Tag Archive: Downton Abbey

House Rules

Over the past week or so, Hubby and I have binged on “Downton Abbey,” zipping through Season 1 and half of Season 2. During the same time, I’ve been editing the final proof of the “Author’s Edition” of As You Wish (hopefully out by the end of the month). So it’s been a weird couple of weeks immersed in two period dramas set in England and thinking about how much the houses in both of them dominate the storylines.

After watching the special on Highclere Castle (see my last post) and learning that the castle inspired “Downton Abbey,” it was fascinating to see that theme in the show. The fictional Lord Grantham is so set on properly maintaining the Abbey that he doesn’t even fight the entail that will keep his wife’s money with the house (and a distant cousin who is heir) instead of going to his eldest daughter. It’s not that he cares more about the house than his daughter (I think); it’s just that both are his duties, and he figures Mary will survive without the money, but the Abbey won’t. There are more plot twists that revolve on the entail (inspired by Pride and Prejudice, I suspect), but I won’t post spoilers, in case there are other latecomers to the show who still plan to watch Season 1.

Meanwhile, without giving away too much of As You Wish, I will say that the Marquess of Solebury — father of the hero in the story, David Traymore — also takes extraordinary measures to try to save his estate, which is destined to go to his wastrel of an heir rather than the more deserving but illegitimately born David. Since the heroine Leah Cantrell has seen Solebury House in a state of ruin in the 21st century, she wonders if saving the house may be the reason she’s been transported to the past. I’d never thought about how central the house is to the plot of the book until re-reading it while watching “Downtown Abbey.”

To read the blurb and first couple chapters of As You Wish, please click on the book title to head over to the book page. If you’re an Amazon Prime Member, you can watch “Downton Abbey” episodes free on Amazon Instant Video (like Hubby and me); if not, you can buy the boxed set of DVDs here.

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Since four of my books are set in Regency England, it may surprise you that I haven’t seen any of the Edwardian-set TV hit Downton Abbey. But I may have to change that, after seeing the PBS special the other night on Highclere Castle, where the series is filmed. Being an archaeology buff, I tuned in because of the family’s connection to the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, only to be intrigued by other interesting aspects of their real-life history that have inspired events on the show.

The Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, great-grandfather of the current owner of Highclere, financed the Tut expedition and was there to ask archaeologist Howard Carter, “Can you see anything?” when he first peeked into the tomb. (“Yes, wonderful things” was the famous reply.) But the Fifth Earl’s wife, Lady Almina, is also fascinating. A super-rich trade heiress, she used her wealth not only to maintain the castle but to set up a WWI hospital, like the one on the show. The family has letters written to her by grateful veterans who recovered there from awful experiences. A bio of her, written by the current countess, is available here.

Not sure why the narration on the PBS special labeled Highclere’s Temple of Diana folly (seen to the left) “pointless.” For a rich family that loves both hunting and archaeological endeavors, having a Temple of Diana makes perfect sense to me! Not to mention that according to these plasterers who did restoration work on it, it once held living space.

Meanwhile, I’ve been editing my Regency time-travel As You Wish for an new print version, and as I revisit the Traymores’ struggle in the book to find ways to maintain their crumbling estate, I can’t help thinking of the Carnarvons, who lucked out in that Downton Abbey is such a hit and will draw visitors and more filming at Highclere. Like the Carnarvons with Tut’s curse, the Traymores also have a legendary curse in the family. And, coincidentally, the famous words of Carnarvon and Carter mentioned above are quoted in As You Wish.

If you’re an anglophile, are drawn to aristocrat-vs-commoner intrigue, or are fascinated with curses, please look for the new trade paperback edition of As You Wish this month or next. Stay tuned for a giveaway on Goodreads to celebrate. (If you read ebooks, the book is already available on Kindle and Nook — links and sample chapters here.)

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