The wait is finally over for American audiences: Downton Abbey returns for its sixth and final season on January 3. Will Lady Mary find happiness with dashing race car driver Henry Talbot? Will Lady Edith ever be able to acknowledge Marigold as her daughter? Will Bates and Anna’s wish for a child of their own be granted? And will the Abbey remain in the hands of the perpetually financially-challenged Lord Crawley and his family after all is said and done?
All of this remains to be seen. The good news is that if you just can’t get enough of Downton Abbey, there are a number of new books we can recommend that will help you get your fill. Publishers’ descriptions are provided below.
The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
Natasha Solomons’s breathtaking new novel has it all: a love triangle, family obligations, and rediscovering joy in the face of grief, all set against the alluring backdrop of an English country estate perfect for fans of Downton Abbey.
It’s a terrible thing to covet your brother’s girl.
New Year’s Eve, Dorset, England, 1946. Candles flicker, a gramophone scratches out a tune as guests dance and sip champagne — for one night Hartgrove Hall relives better days. Harry Fox-Talbot and his brothers have returned from World War II determined to save their once grand home from ruin. But the arrival of beautiful Jewish wartime singer Edie Rose tangles the threads of love and duty, and leads to a devastating betrayal.
Fifty years later, now a celebrated composer, Fox reels from the death of his adored wife, Edie. Until his connection with his four-year old grandson — a music prodigy — propels him back into life, and ultimately to confront his past. An enthralling novel about love and treachery, joy after grief, and a man forced to ask: Is it ever too late to seek forgiveness?
The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford
The Cavendon Women, the stunning sequel to Barbara Taylor Bradford’s Cavendon Hall follows the Inghams’ and the Swanns’ journey from a family weekend in the summer of 1926 through to the devastation of the Wall Street crash of 1929. It all begins on a summer weekend in July of 1926 when, for the first time in years, the Earl has planned a family weekend. Everyone is intrigued by the invitation, and everyone has their own reasons for accepting it. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. And as old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns’ loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it is up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade — and a new way of life.
The Gates of Rutherford by Elizabeth Cooke
The rain fell softly on the day that she was to be married… Sometimes the longing for the old untouched days at Rutherford would return to her; the innocence of it all, the feeling that England would never change…
Charlotte Cavendish has been dreaming of her old home at Rutherford Park. It is April 1917; she is 19 years old. And everywhere there is change. The war still rages on the Continent, where her brother fights for the Royal Flying Corps. Her parents’ marriage is in jeopardy, with her mother falling for a charming American in London.
But not all is grim. Charlotte is marrying Preston, the blinded soldier whom she nursed back to health. Her parents couldn’t be happier about this. The young man hails from a well-established and wealthy family in Kent, and he’s solid and respectable. They hope he’s the one to tame their notoriously headstrong daughter.
But as time passes, Charlotte slowly comes to the realization that she is not truly happy. And for a reason she is only just beginning to understand. A reason she dare not reveal to the family — or the world…
Love of the Summerfields by Nancy Moser
1880 England: The lives and loves of manor and village intertwine. Earl and shopkeeper, countess and clerk — all will be stunned and transformed by a secret that begs to be revealed.
When the Weston family returns to Summerfield Manor at the close of the London social season, both village and manor relax into their normal existence. But for four women, turmoil awaits. Each must battle the restrictions of her position as her faith and character are tested…
Adelaide Weston, the feisty and domineering dowager countess, is thrust out of her carefully structured life of duty by the reappearance of her first love.
Ruth Weston, the manor’s reclusive, guilt-ridden countess, struggles to emerge from self-imposed exile to embrace her marriage, her family, and the duties of her position.
Ruth’s loyal lady’s maid, Molly Wallace, juggles the demands of her job, the needs of her own tumultuous family, and a secret romance.
And Lila Hayward, a shopkeeper’s daughter, finds herself in love with a viscount’s son who’s engaged to Ruth’s spoiled daughter. Lila is sorely tested when she is obliged to act as liaison between the two, putting her in constant contact with the man she loves but can never hope to win.
None of these women expect a decades-old secret to unsettle the balance of her life — and the lives of everyone in Summerfield. Each will have a choice to make between her own happiness and a truth that will turn their carefully-ordered world upside down.
The story continues in Book II, Bride of the Summerfields.
The Snow Globe by Judith Kinghorn
Christmas 1926 holds bright promise for 19-year-old Daisy Forbes, with celebrations under way at Eden Hall, her family’s country estate in Surrey, England. But when Daisy, the youngest of three daughters, discovers that her adored father, Howard, has been leading a double life, her illusions of perfection are shattered. Worse, his current mistress, introduced as a family friend, is joining them for the holidays. As Daisy wrestles with the truth, she blossoms in her own right, receiving a marriage proposal from one man, a declaration of love from another, and her first kiss from a third. Meanwhile, her mother, Mabel, manages these social complications with outward calm, while privately reviewing her life and contemplating significant changes. And among those below stairs, Nancy, the housekeeper, and Mrs. Jessops, the cook, find that their long-held secrets are slowly beginning to surface…
As the seasons unfold in the new year, and Daisy moves to London, desires, fortunes, and loyalties will shift during this tumultuous time after the Great War. The Forbes family and those who serve them will follow their hearts down unexpected paths that always return to where they began… Eden Hall.
Heirs and Assigns by Marjorie Eccles
November, 1928. Family and friends have gathered at the Shropshire country home of Penrose Llewellyn to celebrate the retired wealthy businessman’s 60th birthday. But the morning after what should have been a convivial supper party, their host is found dead in his bed — and the circumstances look decidedly suspicious.
As he questions the victim’s nearest and dearest, DI Reardon discovers there are several longstanding secrets lurking amongst the Llewellyn clan — and he is convinced that not everyone is telling him the truth, or at least not the whole truth. Those who stand to inherit most from Pen Llewellyn’s will — if it can be found — are under the strongest suspicion, and among them hides a ruthless killer.
Death at Dovecote Hatch by Dorothy Cannell
November, 1932. Still reeling from the recent murder at Mullings, country estate of the wealthy Stodmarsh family, the peaceful little village of Dovecote Hatch is about to be rocked by news of another violent death. When mild-mannered Kenneth Tenneson is found dead from a fall down the stairs at his home, the coroner’s inquest announces a verdict of accidental death. Florence Norris, however — the quietly observant housekeeper at Mullings — suspects there may be more to it than that.
Florence’s suspicions of foul play would appear to be confirmed when a second will turns up revealing details of a dark secret in the Tenneson family’s past. Determined to find out the truth about Kenneth’s death, Florence gradually pieces the clues together — but will she be in time to prevent a catastrophic turn of events?
Superfluous Women by Carola Dunn
In England in the late 1920s, The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher, on a convalescent trip to the countryside, goes to visit three old school friends in the area. The three, all unmarried, have recently bought a house together. They are a part of the generation of “superfluous women” — brought up expecting marriage and a family, but left without any prospects after more than 700,000 British men were killed in the Great War.
Daisy and her husband Alec — Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher, of Scotland Yard — go for a Sunday lunch with Daisy’s friends, where one of the women mentions a wine cellar below their house, which remains curiously locked, no key to be found. Alec offers to pick the lock, but when he opens the door, what greets them is not a cache of wine, but the stench of a long-dead body.
And with that, what was a pleasant Sunday lunch has taken an unexpected turn. Now Daisy’s three friends are the most obvious suspects in a murder and her husband Alec is a witness, so he can’t officially take over the investigation. So before the local detective, Superintendent Underwood, can officially bring charges against her friends, Daisy is determined to use all her resources (Alec) and skills to solve the mystery behind this perplexing locked-room crime.
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented 16-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…
One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, 11-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.
Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate — now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone… yet more present than ever.
Murder at Beechwood by Alyssa Maxwell
Having turned down the proposal of Derrick Andrews, Emma Cross has no imminent plans for matrimony — let alone motherhood. But when she discovers an infant left on her doorstep, she naturally takes the child into her care. Using her influence as a cousin to the Vanderbilts and a society page reporter for the Newport Observer, Emma launches a discreet search for the baby’s mother.
One of her first stops is a lawn party at Mrs. Caroline Astor’s Beechwood estate. But an idyllic summer’s day is soon clouded by tragedy. During a sailboat race, textile magnate Virgil Monroe falls overboard. There are prompt accusations of foul play — and even Derrick Andrews falls under suspicion. Deepening the intrigue, a telltale slip of lace may link the abandoned child to the drowned man. But as Emma navigates dark undercurrents of scandalous indiscretions and violent passions, she’ll need to watch her step to ensure that no one lowers the boom on her…
Downton Tabby by Sparkle Abbey
Caro Lamont, amateur sleuth and well-respected animal therapist to Laguna Beach’s pampered pets, works with office mate and tech wizard, Graham Cash, whose beloved Scottish Fold tabby cat, Toria, is purported to have anger management issues. But when Caro drops by the charming Brit’s Tudor-inspired mansion to return Toria, she finds his business partner dead and Cash missing.
Caro is left with the cuddly cat and a lot of unanswered questions. Is Cash the killer, or has he been kidnapped? What’s up with the angry next door neighbor? And what about Cash’s girlfriend, Heidi, who isn’t sharing everything she knows with homicide detective Judd Malone?
Suddenly there are more secrets and intrigues than there are titles in England. Add in a stranger in a dark SUV stalking Caro, feisty senior sidekick, Betty, hiding in restaurant shrubbery, and wannabe investigative reporter Callum MacAvoy who seems to be constantly underfoot, and you’ve got a cat and mouse mystery of the first order.
If You Love Downton’s Gorgeous Costuming
Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner
For readers of The Paris Wife and Z comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel — the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the 20th century.
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.
Transforming herself into Coco — a seamstress and sometime torch singer — the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.
Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.
An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.
Maggie Smith by Michael Coveney
No one does glamour, severity, girlish charm or tight-lipped witticism better than Dame Maggie Smith. Michael Coveney’s biography shines a light on the life and career of a truly remarkable performer, one whose stage and screen career spans six decades. From her days as a West End star of comedy and revue, Dame Maggie’s path would cross with those of the greatest actors, playwrights and directors of the era. Whether stealing scenes from Richard Burton, answering back to Laurence Olivier, or playing opposite Judi Dench in Breath of Life, her career can be seen as a ‘Who’s Who’ of British theatre.
Her film and television career has been just as starry. From the title character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the meddling chaperone in A Room With a View to the Harry Potter films in which she played Minerva McGonagall (as she put it: ‘Miss Jean Brodie in a wizard’s hat’), and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films in which she played the wise Muriel Donnelly, Smith has thrilled, engaged and made audiences laugh. As Violet Crawley, the formidable Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey she conquered millions more.
Paradoxically, she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public. Michael Coveney’s absorbing biography, written with the actress’s blessing and drawing on personal archives as well as interviews with immediate family and close friends, is a portrait of one of the greatest actors of our time.
Downton Abbey: A Celebration by Jessica Fellowes
Since the moment we first entered Downton Abbey in 1912, we have been swept away by Julian Fellowes’s evocative world of romance, intrigue, drama and tradition. Now, in 1925, as Downton Abbey prepares to close its doors for the final time, Jessica Fellowes leads us through the house and estate, reliving the iconic moments of the wonderfully aristocratic Crawley family and their servants as they navigate the emerging modern age. Packed full of stunning location shots and stills from all six seasons of the show including exclusive behind-the-scenes photography, this celebratory book is the ultimate gift for Downton Abbey fans the world over.