fighting on the Front during WWI. Surprise. There's nary a secret in this stupid book.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Doesn't deserve even one star cant get through it long boring!!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
patr cia
I want my money back! Spoiler ALert! There is no "haunted castle", the Duchess plots to keep her son front the front during WWI, and the rooms are not "secret" (just not used).
This book is a boring recitation of all the battles of WWI. Unless you have a great interest in the battles of WWI, skip this. The "story" is a bore.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I had to force myself to finish this book. Boring. Just boring. Started out good and went down hill quickly
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The writer promises mystery, great secrets, life altering shame. Well, I guess the shame did happen, but the story is sad and small. The account of the Great War is, however, interesting even though that too is diminished by the emphasis on John.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
hope struck
Who really did what and what about the secret rooms. I was so bored by this book, I didn't care. I sped read it and was glad I didn't waste my time. Who cares
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sara batkie
I don't know why I kept reading to the end but I did. This is first rate scholarship by Catherine Bailey and she is as gifted at descriptive writing as she is at dusty research. I'd like to see her try her hand at a mystery. The ghost angle in this book was brief but she did a good job with it. It was lovely of Ms. Bailey to list the names of the war dead and to thank all of those who helped her. She seems a modest woman about her own considerable talents - but credit where due.

SPOILERS: It would take a vivid imagination to glean that Uncle Charlie had "that" secret based on only one letter, unless I missed something? The Duchess had her own secret affair which was barely mentioned in 1 or 2 sentences and a footnote! I would have found that far more interesting than all the plotting and scheming she did with the military. Violet's letters did confirm what I have always suspected - that more rank and file men served and were killed than men in the aristocracy were.

This is a high conflict family who are morally bankrupt. Secrets abound and calling them dysfunctional doesn't begin to cover it. No one seems capable of having an honest exchange of opinions. They are surrounded by decadence and were obsessed with keeping up appearances. John's parents (The Duke & Duchess of Rutland) were determined to control his life and he allowed them to do it.

John was taken away from the estate the day of his brother's funeral to be "raised" by his uncle. In 5 years he didn't visit John at school in spite of John begging him to come see him. The emotional neglect the Manner's family inflicted on the young duke is beyond logical reasoning. Is it any wonder this sad boy grew into an eccentric and secretive man?

John had few examples of what trust, love and commitment meant in a marriage. The compassion John showed for others in his early military days was soon quashed and he seemed to become just as self serving as everyone else was at Belvoir Castle. But, one never really knows the inner man. Frankly, if I had been John, I would have taken Koko and fled with her to the U.S. or some distant part of the U.K. He was raised to have a high tolerance for unacceptable behavior.

The depth of John's cold heart is revealed when his mother dies. He postpones Violet's death announcement, (actually lying to the press) so it doesn't spoil his Christmas! Well God Bless us everyone. I only hope his children and theirs have been able to nurture and love their own families and find happiness.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kristin carlisle
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
linda beneda
This book, while well-researched and informative, is SO DULL. It's a case where the headline makes this book sound like so much more than it is. Secret rooms....ghosts....plotting duchess...ooooh! While there ARE secret rooms and a duchess who clearly had her own plans for her son, there isn't really a sinister plot going on here. In fact, when viewed from a contemporary view, the duchess' actions are quite understandable (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers). As for ghosts, well, it's mentioned (sort of). It basically comes down to the fact that the great 'mysteries' of the duke's life aren't that mysterious and the author takes FOREVER to 'solve' them (and tells you every single step she took). Plus there are so many detours (descriptions of battles, introducing characters who really don't matter to the plot, wedding details) that you end up forgetting what 'mystery' she's trying to solve. If this book had been half as long, it would have been better for it. Plus, I didn't like how the author put her own opinions on the characters into her book (she clearly doesn't like the duchess). I bought this second hand and regret paying the $7.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ashley saffell
Catherine Bailey kept me glued to the page throughout two-thirds of this book. When she first entered the Muniment Rooms of Belvoir Castle, I was flabbergasted as she began telling of all the historical documents the ninth duke had amassed, and how he had organized and cataloged them. The discovery of the three missing periods during his life led to a fascinating recounting of how she managed to fill in the blanks. Touted as a book for fans of "Downton Abbey," I would not disagree because The Secret Rooms tells much of aristocratic life in Britain before and during the First World War. But this book is more than an historical accounting of a great family; it has much to share of a psychological nature as Bailey exposes secrets the family wanted to remain hidden. (The ninth duke was so successful that the current duke had no clue of what the author discovered.)

It's not my place to divulge what those secrets were, but in the unveiling of the one involving the first year of the war, I felt the author went off the rails a bit. Once the reader knows what was hidden, why, and who was responsible, Bailey goes into minute detail over each fact that she discovered and how it was discovered. Instead of making me feel outrage and sorrow at what was done, I soon became impatient and my enthusiasm for the book as a whole began to wane from its original high. Two-thirds of The Secret Rooms is fascinating,and I'm glad I read it, but that final third does drag a bit.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kat pippitt
I found The Secret Rooms on the store when I was looking up books about the late Victorian/Edwardian era. From there, I looked it up on the library network. I was pleased to discover that there was a copy at my town library; I didn’t even have to make a request and wait for it to be sent!

The Secret Rooms was written by Catherine Bailey, and is subtitled “A True Story Of A Haunted Castle, A Plotting Duchess, & A Family Secret”. Belvoir Castle is the centerpiece of what was once one of the largest estates in England. Catherine Bailey finds herself visiting Belvoir as part of her research for a book about the Great War. While combing through the correspondence, she finds that there are three gaps. The 9th Duke had devoted his life to meticulous record keeping. In fact, the 9th Duke passed away in one of the rooms designated as the archives, and after his death, the rooms were closed for almost seventy years. The only conclusion is that the gaps are intentional, but what could the 9th Duke have been trying to hide?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Rooms. I enjoy reading fictional books set in grand country houses, and I found the true story of the Manners family to be just as fascinating. I won’t reveal what Bailey discovered, but I will say that it brought up some interesting paradigms regarding the nature of duty. Bailey presents her findings in an engaging manner. I enjoyed the numerous excerpts from family correspondence, especially the letters written by children.

I would absolutely recommend The Secret Rooms. If you love Victorian and Edwardian history, or even if you simply enjoy watching Downton Abbey, chances are that you will enjoy this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amanda b
The first 100 or so pages: I was hooked, couldn't put it down, was excited. Then the pace slowed and while I was still motivated to read, the fast pace of the beginning was lost. The built-up-for secret gets pretty abruptly dealt with after hundreds of pages of build up, and wasn't the jaw-dropper I'd thought it would be. Nonetheless, I loved seeing a historian at work, following leads, circling back, being persistent. The descriptions of trench warfare were so interesting and informative. I'll not forget the image of the higher-ups sitting on a hill having a picnic while below them the soldiers are slaughtered by enemy fire. I do think the tag lines for the book are misleading (ghosts? not here, except mentioned briefly), but overall this was a pretty riveting read.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
walter danley
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoyed the first third of this book and the last few chapters. Where this book fell down for me was in the middle. Once it started talking about the war and how John's mother and uncle were trying to keep his out of it that is where I got lost. It was just very dry for me and I wanted it to be a little more juicy as to why there were parts of this man's life missing. I think I was hoping for more of a mystery as to why he had rooms shut off and why he lived in just one room at the end of his life. I am still not quite sure why the rooms were kept shut up for so long. I know John ordered them that way but why did his descendants never open them to see what was in there. It does go to show if you know the right people and have enough money you can escape things like war. There is one mystery that is still a mystery and that is the death of John's brother.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
michael edwards
This book held my attention for about the first 100 pages. After that it dropped off sharply. The family secret at the heart of the story is not all that shocking, and unless you are interested in minute details about troop movements during WWI, I can't recommend reading this overly long book. While I think the author is a good writer, and did her research, the subject matter just isn't as interesting as the cover blurb would have one believe. It's really just a study of a very dysfunctional aristocratic family - complete with helicopter mom, emotionally distant dad, and a son who didn't have the spine to live his own life. I felt that since the author couldn't find answers to some of the questions about the family, she padded the narrative with a lot of extraneous details that were not very compelling to read (I skimmed a lot of the war stuff). It's kind of a shame, since the book started out quite well.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
urmi mukherjee
Unless you find a Royal skipping out on a war to be totally shocking then you won't find much shock in this book. I checked this out of the library in 2017. And as an American the past four President's we had have skipped out of Vietnam. From George W. Bush skipping out on the Air National Guard to Trumps foot problems. It's no new news that people of power go out of there way to keep there children out of war. The writer supposes that John has something to do with his brothers death but never finds the proof or the shocking confession. So all this amounts to is 400 plus pages about one of many Royals who skipped out on the war. The Duchess Violet doesn't get exactly what she want's but what mother does. I can't recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I found this book to exhausting to read. If the subject matter wasn't so darn interesting (which bumped up the rating), I would have put it down many times.

The authoress asked questions throughout the book, with interpretations that seem inept until she mentions a letter 3 pages later that explains her reasoning. Many times she came across as bitter towards the mother (who was a piece of work) but the judgement didn't fit the example in question. (Her definition of "mendacity" must differ than mine...)

My biggest pet peeves is that she speaks of "many letters" written in cypher, and "many letters" hidden in an envelope with the impression all are bombshells, but only quotes a few lines. There are many, many, many boxes of correspondence but so few are cited. (Yes, I know not all would be applicable but 14 letters of cypher and only 2 lines?)

I want to read "Black Diamonds" but if she writes in the same manner, I will have to pass...
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
If you enjoy stories about the human side of WWI, the kinds of things that can be found in old archives, or the lives of the rich and (formerly) famous, you'll find a good deal to enjoy here. The historical mysteries emerge from a strange anomaly in a family archive--three periods in which virtually all the papers are missing from an otherwise meticulously preserved collection and strangely reticent entries in a war diary.

The story that emerges is one of human frailties, family tensions, and the short-sightedness of an aristocracy whose near-royal life of unquestioned privilege was about to be shaken.

The author, sadly, is a far better researcher than biographer. The characters are never entirely brought to life, perhaps because the author focused only on the mystery aspects of the story. The book becomes very repetitious in points and would have benefited from some editing. While I think the point of the repetition was to recreate the author's experience as she puzzled through the possible reasons for the discrepancies in the various accounts, instead, it bogged down a book that had the potential to be a real page-turner.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I wanted to like The Secret Rooms a lot more than I did. The promise of a gothic mystery and scandalous tales of the upper crust spurred me on, but I just didn't care all that much about the Duke and I didn't find the story very interesting because he wasn't all that interesting to me. I wanted more of the glamour and dazzle of his sister, Lady Diana Cooper, and found instead a sad man locked up in a room trying to make himself and his life go away.

It's difficult to review this without spoilers so I won't go into much detail, but suffice it to say that the Lord of Rutland's parents were pretty horrific and the secrets he spent so much time keeping were painful ones. Ms. Bailey does meticulous research and the inclusion of information from many letters really capture the time, its attitudes, and the people living through them. The mystery cuts all the through many of the most interesting times in twentieth century history and the story of the pursuit of the documents in a good one.

Not my cup of tea, but a good read if you're interested in life in a big English country house during the Edwardian period and throughout World War I.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
scott bishop
Catherine Bailey came to Belvoir Castle in England to do research for a book she was considering on the first World War. There had been a Duke at Rutland since the Battle of Hastings and the family was one of the wealthiest and best well-connected in the country. She was granted access to the family's papers but uncovered a mystery that the family had kept secret for decades.

John, the ninth Duke of Rutland, had been Duke in the years following World War I. A secretive man, his final years had been spent obsessively working on the papers of his family. He spent his final days in a room of family papers, frantically working at the expense of his health. After his death, the rooms were sealed for sixty years until the author was granted access.

These were the English aristocracy who wrote letters to each other daily, sometimes several times a day. Bailey was granted access to this huge treasure trove of paper, but she quickly discovered something amiss. The exact time period she had hoped to research was missing from the paper records. After further study, she realized that three distinct periods in John's life had been excised from the record. What had gone on in those periods that the family didn't want revealed?

With this discovery, her book changed focus and she spent her time discovering what had led to the removal of the records for those three time periods. On the way, she uncovered family secrets, and the kind of maneuvering behind the scenes that was commonplace for the country's wealthiest families. Everyone in the families were controlled their entire lives by their families and the web of connections between the wealthiest and most influential.

Catherine Bailey has written an interesting, painstakingly researched historical account of the life of a titled family in wartime years. She has an interest in twentieth century history and is a television producer and director of documentaries on the time period. As such, she knows exactly where to go to discover the answers hidden in one place in others, resulting in the full story being brought to life. This book is recommended for history lovers and those readers interested in the lives of the wealthy, as illustrated in Downton Abby.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ally bergen
In 1940, John the 9th Duke of Rutland, locked himself in the servants quarters of his 356-room castle with his papers and journals and refused to leave, jeopardizing his health and ultimately leading to his death. What he did in these rooms, known as the Muniments Rooms, was a mystery until a few years ago, when the rooms were unsealed for the first times since his death and Catherine Bailey showed up to research a book about the villagers who died fighting in World War 1. What she ended up discovering was that John spent his last days erasing three periods of his life from the collections of letters and diaries he locked himself away with (interestingly, he erased a total of 356 days, which is exactly how many rooms the castle has). Upon learning this, Bailey shifted her focus to the Rutland family, in particular to John, in an effort to find out what horrific events he sought to remove from history.

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey is the story of John, a sad and neglected man who found comfort in his compulsive need to collect things from bird's nests to family letters. An introvert who would rather study old artifacts than adhere to social norms, his shunning of high society led him to be a constant disappointment to his family. Unfortunately, his family, and in particular his mother, was accustomed to getting their way and had no qualms with using their political and social connections to achieve their goals.

It is against this backdrop of family dynamic that The Secret Rooms takes place, and the book is better off for it. Without Bailey's extensive research into the Rutland family, John's efforts to erase aspects of his past would be unexciting. The book is set up in three sections, with each placing an emphasis on a missing piece from the puzzle. Although told independently, they intertwine and weave a complex tale of family, betrayal, and influence in a time when men were killed at war by the tens of thousands. Filled with cliffhangers and at times speculative, Bailey keeps the reader at the edge of their seats until the very last page.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
In all fairness, I would give this one a 3.5 if I could. I love Downton Abbey so when I noticed the byline, "If you love Downton Abbey..." Well, with a start like that, this was obviously written for me! Initially I flew through the pages, drawn in by ghost stories and mysterious burglars. Alas, the honeymoon only lasted about halfway through. Catherine Bailey does an outstanding job of setting the scene. Through extensive research and notable authorial talent Bailey tells a story that could almost be fiction. It is no fault of the author's that I lost interest. Truthfully, the mysteries in the story weren't as mysterious as I hoped they would be. Each revelation is built up with a good and proper amount of suspense and then...you find out what's behind it and it's a bit of a let down. In the beginning there are a few ghost stories, tales passed down through the housekeeping staff, that I hoped to hear more of. No such luck. There's also a gripping section about a burglar trespassing in the secret rooms but sadly, there's very little more to that story either. Despite that, I would have ended the tale with a higher opinion if the middle didn't slow the pace so dramatically. It gets lengthy and repetitive through that bit. The family's struggle over John's participation in WWI requires the imparting of a number of duplicitous maneuverings that are very similar in nature and so have the effect of the same song on repeat.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mandy whilden
First, the Penguin edition I read on Kindle was titled simply The Secret Rooms. The promise in other editions of a gothic tale about a haunted castle had been misleading, as other reviewers here noted. The secrets revealed by the author may not be explosive or completely surprising, it is true. The book provides, though, a compelling picture of the English ruling class in the early 20th century - and ruling class it certainly was.

Initially, Catherine Bailey was studying the experience of men who left the great estates of noble England to plough the fields of Flanders in 1914. She was granted access to rooms full of documents at Belvoir Castle, the home of the Dukes of Rutland. This seemed a treasure trove. Her hopes were quickly dashed - records for 1915 were missing, clearly deliberately excised and destroyed. Thwarted in her original purpose, she changed tack. What was going on here?

Answering this puzzle led her on a paper trail through documents and document collections throughout England, including war records, the accounts of lost battles and lost battalions - not least the hundreds who left Belvoir in 1914 and never returned. Their names are listed at length, incidentally, in the epilogue. Much of her time was spent perusing the private correspondence of ministers and princes, dukes and generals. Lengthy quotations from this exasperated and bored some readers, but in their own words [including coded messages] "these people" showed their true colours. This was a time when the whim of a duchess carried more weight than the lives of a thousand soldiers - and she did not have the face of Helen of Troy either. In this year of the centenary of 1914 Secret Rooms is a bitter corrective to the idea of a just war, honourably undertaken and courageously led, with everyone playing their part.

The book is not written as standard historical fare. I wonder if Catherine was aiming at Downton fans - and indeed why not? At times it reads like fiction - our plucky investigator treads warily along the dark and damp passageways of mist shrouded castles to locked rooms and hidden files. I quite liked this - the tale moved nicely along, and Catherine is a pretty good writer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ganjar santoso
What impressed me the most about The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey was the extensive amount of travel and research that went into the mysterious story of John, the 9th Duke of Rutland. The story is less about the haunting and more about the family secret.

The Rutlands or Manner family were a dysfunctional bunch. It's most definitely not your typical family, but quite common when you consider the dark history of royalty in England. Aristocracy has privileges the common folk lack. No more was this reflected than in The Secret Rooms. The two children of Charles (previous Duke) and his wife, Diana and John, strives to gain their freedom. These two couldn't escape the cold, manipulating actions of their mother, Violet.

The whole story reads like a first-person mystery. Catherine Bailey goes to Belvoir Castle to research the Muniment Rooms--the rooms that were sealed off by John's children after his death in 1940--for another book. Instead, she ends up writing about the history of the Rutland family, its secrets, and why John attempted to destroy some of the documents entrusted to him from the War Office during the war. I can't even imagine the endless hours Catherine invested in this book! A person sympathizes with John until towards the end when he caves to Violet's manipulations, then to his own happiness.

The common person, not born to wealth and privilege, died during World War I, as well as the lesser titles of aristocracy against the Germans. Catherine Bailey honors those that died for her country. As an American, I give Catherine's book five thumbs up for the love she has for England's veterans, and for being persistent to reveal the nasty truth that a family of privilege attempted to hide. No one after the Duke's death knew of the secret. The Secret Rooms is about a very complex family situation, abuse of power, and the persistent journey of a writer who found the needle in a haystack.

*book given to review by publisher.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I just loved this story. hard to find books of this type. The author started on one story, then found a mystery in the long sealed rooms of a Duke who died many years ago. A room in a castle no less! The author did an incredible job of hunting down letters when most people would have given up.
There were some time periods in the Duke's life that he obviously tried to excise, working right up until his death. What was he hiding?
The book ends with, to me, more mysteries that won't be uncovered. Why did his parents seem to despise him so much? A bit more about what happened to Kakoo and the children would have been nice, but this is a well written book. If you like blue blood history, family secrets, WWI, etc I think you'll enjoy this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
terese banner
I'm giving this book five stars because it is a very well written book, despite an ultimately sad tale. In terms of flow, suspense, thoroughness of investigation and writing skills, it's a page turner. It held up my attention for 3/4 of it, when it began to just coast. However, it would impossible for me to say much more without revealing too much; it is, after all, a mystery for the reader just as much as it was a mystery for the writer as she pursued the truth.

It is NOT "Downton Abbey"...DA is a cliché-ridden piece of fiction written for American audiences still in thrall of everything that is aristocratic and British. "Downton" does not reflect the reality of that emerges from the pages of "Secret Rooms"...a world where the rules and conventions of society and the laws of the land do not apply equally, only appear to do so. A hundred years later, in the modern world, the same could be said to be the case with the rich and influential, but flauting certain conventions carries a higher risk today than in the British world of the early 20th century, before television and tabloids, and the self-protective aloofness of the upper classes. Then, an aristocratic title of the highest order, no matter how empty and meaningless - and the right connections - still amounted to a pass from many of life's burdens and obligations.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lekshmy shaji
"The Secret Rooms" takes us inside an amazing but true World War I era mystery that had been waiting all these years to be discovered and solved, lurking behind the locked doors of the muniment rooms of England's Belvoir Castle, the longtime home of the Manners family and duchy of Rutland.

Enter British TV writer-director-producer Catherine Bailey, who'd chosen Belvoir Castle's archives as the starting place for her research for a book about what became of the hundreds of Belvoir estate volunteers who, at their duke's urging, had gone off to France to fight World War I, and how their experiences had affected those who returned and their way of life after.

But Bailey soon found an even more compelling WWI story to research and write about. The 8th duke's son John, after the war and after he inherited the duchy, closed off the castle's muniment rooms and spent his last years locked inside those five rooms full of family history, doing something he considered urgent and private...and so important to him that, when he developed the pneumonia that would kill him, he refused to leave those cold rooms and whatever it was he was doing there. Nor would he let his own or the king's own doctor enter and try to save his life. He died there alone on an old sofa...having almost, but not quite, completed his mysterious task. After John's death in 1940, his son Charles, the 10th duke, ordered that the rooms be sealed and untouched, and so they remained until Ms. Bailey requested to see what information they could give her for her book. Soon it became clear to her WHAT John had been up to, but not WHY. Finding the answer to that would lead to the research that underpins a book the London newspapers would label "astonishing, jaw-dropping, gripping, compelling, remarkable, superb," etcetera. I agree and I suspect most readers will, too.

Note: On Belvoir's web site, I learned from the current Duchess that the castle's name is pronounced "beaver," and that the castle and gardens are open to the public on Sundays and Mondays from Easter through the end of August.

(Thanks, Jill Meyer, for recommending this and alerting me to last month's the store-uk paperback release date.)
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
richard burke
I will try to be as kind as possible, but I really would like my money back on this one. Presented as some great mystery of real life secrets, "a Plotting Duchess," and so much more, it really is a nothing story, a collection of weather reports, and an attempt to make the author appear to be some wonderful detective. All of the above wasn't worth the shipping charges of the book. I won't be so cruel as to explain the big mystery here, as someone may actually get some pleasure from wading through chapter after chapter of nothing, but let me suffice it to say that nothing is uncovered here that didn't happen in many aristocratic houses at the time. The "plotting" duchess didn't much like her son, but he was the only son left, and she selfishly acted to keep the family in place. Some real "intrigue!" Do not waste your money.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
john k
A riveting story that gives the reader a glimpse into life as it used to be among the very rich and royal. The *Secret* is interesting, too, but not rearly as interesting as following the lives of the duke and his family. Even though is life was inarguably one of privilege, you can't help but feel sorry for the little boy spurned so harshly by his mother.
One thing that was a real treat was the complete diagram of every floor of the castle. The reader can refer back to it to see where all of the action was taking place. It was great fun to see what rooms take up that huge building. I wish there was a way to see into more great castles/mansions.
For anyone interested in how that class of people lived during that time period, this is a must read. Even if you are not interested in history, it is a good read just for the story. Very very good book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rachel novak
The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret. There were so many plots, secrets and mysteries I’m not sure if anyone will ever know the complete story. Excellent details and meticulous research by the author when most may have given up, simply guessed at the truth or written a novel. Well worth reading more than once just to absorb all the facts.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kat o
At least the title is misleading when you expect the castle to be about a haunted castle. This is not the case at all for this book. Was the castle haunted? Not literally no. However, the Duke of Rutland was certainly haunted by some things that happened to him and things that he did in his life.

The author Catherine Bailey set out to write about the men from the estate of Belvoir who went to server in World War I. However, she ended up writing about the 9th Duke of Rutland's haunted past. The 9th Duke was actually the second son but inherited the title when his older brother died at the age of nine years old. The older son, Haddon, was worshiped by his parents. John the second son was sent from Belvoir Castle at Haddon's death and he was raised by his uncle Charlie. The Duke and Duchess of Rutland never were able to get over their older son's death.

Catherine Bailey begins to find a different interest when she goes to Belvoir Castle to do research on World War I and the servants on the estate who served in the war. She finds entire blocks of history and letters in the family archives that have been destroyed by John the Duke of Rutland. She begins to wonder why the 9th Duke has erased some of his own history.

The Secret Rooms deals with her research into the 9th Duke of Rutland's past. It became quite tedious for me because I thought there would be some great reveal of the 9th Duke's past. There was nothing earth shattering and the story became tedious.

This book gives some insight into the British aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century but there is no real mystery here and great swaths of this book could have been eliminated. This was not really a mystery story or a haunted castle story but merely a sad look back at a peer of the English realm.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meghan gaffney
I very much enjoyed this study of the English nobility and their dealings with class distinctions, and the inevitable power abuses that took place during World War I Without giving too much away, of course, power over character always wins. I think that readers who have an innate interest or intellectual curiosity regarding world history will particularly enjoy this extremely well researched and well written book. One of the elements that intrigued me the most was having the chance to view the war strictly from the Brit's experiences. It was a different experience from the Americans in many ways. Initially, I had never realized how many of the English soldiers died excruciating deaths from Germany's Gas Warfare. Horrifying! I highly recommend the book. It is full of mystery, social struggles, corruption, plotting, secrets. liaisons, as well as the discovery of the one true war hero, a fragile, beautiful, and unassuming young woman born of nobility herself, but who never wore it as a cloak of special privilege. A woman who showed her nobility through her character.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jenny p
Although this book offered some fascinating insight into the lives of the very rich and titled, the actual point of the book was anticlimactic. "Spoiler Alert" The plotting duchess was just a pushy mother, there were no ghosts and the family secret was just not that big of a deal. If this had been much shorter I might have given it 4 stars. I ended up skipping a lot, skimming parts and reading the last 25 pages. It was a disappointment. The cover was a winner though!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laura anderson
First let me address the title. While this is a story of secret rooms, a plotting duchess, and a family secret, there is but little mention of the haunted castle. People have claimed supernatural occurrences, but it is only mentioned briefly. So if you're looking for a true ghostly tale, this book might not be for you. However it is one of the most fascinating books I've read.

Catherine Bailey is a true sleuth! While she was at Belvoir Castle researching a book, she discovered an consistant inconsistancy in the family letters archive and from that it took her on a search to discover a shocking secret about the Rutland family. The Rutland family were excellent at keeping their correspondences and letters. I can imagine all the interesting details that weren't put into this book. Bailey was put to task to discover the secret of the Ninth Duke of Rutland. He died cloistered in a small room that he had spend the last half of his life in. The rooms were forbidden to all except a few. After he died, his son has the rooms sealed up with all of their mysteries. What had the Duke been up to? What was he trying to keep secret?

You would think with the amount of letters and file cabinets that were left, Bailey would have no problem finding out what was what. But she did. She had to go on a treasure hunt and try to find even the smallest clue to help her solve this mystery. And she did.

This book is told through letters, conversations, pictures and general information that Bailey has uncovered. She sets the material out for us readers and it reads like a good mystery novel. I was fascinated with every detail. Even after the book ended I still wanted to know more about the lives of the people in this novel.

Overall it's a good read. I think people fascinated with history, especially around WWI, will like this book. This might also appeal to fans of Downton Abbey.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
brenda brice
Unnecessary story with no importance to provide. What was the author thinking? Why would anyone put pen to paper to deliver this rubbish. Don't waste your precious reading time on this. It need never have been written. I would like my money and my time back.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emily thompson
More reminiscent in some ways of a Jacobean tragedy, than a Gothic mystery, Catherine Bailey's dogged research into the mystery of the 9th Duke of Rutland's death and indeed his life, is some of the finest writing about the Great War and the preceding era of power and privilege since that of Barbara Tuchman.
Bailey set out to write the stories of the lost and silent generation of the men of Britain's villages who left the farms in 1914 to fight for King and country, many never to return again: the pale battalions of the dead, but discovered an entirely different story, involving deeply shocking and quite extraordinarily appalling family behaviour. John Henry Montagu, 9th Duke of Rutland, judging by the behaviour of his father and his truly appalling and scheming mother Violet, was not much more to them than a poor substitute for his elder brother and original heir, who died tragically on John's birthday, through no fault of John although evidently his mother blamed him and sent him away to live with her brother on the day of the brother's funeral. Whether or not the brother was worthy of the extravagant elevation in his mother's affections is impossible to know, but judging by her treatment of her second son his only real importance to her and his arrogant and basically stupid father was a means to maintain their extravagant ducal lifestyle. The father quite illegally broke the entail on the estate to sell off various priceless treasures that were part of the estate then blackmailed his son to agreeing.
As the title descended via the male line if he didn't survive and breed the title and estate would go elsewhere. The motives of his scheming mother who used every trick in the book to ensure he didn't serve on the front line are easy enough to deduce from the letters her son didn't manage to destroy in his last desperate days fighting off death as he frantically attempted to destroy every vestige of records, both official and private that would expose what essentially was desertion, punishable by death in those times.

Reading between the lines, while it is not out rightly stated the delightful Duchess virtually prostituted her daughter, Lady Diana to a man whom she detested and who also was married, but had sufficient influence to aid the plot to keep John well away from the fighting. Lady Diana who seems to have been something of a strong minded and intelligent girl; a great beauty and prominent society celebrity and apparently fathered by one of Violet's lovers, bested her mother eventually, but in this matter for whatever reason seems to have colluded to a certain extent with the devious plotting against her brother

Puzzled about why he eventually allowed several rigged Medical Boards that chose to believe the lies told about his health and fitness, after successfully fending off various other attempts to remove him from accompanying his regiment Bailey concludes that John allowed what he knew was a lie to stand because he fell in love.

Ironically the marriage wasn't really successful. His wife is recorded as saying the entire Rutland family should die out. It is not clear exactly when the Duke's conscience truly began to prey on his mind sufficiently to wish to destroy every shred of evidence, but judging by his letters to his beloved uncle he was a sensitive and essentially good man. He knew he had not been on the front line with his regiment although the monument has his name on it.

They knew too, even if they said nothing, but every Armistice Day he would feel their eyes on him when as Duke he was first to lay the memorial wreath. He may well have felt a silent judgment not to his credit. What he must have felt at discovering the ultimate betrayal by his trusted and beloved Uncle which apparently he discovered only when going through his Mother's correspondence can only be imagined.

Catherine Bailey is in my opinion far too generous when she says that viewed from the perspective of 21st century his reasons for taking advantage of his position as one of the most privileged young men in England to take advantage of the choice not to fight are compelling: wanting to be with the woman he loved and to see his unborn child. Every other of the four million British men who served had no choice but to fight. They had families & loved ones too and many were shot at dawn for deserting which is essentially what he did. It would be no more forgivable now than it was then, and moreover His actions suggest he knew it.

Bailey set out to tell an entirely different story and while she found another one full of tragedy, lies, deception, conspiracy and quite appalling family behaviour, her meticulous and careful research managed to uncover this extraordinarily fascinating and gripping tale, giving us an insight into a world lost forever on the battlefields of the Great War.
It is a tribute both to her detective skills and to her fine writing style that she manages to recount both the story and her discoveries to tell in reality three stories .

The conspiracy of lies, deceit and betrayal that caused the anguished and dying Duke to attempt to destroy all records of his shame, the careful and dogged work of discovering as far as possible the flesh and bones of the story and indirectly the underlying story of 'that mysterious army of ploughmen, horsemen and field workers" that had originally brought her to Belvoir in the first place.

It is telling that she chooses to end the book with the list of all those names on the memorial.

Anyone interested in the world before 1914 and the events of that great slaughter house of unimaginable horrors should read this. One is left to wonder whether it is time to alter succession rules for the nobility to mirror the changes to the Royal Succession. It might have been a very different story if the 9th Duke had not been virtually trapped by family and blood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bobby sanmiguel
Some of the most worthwhile things I've read or discovered happened when I was actually looking for something else entirely. That's what happened to Catherine Bailey, who originally visited Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Rutland, in order to write a history of the farmers and other estate workers who served in World War I. While searching the records in the castle's archives she discovered some intriguing gaps which, while they made it impossible to carry out her original plans, led her in a new and fascinating direction. Why had John,the 9th Duke of Rutland, spent the last years of his life in a set of small rooms in the servants' quarters of Belvoir, working literally to the point of death on some mysterious task involving the family's letters and other records?

Bailey's research reveals an intriguing if sometimes painful tale. The Rutlands were a wealthy but highly dysfunctional family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John was born a second son but became the heir to the dukedom after his older brother, the family favorite, died in mysterious circumstances. Bailey paints a sad picture of the young boy, who was alienated from his parents and primarily raised by a bachelor uncle, developing unusual historical and antiquarian interests which ill-suited his future role as a peer. In his early twenties he and his parents were in conflict over the projected sale of some of the family treasures, and then during World War I he found his desire to serve alongside the men from the Rutland estate stymied by his mother and uncle's desire to keep him alive and healthy. The letters and other papers from all three of these crises were destroyed by the Duke during his last days, but Bailey does an admirable job of reconstructing most of what happened.

The Secret Rooms is more than just the story of John and his family. There is a great deal of material on the British rural economy, social and other changes around the turn of the century, the conduct of the early stages of World War I, and on the often seamy behavior of many of the people surrounding John, including his boorish father, beautiful mother, elegant youngest sister (the future Lady Diana Cooper), an unpleasant American millionaire, and a host of British military and political leaders. Most of all The Secret Rooms gives a good view of what life was like, both upstairs and downstairs, on a great British estate. Fans of Downton Abbey will find this book fascinating, as will anyone who enjoys a good true life mystery.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sue mills
This work is absolutely riveting--not only because of its view of Violet, Duchess of Rutland, as a manipulative schemer, quite different to the lovely, wafting duchess mentioned in the autobiographies of the Edwardian period, but because of the detective work of the author. The "Secret Rooms" is not the most apt title, because the story has more to do with rampant destruction of documents by Violet's son, the 9th Duke of Rutland, who apparently tried to sanitize the history of his wartime service. While the communities in the Rutland fiefdom lost over 200 men in the Great War 1914-1918, and the 8th Duke exhorted local men to enlist and serve their country, Violet was doing her utmost to keep her son (Marquess of Granby at the time) away from the Western Front. The reader will be fascinated by the account of Bailey's excellent research methods, as she uncovers evidence that completes the story of aristocratic string-pulling and influence. The only jarring note to the audiobook is that the narrator occasionally mispronounces a word.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
charity tahmaseb
Author obtained access to the correspondence of John Marquis of Grandby, later 9th Duke of Rutland, having in mind a particular book...but finds secrets and deliberate extractions in the records that change her original intentions.
A good look at the intrigues within the Ruling Classes with emphasis on the period around WWI. This was a time when the Great War, the economy, and introductions of the modern world were not only changing the methods of warfare, but shaking the very foundations of The status quo, that would lead to the sale of many of the great estates of the aristocracy, and the cultural shifts that would effect their power base.
Interesting look at this time throughout the secrets and machinations of one family.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amy hendricks
I have spent days drowning in the minutia of endless lists and letters and details of the author's research - and hoping for a bigger secret than the one that became apparent in the first third of the book. This would have been a really great article. It is well written, the author is clearly intelligent, and there is an interesting small story here. But there is not enough substance here for hundreds of pages if you ask me. I give up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bob parry
Others reviewers have said what I found to be true: this book reads like a novel. What makes it unique is the focus on letters about one officer's experiences in France during World War I. With this week's remembrances of that war, the book truly did come to life. Another feature that I particularly liked was the author's reliance on short chapters. It allowed you to move forward in the story without having to stop in the middle of something important or an investment of a large chunk of time to finish the chapter. I didn't feel the "Downton Abbey" or "Upstairs Downstairs" connection that others did but it's a compelling read for anyone loving a good mystery that happens to be a true story!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is an incredibly well-researched history book that doubles as an engrossing mystery story. The characters and time period come to life in a manner that will have you devoting your every free minute to reading it until the final secrets have been revealed. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
bryan pritts
Guilt is a peculiar thing, not necessarily having great correlation with reality. As the only surviving male of child bearing age in secession to the Dukedom, if this had been during World War II the ninth Duke of Rutland would almost certainly have been assigned to a non-combat position. Non-Combat I hasten to add, by no means is the same as non-essential and considering his many academic talents I am sure a square hole could have been found to fit his square peg! This does not mean that heirs were not killed in action the death of the Marquess of Hartington in 1944 comes to mind, however he was not the last person in line to his father’s title of child bearing age. Then we have the entire movie Saving Private Ryan based upon a similar U.S. Policy (unless the person waved that right).

Further, from what she wrote in this book, I remain uncertain why Catherine Bailey was unable to complete her original book based solely upon a lacunae of several months in 1915 in the correspondence of the Manners Family.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
corine hunt
This is a very readable non-fiction book. I really like the writing style of the author. The book explores gaps in the life of the 9th Duke of Rutland. Charles devoted his life to hiding events in his life. The book includes: the death of his brother, World War One, hiding in the castle, odd and unloveable parents, a sister who sacrificed, a lifestyle of a rich and powerful family, secrets galore, and more. The book deserves an A++++++++
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rhonda montano
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Bailey's investigation and the wild tale that she uncovered. There was a long, detailed section about one character's experience during the war that seemed superfluous to the story - I skimmed through that part. The rest of it was fantastic and worth the wade through that section (which occurred about half way through).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is a remarkable book, and a very fun read. The author has gone to great pains to try to uncover the truth about this family. Yes, there are a few unanswered questions, and a bit of speculation, but based on the evidence she unearthed, probably accurate speculation. The subtitle is deceiving; there are a few paragraphs about the castle being haunted, but not enough to emphasize it in the subtitle. The subtitle should read: A true story of a plotting, scheming, lying, deceitful, unethical, manipulative duchess...
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The eighth Duke of Rutland from the English landed gentry has a terminal illness and strangely locks himself up destroying correspondence that would be an embarrassment to the family's name. Why the urgency to destroy this information? Enter the author, Catherine Bailey who doggedly researches and exposes the family secrets that he was attempting to destroy. A very well written and researched book that reads more like a fiction mystery rather than a book about real people. I mean that in a complementary manner. I really enjoyed the book and looked forward to reading it at each sitting.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
bill sommer
You know those irritating history detective type shows on TV? The ones when they talk up a subject and then spend all the time showing how they did their "research"? Well, this is the written version of that. It starts out with great promise -- and the plans of the castle! -- but meanders into innocuous boredom. Despite the author spending so much time on the Duke and why he felt he had to expunge his history, I was unable to garner any interest in him or even care.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
An absorbing account of how aristocratic privilege saved an heir to the dukedom from serving on the front in World War I. The book is well researched and provides insight into how political clout worked in a society where generals catered to aristocrats, even when those very same aristocrats were drumming up local working class recruits to enter the war's carnage. Highly readable, the book shows that even an heir to a dukedom who wanted to be principled eventually caved to the manipulations of his mother and uncle who wanted to safeguard the family's fortunes by keeping him from harm.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One of the most boring books I have ever read, too many pages of inconsequential minutiae about WWI. Thought I would enjoy it simply because I loved the series Downton Abbey and because I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of the Carnarvons of Highclere, but this was a complete waste of time.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
amy lynn ferguson
This was boring in the extreme... the solution to the mysteries is really not that spectacular, but to get even there, you have to plow your way through tons of uninteresting information. My God, I really did not want to read the account of battle and prep-for-battle movements, minute by tedious minute... It was torture, more or less. I did finish it though :)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sean richards
Non-fiction books are often a double edged sword for me. I love that I get the historical information and facts about a period in history or a specific person etc, however often the material is presented in a very scholarly manor and can at times be on the dry side.

However ever once in a while I get a non-fiction book for review that really catches my eye and that was the case with The Secret Rooms but Catherine Bailey.

This book promised a Downton Abbey-esque, real life mystery in the upper echelons of WWI English society…how could I pass it up? This story roped me in almost immediately.

It read more like a historic fiction novel, the only thing that would give it away as a non-fiction book was the author’s continual commentary about her research and journey of discovery.

While at times I found the theories and questions being investigated by Bailey being overstated, I felt that the overall direction of the book intriguing. The writing and book aren’t perfect but I think that is why I enjoyed it so much.

I didn’t feel like the information and background were overly scholarly or dry, on the contrary I found all her information relevant and easy to digest. Sometimes I thought she over stated her purpose for the book but it wasn’t a huge distraction–at least for me.

For me it was a great mystery indeed! Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and that was definitely the case here!

See my full review here: [...]
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tiffany bradshaw
Like other reviewers have said, it starts out interesting but just doesn't keep it up. Yes, it is a glimpse of life of (I guess) an important English family at an important time in history. Bu do we really care? Having read the whole thing, I don't see why we should. Maybe it is of more interest in England. And yes, NOT a "haunted" castle. Unless you count haunted by sad family secrets. Using the word "haunted" was just a cheap marketing ploy.

I will say that the research this author did was amazing. That alone should have 5 stars! Just wish it was for something more worthwhile.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
elizabeth ruth
Catherine Bailey visited Belvoir Castle with the intention of writing about the part played by the Rutland family and the workers from the estate during the First World War. When she started to do her research she stumbled upon a mystery that had been hidden for many years, once she started to delve, she came across a story that has now become the focus of this book - a completely different book to that which she had planned, but one that is incredibly detailed and often reads like a fiction novel.

In the opening chapters, the ninth Duke of Rutland; John Manners is dying. For the last few years of his life he has shut himself away in the 'secret rooms' amongst the servant's quarters on the ground floor of Belvoir Castle. These rooms were cramped, with no luxuries at all, so different from the sumptuous suites on the upper floors of the Castle. After John's death, his son sealed off the rooms and until Catherine Bailey arrived to do her research, no one else had entered them.

The Duke was a strange and solitary man throughout his life, he collected and catalogued items constantly including birds eggs, photographs, and most importantly, the family correspondence going back hundreds of years. As the author carefully made her way through the thousands of letters kept in the rooms, she found that there were three periods of John's life that were missing, these were from 1894, 1909 and 1915. Everything else had been carefully catalogued including the estate accounts, so what had happened to John during these times of his life that he was determined to erase?

John was the second son of Henry, the 8th Duke of Rutland and his wife Violet. Their first born son Haddon tragically died at the age of 9. Haddon's death occurs at the time of the first batch of missing correspondence in 1894. John, aged just 7 at the time, was sent away from home immediately after the funeral to live with his Uncle Charles - his mother Violet could not bear to look at him and Haddon was deeply mourned by his parents. Violet's apparent cruelty, neglect and lack of compassion to her second son continues throughout his life, not once did his parents visit him when he was sent away to school and it was not until he was due to go to France as an Army officer in the Great War that they began to take notice of him again. It was not that they feared for John's safety, it was purely because they needed the Rutland name to be continued and the Belvoir Estate to remain in the family. Violet's manipulating and pressurising of leading Army figures is astonishing to read, she comes across as a driven and hard-faced woman who will stop at nothing to get what she desires. John's father Henry was a weak man, more concerned with appearances than with his son's feelings.

It is no wonder that John grew to be a damaged, vulnerable and needy adult. A man who found it difficult to love and to be loved and preferred to surround himself with inanimate objects and who was determined that no one would find out the family secrets. And there are so many secrets uncovered in this story; just how did little Haddon die? Where exactly did John spend most of the war years?

Catherine Bailey is a historian and successful television producer. She has produced a story that is accessible and well written, that reads like a novel but is in fact the whole truth. This is a fascinating look at how the wealthy and titled lived their lives, raised their families and how they behaved on the battle fields and beyond during the Great War. A war that hundreds of thousands of ordinary men never returned from, but a war that Dukes and Lords often looked upon as a bit of a 'jolly' as they tucked into their luxury hampers whilst watching the battles from afar.

The book is beautifully presented, with a detailed family tree, black and white photographs and a plan of Belvoir Castle.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lauren corba
I loved this book. The mystery was great and I learned a lot about WWI from the first hand accounts in the book. Ms. Bailey's research was incredible. The amount of documents she had to read to write this book was just staggering. I am impressed in every way!.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sybil siren
Intending to write a book about the effects of service in World War I on the servants and the estates of Henry, the eight Duke of Rutland, the author stumbled upon an entirely different story. Without giving too much away, Ms. Bailey, who had chosen the Muniment Rooms of Belvoir Castle because of the extensive cataloguing of letters and documents conducted by John, the ninth duke, discovered mysterious and quite precise excisions of the records for the period 7 July through 5 December 1915. With further research, she uncovered additional excisions. The first began on 23 August 1894 and the second on 6 June 1909. Altogether the duke had obliterated 356 days from his otherwise meticulously catalogued archive. But why?
The quest for the answers is fascinating. The author gives the reader a step-by-step view of her search, supported by letters of the period that provide unforgettable eye-witness accounts of the World War I battlefields and dressing stations as well as the family's behind-the-scenes machinations.
An excellent social history, the book reads like a good mystery story with the add impact that it is fact, not fiction.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
stephanie schumey
Like another has mentioned, you start this book and cannot put it down. It begins with mystery, immediate empathy for the main character and fills your mind with ideas of what the answer to the mystery is. Halfway in, it becomes beleaguered with detail and minutia that felt like sitting through history class. I felt the bulk of the read to be about WWI making me forget the "mystery" and "intrigue". Why the book description even refers to fans of Downton Abbey escapes me. The book was exceptionally well written, the author's research no doubt to be the most thorough and painstaking. However, this was an interesting read at best; my attention waning the closer I got to the finish. I couldn't wait to be finished and the anticlimactic ending was the final letdown.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marjorie relin
I really enjoyed this book and found the cliffhangers so gripping that I just had to keep going. Not only was the intrigue of the story interesting, but also the build-up and the complex family relationships. I listened to it on Audible and, although there were some repetitions, it felt necessary to remind the reader/listener of incidental details which might have been forgotten. A very good book!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
edna lucia
The reviewers who gave "The Secret Rooms" a bad review did so unfairly, I feel. There was nothing wrong with the book, it was just the wrong book for the wrong people. As for me, I hung on every word. Catherine Bailey's ability to keep the mysteries forever in front of us kept the pages turning.
it is the best glimpse into Victorian life that I have run across, perhaps with the exception of Edith Wharton's brilliant writing. Bailey paints all sides of the 'age' with a coating of lace and vinegar, from the absurd oppression of the children and their lack of voice, to the dreamed-of extravagance of wealth.
Yet through Bailey's cunning hand, the secrets carry us on, revealed through lost--and almost lost--letters. Behind the façade of title and riches lies the often unhappy truth of manipulation and abuse of power.
For those interested in Victorian life, World War I, and the nasty secrets of the titled gentry, it is a must read..
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea beres
My Look:

History is everything but boring within Belvoir Castle . . .

Why was the physician of King George VI expected? Most astonishing of all, why was this physician and others awaiting the patient to be ready for them?

These questions show only the beginning of the Duke of Rutland mystery, while England was entering the fray of World War I. Other issues plagued the hierarchy landing many in a state of turmoil long before the war. In fact, to some, the war was a welcome act, to others it marked the end of a lifestyle, and to some, it was a fear like no other.

To understand this time and culture one needs to understand the history. Further, one needs to know that history has the ability to change, albeit not sometimes expectedly. Moreover, one needs to realize the family dynamic. The family position was, well, everything and appearances mattered daily. However, it was the first-born male heir who mattered most, but this young heir landed at death's door.

Was it an accident? Or an illness? Or was it something more?

Know up front that a castle was not a domicile, but it was the domain of many families, each in their own place. A major household such as this was not a mere building, but it was sustenance to whole villages. Villagers worked inside and outside the estate and their work earned the family wages — "a feudal system". However, many things had changed from a long-lasting agriculture depression, where many Dukes' positions financially suffered. Land was devalued. It was at this time, taxes became levied on the ducal aristocrats and a stripping of their political powers were meant to castrate the bunch.

The Duke of Rutland's problem actually was far more reaching than this and scaled many years before. To keep from losing land, the Duke was using legal maneuvering to disinherit his second and only living son, while his mother was using whatever sway she could to keep her family growing. From war strategies to safe keeping of documents, this family weaves itself through actual history, in both the good and bad ways, depending on who knows about it and who was on the receiving end of the deception.

However, what exactly was important enough to hide that would cause this Duke to die while keeping it hidden?

My Take:

In THE SECRET ROOMS, historian and author Catherine Bailey provides a narrative that changes the course of her writing and research, when mystification is inbred with fact and becomes a point of view meant to not be seen. Her resulting true mystery raptures the reader from page one and doesn't falter!

Catherine Bailey brings to life yesteryear that Downton Abbey fans will relish, and her riddle manages to capture mystery lovers and history buffs too.

The lives in this story will have you enthralled, as you race to find answers that lay just beyond indecorum and falsehoods. Strong women, weak men, appear inside the walls of Belvoir Castle, but roles change as their time progresses. If you are like me, you'll believe that just maybe someone still living is suspicious that things weren't right in the past.

Catherine Bailey's book, THE SECRET ROOMS, is a book I recommend! ***Though the publisher provides the free book, I offer the opinion.***
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alyssa fine
I loved the tone of mystery to this story. It was more like reading a novel than a biography. I'd love to read more biographies like this! I bought the book on audible. I really enjoyed listening to it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nicola rhodes
This true story, well told, will appeal to lovers of Downton Abbey, as well as readers studying the First World War. Bailey, a historian, came to Belvoir Castle with the idea of studying the effects of the War on the lives of the people of the area. Instead, early on, she begins to hear stories of the family who had lived in the castle for many generations, a family which had been one of the wealthiest in England. As she continued her investigations, she learned that the ninth Duke of Rutland, who died in 1940, had left several closely guarded secrets. The unraveling of his life and his secrets turns out to be the story which captures her interest.
This is a fun read, because it is skillfully told and gives American readers insight into the lives of the British aristocracy which we usually never see.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Picked up this book on a whim while at the airport. It was excellent and very well written. It held my interest from beginning to end. Gave me a whole new perspective on WWI. It was a real life mystery involving some intriguing research and piecing together of information. I lent this book out to someone that read it in a couple of days and I can't wait to get it back to read it again.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
I really wanted to like this book more, but found myself starting each new chapter waiting for a big reveal that never comes. It is well-written and clearly thoroughly researched but simply is not about "secret" rooms. I agree with a previous reviewer, subject could have been addressed in a long article.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ellen bicheler
i really enjoy this type of true life mystery. The duchess and dukes involved in this tale are quite intriguing and provides some marvelous insight in to the lives of the elite and also customs of the times. it is very easy to read and characters are not sugar coated. The description of their castle made me want to visit and explore the "secret rooms".
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
stephanie ann
I am not sure how this book could get good reviews,its is one of the most boring and irrelevant books I ever read.
I was hoping it would in read like a non fiction thriller but over 400 pages it reveals that John the Duke of Rutland as a child might have contributed to the death of his brother although it sounds more like his brother Haddon died from a congenital condition not unexpected,considering the inbreeding and limited gene pool of the English aristocracy.
Later John dodged the draft and avoided to be killed in WW I.
The writing itself is poor and the author who has no psychological training attempts to explain behavior of people that have long before died.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mrs shreve
The author certainly has a wonderful way with words and can easily draw the anticipation out. It was amazing getting to know these real life people who lived around 100 years ago, to see some of the pain and happiness we all experience. I'm not 100% happy with all her finding, although I know she literally had nothin to work with and had to play Sherlock Holmes, but it was exceptional anyways
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Very well-researched, but a bit slow. If you're interested in British history (especially royalty, WWI, and WWII history) you'll like it. I found the author's habit of ending a chapter by leaving you hanging just a bit annoying, but all told it was an interesting and somewhat sad story.
I still wonder -- did they ever find the rubies?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Fascinating--a researcher's dream trove! Not all the secrets Bailey dug up are shocking, but all are interesting, and the tale of the hunt for them is even better tan what she uncovers. Page-turning reading for history buffs. But if there is such a thing as ghosts, the 9th Duke of Rutland is going to be rattling some very angry chains around the Bailey house.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa fitzgerald
Fascinating account of the author's research into the hidden history of Belvoir Castle and the family who live there. Having visited the castle often both as a child and as an adult, the house has long captured my imagination and it was such a treat to wander along its hidden corridors with the author and to share her unprecedented access to the archives. Immensely readable, this page-turner of a story kept my attention to the very last page.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lisa key
Loved this book. Well-written, full of interesting stuff about Belvoir Castle....love the history!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Enjoyed it. A bit too long and the ending falls a little flat. But a very interesting window into pre- WWI aristocratic society. Author writes very engagingly. Overall, I liked it a lot.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andrea westphal
This was a fun read and a historica llearning experience at the same time. Author did a good job of writing what WWI was like for English citizens as well as a mystery solved through the hundreds of letters and other research done regarding an aristocratic family during that period. Enjoyed this book very much!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
siddha malilang
the historical parts about WW1 were interesting but it got a little bogged down with much repeated information about John Montagu. I was most disappointed by the title of the book stating this was "a true story of a HAUNTED castle...." There was never a mention of any haunting in the castle. I bought the book thinking it would be interesting to read about this "haunting"
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
At page 182, I have finally just given up from sheer boredom from tedious details and lack of interesting plot. Bailey's arduous undertaking has failed to capture this reader's interest in both the subject matter as well as the actual history of this family. The reviews on the back cover of the book allude to suspense, mystery and is simply thrilling. Not sure how these reviews were made of this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Very interesting! gets a little windy at the end but very enthralling!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Excellent research but rather heavy with a lot of WWI details. Interesting historical facts from the British perspective from late 1800's through the war. Not a page turner but a good study of the very rich aristocracy and the selfish manipulations they were capable of even during war. Includes lots of photos and detailed information. I enjoyed "Black Diamonds" by the same author too.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I enjoyed reading the book. Ms. Bailey is a wonderful author and the book was well researched. I was disappointed because I did not learn why Violet and Henry sent John away after his brothers death. The beginning of the started with the story but, I never found it explained in the book. I read every word of this book and if I missed it I wish someone would tell me where it is. To, me the fact that John was sent to live with his uncle was real tragedy of the book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
And a chore to read.
Sometimes there is such a thing as too much information! For what most of her readers will no doubt consider a very modest "secret" , Bailey devotes a LOT of time and effort. No doubt, her research, much of which was undertaken in the confines of Belvoir Castle, was pleasant enough to keep her going....and going.
The treatment of footnotes is - at least in the Kindle format- both irritating and puzzling. I'm sure that as a researcher, the author would be appalled!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
cheryl leslie
I'm halfway through the book and I am really enjoying it. I love history, historical fiction, and since this is a true story I find it so interesting. I know there isn't any great big secret that will be revealed, but I still find it a wonderful read so far. They way people behaved in those days is nuts!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bryony turner
As the saying goes, truth is far stranger than fiction. In the case of The Secret Rooms, truth was not only elusive but also fascinating to discover along with the author. I highly recommend this story of the Dukes of Rutland and the lengths the Manners family went to rewrite history. Fascinating!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
The whole book is a series of questions that promise to be answered, yet no satisfactory conclusion is ever reached. The only likable character in the book is the castle itself, the rest we never learn enough about to judge. Waste of time, leaving the reader with more questions than answers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
valerie dawson
I really enjoyed this book - my favorite kind of non-fiction. The author did an excellent job of researching why the duke eliminated different time periods of his life but preserved and catalogued written material from the 800- year history of the castle. I was very impressed by her thoroughness.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tom jenckes
I think this author did an excellent job of uncovering a great family mystery or mysteries as it turns out. A great view into the upper levels of British society at that time.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
This was just okay. It could have been shorter and it would have been better. I felt the author padded the story in order to try to build suspense and turn it into a book. The most interesting part was the author's dedication to running down this story and how she put it together. The story itself was just okay.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
derek durant
That a writer could keep me so interested in the lives and activities of the blue-blooded British aristocracy, so entitled but so undeserved, says a lot about her skill. As an amateur historian I truly believe history will view the upper crust of England, later UK, the way we view Nazi Germany today. I have no love and little sympathy for these people but Catherine Bailey's skill in "peeling back" the layers of an abnormally strange life (strangeness was the norm) of a post-Victoria English noble is the real story. What a writer!

Still, I could only give the book a 4 out of 5 because, despite the great prose, the subject matter environment still caused me a bit of nausea and cynicism (being reminded of the inequities of life).

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Interesting enough, but don't expect much about the haunting! And once you figure out what the duchess was plotting about, you're done!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
karen caddies
Very dull read. I still had as many unanswered questions on page 465 that I had on page 1. There were a few pages that got interesting and I thought, "Great, now it will take off," but it just got boring again. Towards the end I started to skip over some of the correspondence because it was so tedious. Why, when letters ended with "destroy this," "burn this," "don't save this letter," they saved them? And why did John die alone in the secret rooms?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
john singh
that pulls you in immediately. Sadly, last third drags. Worth a read if only to discover what a monster mother Violet was. Hope Ms. Bailey will consider writing bio of Diana Manners Duff who emerges as one of the more interesting characters here.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
deb cosbey
The "secret" wasn't worth 400+ pages. Spoiler alert: wealthy aristocrat gets an early exit from the war. Film at 11. The writing was fine, but it attached too much drama to something that just wasn't that interesting.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I started this book with high hopes; the cover blurbs sounded really interesting. It didn't totally deliver. There was little, if any, mention of the ghost (who it was, etc.). At times the narrative got so involved in explanation that the story sometimes got lost. I wanted to know more about the mistress who broke into the castle in the beginning of the book but that was lost as well. Overall, the book was good but I was dissapointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This is a very detailed book dealing casually with the secret room, but historically with the time period of WWI. If you want to know about a haunted room, don't read this one, choose another. If you are interested in Belvoir Castle and its inhabitants, you will enjoy this book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Trying not to give the 'secret' away; however, it still happens to day with the rich and their children in the military.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hope cowan
This is true ? Hard to believe. Book is in excellent condition. Thank you !
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I enjoyed the book but would not consider it in the category of haunted unless I missed something in the writing. It was more about an emotionally mixed-up child due to his mother's lack of love. Also he was manipulated by others in his life that affected him emotionally that turned him into an eccentric older gentleman.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This is a very interesting, often over-looked story of protecting history during World War II. It is a bit technical at times, but the fact that is true makes it all that more interesting!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
d a hosek
Another good read, and pretty good history set in war time England.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
manish jain
I read this straight through as I could not put it down. Absolutely fascinating story!!!!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
shivani sheopory
A huge amount of research on the family with superb additional detail on the period. The writing seemed patchy to me. Some times I wanted to scream as she labored a point but other times I was racing through the pages to find out what happened.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lanecia nixon
Ms. Bailey is a great author. There is no doubt about that. I didn't expect the material in this book to be what it is. It's fascinating, a history and a mystery that is different than her previous work. Enjoy this book and take time to savor it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
It was too wordy for me and the author took way too long to get the point of whatever she wanted to make. It was interesting, however, to get a glimpse of how the British aristocracy lived at the turn of the last century.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer england
This book is about the mysteries behind one of the most prominent, aristocratic families in England. True story that it is...it reads like a perfect mystery novel, which makes it that much better. The pages turn themselves.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Unless you are riveted by lengthy descriptions of battles and politics of World War I, you will find this a rather boring book. The haunted castle storyline is revealed in a few short pages and seems to be a very obvious "hook". A great many chapters are dedicated to the machinations that an aristocratic mother will resort to in order to keep her son out of harms way. The so-called secret rooms are revealed to be more of a puzzle than a secret..
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Interesting historical book that reads
Ike a novel.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The enjoyment was clearly isolated to the building up of the mystery, as the true answers were rather yawn worthy after the salacious speculations initially proposed by the author. It ended strangely and stuntedly, as if the author ran out of time, ideas or interest.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The book started out exciting, then seemed to just have a lot of words that weren't very interesting. I had to struggle to finish the book.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
anna gamel
There was a lot of interesting historical information in the book and ultimately a very compelling story. The writing style was redundant to an irksome degree.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Great mystery. Lots of history. A look into life that is little understood in the US.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
i just got frustrated because its a big deal about nothing really, all that makes it interesting is that its dukes and duchesses up to no good. i was hoping to find out more it was a bit of a let down. however i was gripped and it has the makings of a great mystery, just needs a re write with more juice.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
heston hoffman
Dragged a bit too much at the end
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
trisha white
Don't read. Not worth it.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
It got to be a little wordy and too much military talk for my liking but it was ok I guess if you like that sort of thing.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
3 Stars. I thought the secret was going to be something more then he just opted out of servicing in World I.
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