Are you as distressed as I am that Downton Abbey will soon be ending FOR GOOD? (sob) Given the world-wide popularity of the show, there are surprisingly few books set in the Edwardian era that incorporate the upstairs-downstairs, love-interest and drama that make the show so engaging (to say nothing of the yummy fashions.) But, in an attempt to offer solace, I’ve gathered a few volumes which segue in and beyond the period of Downton, in which one may take refuge after the glorious series images fade—ending with a tantalizing treat coming soon from series creator Julian Fellowes that you won’t want to miss!
Buy THE MEMORY OF LOST SENSES: Amazon.com | Kindle| BN.com| iTunes/iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | Powell’s Books | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR
We’ll begin with a book that incorporates some “Country House Mystery” elements, Judith Kinghorn’s THE MEMORY OF LOST SENSES. When a mysterious countess moves into a large country house outside her English village in the summer of 1911, Cecily Chadwick is thrilled and tantalized. Soon, stories begin to circulate about the countess’s wealth, husbands, lovers, and personal tragedies. Delighted to become acquainted with the lady, Cecily is soon fascinated by the woman and her tales of her exotic life and the famous people she knew, even though the countess’s companion, a writer supposedly compiling the countess’s memoirs, discourages the friendship.
She’s even more fascinated by the countess’s grandson, Jack, who entices her ever more deeply into the labyrinth of the Countess’s past and its haunting secrets. As that past is slowly revealed, by the writer, by the countess and by the attraction between Jack and Cecily that draws out some of the countess’s own buried memories, the secrets revealed cast a long shadow over the future of Cecily, Jack and everyone connected to the countess.
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The collision of characters from upstairs, downstairs and in between drives the story of THE TAILOR’S GIRL by Fiona McIntosh. A common soldier known only as “Jones,” who awakes with no memories except fleeting glimpses of the battlefield horrors of Ypres, is distracted from his anxiety when he sees the beautiful Eden Valentine delivering a suit to the hospital. A lovely seamstress who works with her father, the two of them drawn closer by her brother’s death in the war, Eden is engaged to her childhood sweetheart—who appreciates neither her dreams of owning her own business nor her increasing fascination with “Jones.”
As Edie spends more times with “Jones,” trying to help him recover his memory, the affection developing between them strains her links to her family. An accident and an unexpected bit of information discovered by Alex Wynter, heir to an industrial empire and the country house, Larksfell Hall, further complicates their lives. Will new love overwhelm the ties from the past—or new revelations shred all ties for good?
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THE FLOWERS OF THE FIELD by Sarah Harrison brings us another vision of the changes wrought in the wartime years, from the prospective of three women connected to a privileged family. Offspring of a wealthy industrialist father and an aristocratic mother, as the pre-war story begins, Thea Tennant chafes at the traditional role expected of her, while her indulged younger sister Dulcie strains the rules of polite behavior, and their parlor maid, Primmy, dreams of a life beyond service, free from the constraints of birth and class.
This sprawling epic covers the whole breadth of the war, from the servicemen who experience the horror of the trenches, to the work of women in new roles as ambulance drivers, nurses and factory workers, to the suffragettes, conscientious objectors, and POWs. Across this vast stage, Thea, Dulcie and Primmy make their way toward unexpected futures.
A unique view from the “other side” is presented by A. O’Connor in THE LEFT-HANDED MARRIAGE. Irish beauty Diana Cantwell falls in love with Max Von Hoffsten, son of a German count, in the carefree days before World War I. But since Diana doesn’t possess the pedigree the Count considers necessary for his heir’s bride, when they become engaged, the Count insists on a “left-handed marriage,” in which Diana, though Max’s legal wife, can inherit none of Max’s wealth, nor can the title pass to any of their children. They marry anyway, hosting glamorous parties in lavish locales in Europe. When war comes, Diana loyally remains in Germany, supporting her army husband, even though her family is fighting on the other side, and she is viewed with suspicion in Berlin.
When Max is reported as “missing, presumed dead,” Diana is rejected by her husband’s family. Penniless, and with her reputation ruined, Diana resettles in London, where, during the Roaring 20’s, she tries to put back together the shattered pieces of her life. But a series of mysterious messages, phone calls and sightings begin to make her suspect that Max may not be dead, after all. If he’s alive, why is he in hiding? And what sinister secret from the past threatens not just him, but her own life as well?
Our final entry is an exciting new venture between Grand Central Publishing and Downton series creator, Julian Fellowes. His latest project is BELGRAVIA, a story set in the London of the 1840s, based on a secret and featuring the interplay between members of the traditional aristocracy and the newly rich industrial elite. Rather than debuting in book format, this new work will use a blend of modern technology and old-fashioned storytelling to present, as the website says, “a story in 11 episodes published by week in the tradition of Charles Dickens.” Beginning in April 2016, JULIAN FELLOWE’S BELGRAVIA will be released via an app as a text or audio download directly to the reader’s phone, tablet or desktop. The series, which includes a free prologue and ten weekly installments, can be purchased as a whole for $13.99 or individually at $1.99 each, obtainable from the website www.julianfellowesbelgravia.com or regular e-book retailers (you can go to the website now to register.) If the whole series is purchased, it will automatically download to the reader’s chosen device when the new installment is released each Friday, along with extra material, videos and bonus features. After the series ends, a hardcover edition will be printed in July.
Ready to sign up for Julian’s latest endeavor? Willing to wait for the hardcover, or to try some of the other titles mentioned here? You now have several options to feed your Downton fervor!
About Julia Justiss
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family’s East Texas homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen’s Regency England.
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing historical fiction.
Series: Regency Silk & Scandal | Hadley’s Hellions | Ransleigh Rogues
Leader of Hadley’s Hellions, a group of outsiders who bond together at Oxford vowing to reform Society, Giles Hadley wants nothing to do with the earl, his father who banished him, or his stepbrother George, who is the bane of his existence. But he’s curious about the woman rumor says George is to marry, daughter and political hostess of prominent Tory Lord Witlow.
For her part, Lady Maggie finds angry rebel Giles far more fascinating than George—so fascinating, that though she has no intention of risking her heart after losing her beloved husband, she might just be tempted into an affair…