Reviews below are based on the Landed Estate individual series books. These books are now combined into one novel.
Landed Estate - Secrets Part 1 (4 Stars)
A gripping and enthralling read by an author who is really making his mark. Secrets is an eloquently written tale of the landed aristocracy in Ireland. It is an insightful and critically informed view from the Anglo-Irish perspective that demonstrates the land struggles that took place within families. The characters are wholesome and identifiable, passionate and alive - not restricted by stiff upper class cliches and conformities. The prose could sometimes fall victim to this and let the characters down at times but overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable read. The Irish countryside comes alive in a new and refreshing way for contemporary tales of this time and the paradox of peace and tranquillity is wonderfully created against the backdrop of uncertainty, threat and doom for an era almost at an end. Looking forward to the next instalment.
Landed Estate - Secrets Part 1 (4 Stars)
A riveting story from beginning to end. As a non-Irish reader, I could visualise the beautiful and lush Irish landscape which is presented so vividly. The plot is fast moving, taking the reader on Susanna's journey as she fights her battles against her antagonist both in and out of court. I was captivated by her character and I could easily identify with her since she experiences pain, anxiety, passion, excitement, love gained and lost, and is thus an authentic and fully developed character. I look forward to reading the second instalment.
Landed Estate - Secrets Part 1 (4 Stars)
The arranged marriage of Susanna Villiers and Eyre Westby benefited both families and shielded a secretive deal unknown to most. Eyre’s unexpected death and Susanna’s grief was ripe for a take-over of Susanna’s properties and rights by her brother. Cold, calculating Sam Villiers bombarded his sister with such force and devious assaults Susanna had to find the strength and courage to match Sam’s aggressive stance. This historical romance set in Ireland was nicely written with believable characters, a good pace and the right amount of details to hold my interest. The strain within the family and the emotional rollercoaster ride of the main female character created a connection, the frustration and pain telegraphed through the pages. “Secrets” was the first e-book in the Landed Estate Series and I am looking forward to the next book in this series.
Landed Estate – Inheritance Part 2 (5 Stars)
Once again Kesp has enthralled the reader. He has a clear and unique understanding of family values steeped in tradition and often incomprehensible values. Susanna Westby shines brightly as a much loved character in a world that submerges the female voice. In the same manner, Katherine Villiers triumphs as the love-to-hate villain. Kesp engages in a unique narrative that places the female characters to the fore in a natural and unassuming way. The last 6 chapters gain a rich memento as the reader races ahead to seek their own satisfaction. Looking forward to the next instalment.
Landed Estate – Inheritance Part 2 (4 Stars)
Following 'Secrets', this second book takes us on Susanna's journey as she struggles incessantly with matters of the heart and those of family and estate. I love Susanna's character immensely as she is a fully developed figure. I find myself relating to her very easily, albeit in a different setting both in time and place. She is a strong-willed and resolute woman who experiences love, hatred, anxiety, desperation, and anguish; emotions which, as a reader, I share with her so effortlessly. Her antagonist, Catherine, is an equally credible character whom I love to hate with a passion! All these emotions are generated through Ben Kesp's exquisite diction and imagery, enabling the reader to visualise clearly the scenes as they unfold. The author's keen interest in very minute details gives life to the story and the characters spring right before our very eyes, unsettling us from our comfort zone, thus becoming highly captivated, but most importantly, ignited with that same passion emitted by the protagonist throughout this series. I really look forward to reading the third instalment. There is still so much to be divulged.
Landed Estate – A Time Forgotten Part 3 (4 Stars)
A Time Forgotten' brings Susanna's enthralling story to a closure. Despite a fictional character, she experiences trials and tribulations with which we can associate. Her failure to maintain the family name and estate at the end of the story only serves as a constant reminder that time brings about forced change which we cannot control. Nonetheless, Susanna remains resolute until her last breath. She is a character to reckon with, especially when considering that she is set during a time when the female voice was relegated and suppressed by male supremacy. She is envied and admired even by women of the 21st century in spite of the quantum leaps which have been witnessed during the last decades. Similarly to its preceding instalments, this final part is presented exquisitely by the author whose diction is ever so rich and captivating. I look forward to reading future work penned by Ben Kesp who is to be commended.
Landed Estate – A Time Forgotten Part 3 (4 Stars)
An exciting conclusion to this trilogy! This story is fast-paced, structurally sound and fully developed characters. It transports the reader to another era, swept up in the social norms and fashion of the time. Susanna is a true heroine, worthy of her role. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
"Landed Estate" is an eloquently written tale of the landed aristocracy in Ireland"
"This historical romance set in Ireland was nicely written with believable characters"
"The author's keen interest in very minute details gives life to the story and the characters spring right before our very eyes"
"It is an insightful and critically informed view from the Anglo-Irish perspective that demonstrates the land struggles that took place within families"
"As a non-Irish reader, I could visualise the beautiful and lush Irish landscape which is presented so vividly"
History behind the story
The background of this story is set around the time of the Landed Estates in Ireland that started the "Big House" era and the creation of vast estates. These families were the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland and were succeeded by the Anglo Irish, identified as a privileged social class in Ireland.
How did it all begin? The Landed Estate Series came about in 2004 when I became familiar with the Anglo Irish, having done extensive research into their lives after conducting my own family history.
History has recorded that their golden era spanned two centuries. The Anglo Irish were descendants of the Protestant Ascendancy from the 17th century and were the ruling class up until the early 20th century Ireland. The Anglo Irish or “New English” replaced the Gaelic Lords and old English aristocracy (Hiberno Normans) as the ruling class in Ireland. Great grand houses rose up throughout the Irish country side where lavish lifestyles were enjoyed on vast estates with many exceeding twenty thousand acres. The Protestant Ascendancy came about after the Williamite Wars (1689-91) when much of the Irish land was confiscated by the British Crown and domination politically, socially and economically over Ireland fell into the hands of great landowners. Very rich landlords became members of parliament in the Irish House of Lords. Irish Catholic gentry who swore allegiance to the British Crown were able to retain their holdings and became part of the new ruling class.
Included within the privileged social class were the French Huguenots (French Protestants) that were displaced during the late 17th century and led to a mass exodus from France with many settling in Ireland taking up high positions within Irish society especially in the areas of business, politics, banking, science, brewers, architecture etc.
In 1870 Ireland saw the introduction of the Land Act that sought to transfer the lands to the tenant farmers. This resulted in loss of income and a gradual decline in the operation of the big house. Many of the houses were burned down during the war of independence and civil war in the beginning of the 20th century. Today you can visit these magnificent houses and marvel at the wonderful architecture of these fine buildings which are now a part of the Irish heritage. Of those that remain today, many are still maintained as private homes, others as luxury hotels, leisure centres and world class golf courses. It should also be worth noting the great ruins that can be seen around the Irish country side, if you are lucky enough to stumble across one, a testament of a time long gone in Irish history.
My aim for the Landed Estate Series is to bring alive the imagery of the Irish countryside, mixed with the ever changing Irish weather and the lives of the characters, the houses, and the estates. Family, tradition, duty and power all encapsulated the landed gentry and their roles as the ruling class in Irish society.
More trivia on the characters and their backgrounds, the houses and estates can be found on the Google+ Fan page where you can follow for up dates on the series, in addition to information on Ireland's historic country houses: Landed Estate Fan Page.
The Character of Susanna Westby
Susanna Westby was born in England on the 16th April 1760, daughter of Captain Robert Villiers and Anne Harrington. In 1765 Captain Robert Villiers was granted Castlefort House and Susanna along with her two brothers, Sam and Victor moved to Ireland to live on their new estate.
16th Apr 1760:
Susanna Villiers Born.
20th Sep 1780:
Susanna marries Eyre Westby of Point Pleasant Estate
04th Apr 1781:
Susanna gives birth to her first son: Stuart Westby
17th Jul 1783:
Susanna gives birth to her second son: Sebastian Westby
12th Jun 1784
Death of Susanna's father: Captain Robert Villiers
04th Jan 1785:
Susanna gives birth to her third son: Eyre Westby Junior
25th Sep 1787:
Death of Susanna’s husband: Eyre Westby
12th Apr 1788:
Death of Susanna’s mother: Anne Harrington Villiers
14th Apr 1788:
Date for first court hearing against her brother Sam Villiers
19th Jun 1788:
Susanna leads her first hunt for Point Pleasant Estate
11th Jul 1788:
Date of second court hearing against her brother Sam Villiers
20th Mar 1805:
Marriage of her son: Stuart Westby to Elizabeth Worthington
26th Jun 1805:
Marriage of her son: Sebastian Westby to Jane Burton
05th May 1806:
Susanna marries William Camwell
26th Nov 1806:
Susanna departs for India with her husband William
26th Nov 1826:
Susanna departs India for Ireland
15th Jul 1847:
Death of Susanna Westby
Susanna’s Family Home
At the age of five, Susanna arrives at Castlefort House Estate in Ireland. Castlefort had lands exceeding five thousand acres and later an additional one thousand acres were added following an agreement between its neighbouring estate Point Pleasant. Her home was the main house on the estate, perched high with commanding views of the surrounding lands and neighbouring counties. It was built to showcase elegance and grandeur with its domed ball room extending high above its roof tops. An impressive staircase graced the entrance hall and split in two. It's spacious magnificent dining room has two ivory marble fireplaces spaced evenly along one of its walls. Its ceilings are highly designed with intricate carvings painted in blue and white. Its centre is occupied by a long dining table suitable for thirty-eight guests.
Point Pleasant House
Following her marriage to Eyre Westby, son of Francis and Lady Angela Westby, Susanna moves to Point Pleasant House. Point Pleasant contains over three thousand acres with Point Pleasant being the main estate house. It is a large house with three floors over six vaulted cellars. Point Pleasant became the home of Susanna Westby and she made it her centre of power.
Susanna changes and matures over her life, perhaps shaped by the circumstances and situations she found herself in. She is very fair but not without flaw. Her dark side creeps out depending on the crises and situations she finds herself in. Susanna has had her fair share of crises and she has had to handle them each different depending on whether it only affects her, her family or estate. She is a likeable and beautiful character, and people admire her, both men and women. She respects others and believes in treating her servants and estate hands justly. Her charity extends to Mary O’Mara, the head house keeper of Castlefort House, and with Kitty Walsh, the head house keeper of Point Pleasant House.
Susanna is an elegant woman who maintains calm and composure externally to reflect appropriate behaviour for her social standing. On one occasion did she lose her outward composure. Following the death of her mother she physically fights with her sister in law, Katherine Villiers over Katherine’s destruction of her mother’s beloved print room.
One of Susanna’s biggest fears in life is not being able to control future outcomes. She may feel at times like she wishes to control, but in her opinion, she wants to ensure a stable and financial legacy for her family. Her fear of the future is great, and what would happen to Point Pleasant Estate once she is gone.
She often questions her changeable feelings towards her sons. Each is different and she struggles with her love for her eldest son Stuart the most, probably out of worry because she knows he has been blinded by his aunt Katherine Villiers and cannot see the truth. His rebellious nature hurts her, leading to much hostility between them. Stuart will always be her son despite her fears of how he will handle Point Pleasant and the shocking discovery of the atrocities he has committed against his own family.
Susanna Westby is a confident, independent, just, strict and extremely strong person. Having dealt with an emotional rollercoaster throughout her life, she still manages to maintain her calm and elegance. She does not consider herself bitter with life, but forged by life’s path.
Characters of the Landed Estate Novel
Eyre Westby Jnr
Jane Burton Westby
Agusta Whitehall Westby
Elizabeth Worthington Westby
Mary O Mara
Lady Amelia Southwell
Lady Angela Westby
Captain Robert Villiers
Sir Rodger Ale
Honourable Alfred Scales