Cover image and summary from Goodreads:
In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won’t allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty – her family and the estate she loves dearly – and desire.
I’d been meaning to read Landry Park for some time. In fact, I’d already borrowed it from the library but returned it unread, as I wasn’t able to start reading it before it was due back.
This time around, I found it a fairly quick read. I vaguely recalled hearing that it was Downton Abbey-esque, and now that I’ve read the book, I certainly agree! I love watching Downton Abby – all the upstairs/downstairs drama and historical detail is so fascinating – and that’s what I was hoping for here.
The little twist that I enjoyed is that Landry Park is not really historical fiction. It actually takes place a couple centuries in the future, following a war that had a devastating effect on the USA. Post-war, the ruling class of what remained decided to make a return to a previous way of life and they became the gentry. So while a part of the story feels very much like historical fiction – the manner of dress, social conventions, etc. – there are also futuristic elements. I really enjoyed that mix.
The plot itself was interesting, and while I found it a bit of a slow start, I was pulled in the more I read. By the end, I was eager to see what would happen next, and am of course looking forward to the sequel.
While I liked the characters, I lacked any strong connection to them. I was more interested in the plot than the characters, which is fine, but doesn’t always make for the most memorable book, in my reading experience. I appreciated Madeline’s desire to please her family while at the same time wanting an education, which was frowned upon by her father. She loved Landry Park, but as her eyes were opened to the injustices and atrocities committed by the gentry in order to maintain their rank in the class system and sustain their lifestyle, she couldn’t ignore the way her comfortable life was sustained by the hard labour and pain of others. It was some nice character development, but somehow I didn’t feel attached to Madeline herself; likewise with the love interest, David. David was infuriatingly hot and cold towards Madeline. In fact, the character I liked best turned out to be Cara, Madeline’s long-time frenemy. She was brash, outspoken, and so much more interesting than Madeline.
As I said, I’m now eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel, due out sometime next year, to see where Bethany Hagen goes with the plot. Landry Park ended with the gentry’s way of life about to be flipped upside down, and I’m excited to see what happens next. Despite my reservations about the characters, this was an entertaining read!