Historical fiction fave Barbara Taylor Bradford
enters the lists with CAVENDON HALL. An Edwardian
epic set at the Yorkshire manor of the title, the novel follows the lives of the
Inghams, the Earl of Mowbray and his family, and the Swanns, who have lived
nearby and served the earls for centuries. The story begins just before World
War I, as Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl, and his wife Felicity are about to
present their daughter Lady Daphne at court. Their efforts are assisted by the
earl's valet, Walter Swann, and his wife Alice, dressmaker to the countess and
her daughters. Devastating secrets, love, honor, loyalty and betrayal unleashed
in this time of uncertainty will change the both families and their interactions
In 1913, Lady Octavia Cavendish lives in the Yorkshire estate of the title's
name with her husband William and their children. Although all appears well on
the surface, the attempted suicide of a housemaid will reveal secrets about her
husband and her marriage that force Octavia to confront the truth of her life.
The gathering storm of war brings hard choices to her son, who dreams of
becoming a pilot, her daughter, who would like to escape family obligation and
marry for love, and their servants, who now have alternatives to living their
entire lives belowstairs at an aristocratic estate. In a world at change,
nothing at Rutherford Park or the mills and villages that sustain it will remain
Elizabeth Cooke returns to the world of Rutherford
in THE WILD DARK FLOWERS: A
NOVEL OF RUTHERFORD PARK. Picking up the story in May of 1915, we find
William and Olivia still together in an alliance of duty, while their son
shatters their expectations by joining the Royal Flying Corps. As war moves into
their world, the relations between husbands, wives, lovers and children both
upstairs and down are shaken and tested, forcing a way of life that changed
little over the centuries to evolve in new directions.
Just before the outbreak of World War I, Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford meets
her brother's best friend, Scottish surgeon Robert Fraser. Different from the
Society boys who pursue her, Robbie listens sympathetically to Lilly's dream of
becoming more than a debutante--of traveling, studying, and marrying for love.
Determined to break up the budding affair, Lilly's mother privately tells Robbie
that Lilly is about to be engaged.
The war breaks out, sending Robbie, her brother Edward, and most of the young
men Lilly knows abroad. Wanting to do something, she defies her parents, learns
to drive, moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver for the new
Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. At a field hospital in France, Lilly meets Robbie
again. With shells literally exploding all around them as Lilly drives her
evacuees from the front to the hospital, Robbie tries to keep his distance and
keep her safe. But in a war that changes everything, there is no safe haven;
life--and love--will never be the same.
Jane Sanderson creates another novel of the
clash--and cohesion--between upstairs and downstairs in NETHERWOOD.
It's 1903 in Yorkshire. Lord Hoyland, Earl of Netherwood, channels the wealth
earned from coal mines to maintain his splendid estate, his wife and daughters,
and his irresponsible heir, Tobias. Eve Williams, wife of one of his miners,
cleverly manages their small income and cares for the family. When striking
miners are evicted, the local reverent asks Eve to take in the widowed Anna and
Then tragedy strikes, making Eve a widow as well, and the two women band
together to safeguard their children and their community. The gap between
upstairs and downstairs begins to close in a clash of forbidden love as events
both tragic and romantic bring the two worlds together in ways that will change
them both forever.
The arrival of Eve's brother Silas further breaks down class boundaries in a
world where a rising mercantile middle class and the emerging independence of
women are eroding the ancient power and privilege of the aristocracy. With Lady
Henrietta, daughter of the noble house, chafing at the conventions of expected
behavior, Amos pursuing his union activities, and the earl's heir Tobias
creating problems, Sanderson vividly paints a picture of a world where the roles
of noble and commoner continue to change in radical new directions.
To finish off our look at Downtonesque fiction, how about a title that bridges
the old world and the new?
THE ASHFORD AFFAIR by
Lauren Willig uses the favorite literary fiction trope of the member of the
current generation uncovering a dark family secret that links her to a heroine
of the past.
In this case, it's hotshot New York lawyer Clementine Evans who, after a
suddenly broken engagement, learns a secret at the ninety-ninth birthday of her
grandmother Addie that leads her on a journey into the past.
The orphaned Addie was taken in by her aristocratic aunt and uncle, to be raised
at Ashford Park with her cousin Bea. Becoming as close as sisters, the
friendship between two endures through relationships, crises, and the war that
changes life in Europe irrevocably, until their bond is tested by a love
stronger than sisterhood. The clash of present and past plays out upon a vivid
canvass that takes the reader from the concrete canyons of Manhattan to the
hills of Kenya and back.