Monday, June 10, 2013

Entertaining Read for Fans of Downton Abbey

Habits of the House 
By Fay Weldon

Fay Weldon has credibility in this genre as the author of the pilot for the original Upstairs Downstairs and it shows. She is very much at home with seasons in London, mistresses and mayhem, family secrets and marital emergencies.

The book is set in 1899 at the end of London’s season and the Earl of Dilberne and his wife Isobel are searching for a suitable betrothed for their eldedst child Arthur who is more interested in the new steam engine automobiles than the conquest of a wife. That is made more evident because of the courtesan he supports, a young lady that unbeknownst to him also served as his father’s mistress in the early days of Lord Robert’s marriage. Grace, Isobel’s lady’s maid, knows all about this transgression of course.

The young lady selected for Robert is Minnie, a quite lovely heiress to a Chicago meat baron and his tasteless, loud, and outspoken wife. Minnie has been living with an artist in the stateside and has left to save her reputation when the relationship ended. She is also on the prowl for a husband. The Earl of Dilberne is in financial ruin, so a wealthy heiress may just be the ticket he and his wife decide, to rescue the family and their estate. 

The book travels from tony Belgrave Square to places and parties to see and be seen. Robert, the Earl is a gaming partner of the Prince of Wales so the protocol for dinner parties is complex. Along the way we meet Rosina, the other child of Robert and Isobel, and sister of Arthur. Rosina is a bit eccentric, is overly tall, and has failed to gain the needed maternal love and encouragement to prop up a young lady’s self esteem. She is active in women’s rights and suffrage, keeps a pet parrot in her bedroom, and wears trousers more often than the clothes of a high born young lady.

Good character development and a fast moving plot line keep the book interesting and good for many a laugh.  The chapters are all dated including the time which adds a different perspective to the setting. A romp of a good read with something for everyone. A good deal racier than Downtown Abbey but similar to Julian Fellows take on the Upstairs Downstairs plot line.

To request this title please click on the title or cover above. 

Review by Kathleen Richardson

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