The Crawley family may be off the air, but just because Downton Abbey ended doesn’t mean you have to quit loving everything that made the show so incredibly addictive. Featuring historical fiction brimming with more romance, mystery, and class drama than you could possibly imagine, this list of new and upcoming books is just what Downton Abbey fans need to kick-off springtime. Publishers’ descriptions included below.
In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen
World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.
As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?
Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.
Release date: Out now
Before the War by Fay Weldon
London, 1922. It’s a cold November morning, the station is windswept and rural, the sky is threatening snow, and the train is late. Vivien Ripple, 20 years old and an ungainly five foot eleven, waits on the platform at Dilberne Halt. She is wealthy and well-bred — only daughter to the founder of Ripple & Co, the nation’s top publisher — but plain, painfully awkward, and, perhaps worst of all, intelligent. Nicknamed “the giantess,” Vivvie is, in the estimation of most, already a spinster. But she has a plan. That very morning, Vivvie will ride to the city with the express purpose of changing her life forever.
Enter Sherwyn Sexton: charismatic, handsome — if, to his dismay, rather short. He’s an aspiring novelist and editor at Ripple & Co whose greatest love is the (similarly handsome, but taller) protagonist of his thriller series. He also has a penchant for pretty young women — single and otherwise. Sherwyn is shocked when his boss’s hulking daughter, dressed in a tweed jacket and moth-eaten scarf, strides into his office and asks for his hand in marriage. But his finances are running thin to support his regular dinners on the town, and Vivien’s promise to house him in comfort while he writes is simply too good to refuse. What neither of them know is that she is pregnant by another man, and will die in childbirth in just a few months…
With one eye on the present and one on the past, Fay Weldon offers Vivien’s fate, along with that of London between World Wars I and II: a city fizzing with change, full of flat-chested flappers, shell-shocked soldiers, and aristocrats clinging to history.
Inventive, warm, playful, and full of Weldon’s trademark ironic edge, Before the War is a spellbinding novel from one of the greatest writers of our time.
Release date: Out now
Highland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
1920s debutante Lady Ophelia Finchingfield is banished to wildest Scotland to come to her senses, having refused a marriage proposal from the Earl of Woldershire. In the care of her eccentric grandmother, Ophelia is soon caught between rugged widower Hamish and the villainous Comte de Montefiore.
She’s ready to play with fire, but will she burn more than her fingers?
A riotous romp, inspired by the work of Nancy Mitford, PG Wodehouse and Stella Gibbons. Featuring a treasure chest of characters, Highland Pursuits is a wickedly naughty comedy of manners.
Release date: Out now
A Death by Any Other Name by Tessa Arlen
A Death by Any Other Name is a delightful Edwardian mystery set in the English countryside. Building on the success of her last two mysteries in the same series, Tessa Arlen returns us to the same universe full of secrets, intrigue, and, this time, roses.
The elegant Lady Montfort and her redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson’s services are called upon after a cook is framed and dismissed for poisoning a guest of the Hyde Rose Society. Promising to help her regain her job and her dignity, the pair trek out to the countryside to investigate a murder of concealed passions and secret desires. There, they are to discover a villain of audacious cunning among a group of mild-mannered, amateur rose-breeders. While they investigate, the rumor mill fills with talk about a conflict over in Prussia where someone quite important was shot. There is talk of war and they must race the clock to solve the mystery as the idyllic English summer days count down to the start of WWI.
Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen’s latest does not disappoint.
Release date: Out now
The Girls of Ennismore by Patricia Falvey
Set in Ireland during the turbulent early 20th century, Patricia Falvey’s sweeping novel explores an unlikely friendship between two girls of vastly different backgrounds, as each tries to overcome the barriers set by class and birthright…
On a June morning in 1900, Rosie Killeen crosses the road that divides her family’s County Mayo farm from the estate of Lord and Lady Ennis, and makes her way to the “big house” for the first time. Barely eight years old, Rosie joins the throng of servants preparing for the arrival of Queen Victoria. But while the royal visit is a coup for Ennismore, a chance meeting on the grounds proves even more momentous for Rosie.
Victoria Bell, Lord and Lady Ennis’s young daughter, is desperately lonely. Though the children of the gentry seldom fraternize with locals, Lord Ennis arranges for Rosie to join in Victoria’s school lessons. For Rosie, the opportunity is exhilarating yet isolating. Victoria’s governess and aunt, Lady Louisa, objects to teaching a peasant girl. The other servants resent Rosie’s escape from the drudgery of life below stairs. Bright, strong-willed Rosie finds herself caught between her own people and the rarefied air of Ennismor e- -especially as she grows closer to Victoria’s older brother, Valentine.
As they near womanhood, the girls’ friendship is interrupted. Victoria is bound for a coming out season in Dublin, and Rosie must find a way to support her family. But Ireland is changing too. The country’s struggle for Home Rule, the outbreak of the Great War, and a looming Easter rebellion in Dublin all herald a new era. Not even Ennismore can escape unscathed. And for Rosie, family loyalty, love, friendship and patriotism will collide in life-changing ways, leading her through heartbreak and loss in search of her own triumphant independence.
Release date: March 28
The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley
Travel through the lush English countryside and explore the magnificent estates of the British aristocracy in this next spellbinding love story in The Seven Sisters series by #1 internationally bestselling author Lucinda Riley.
Star D’Aplise is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father — the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.
A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District — just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter — when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life…
As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.
The Shadow Sister is the third in the sweeping Seven Sisters series, “soaked in glamour and romance” (Daily Mail) and perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and the novels of Kate Morton.
Release date: April 18
What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson
Set amidst the opulent mansions and cobblestone streets of Old New York, this enthralling historical mystery by Rosemary Simpson brings the Gilded Age to life — in a tantalizing tale of old money, new love, and grave suspicion…
WHAT THE DEAD LEAVE BEHIND
As the Great Blizzard of 1888 cripples the vast machinery that is New York City, heiress Prudence MacKenzie sits anxiously within her palatial Fifth Avenue home waiting for her fiancé’s safe return. But the fearsome storm rages through the night. With daylight, more than 200 people are found to have perished in the icy winds and treacherous snowdrifts. Among them is Prudence’s fiancé — his body frozen, his head crushed by a heavy branch, his fingers clutching a single playing card, the ace of spades…
Close on the heels of her father’s untimely demise, Prudence is convinced Charles’s death was no accident. The ace of spades was a code he shared with his school friend, Geoffrey Hunter, a former Pinkerton agent and attorney from the South and a former Pinkerton agent. Wary of sinister forces closing in on her, Prudence turns to Geoffrey as her only hope in solving a murder not all believe in — and to help protect her inheritance from a stepmother who seems more interested in the family fortune than Prudence’s wellbeing . . .
Filled with richly colorful characters, fascinating historical details, and thrilling moments of suspense, What the Dead Leave Behind is an exquisitely crafted mystery for the ages.
Release date: April 25
Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson
The latest Gaslight Mystery from the bestselling author of Murder in Morningside Heights finds Sarah Brandt and Frank Malloy searching for a connection between a murdered newsie and a high society woman with dangerous habits.
Frank Malloy’s latest client is the well-dressed Will Bert. He’s searching for his brother, a newsboy named Freddie, so he can share his new financial good fortune. Frank makes quick work of the case and locates Freddie, but a happy reunion between brothers is not in the cards.
When Will’s name is mentioned, Freddie runs off — only to be found dead a short time later. Suspicious, Frank tracks down Will who spins a tale of lust and deceit involving a young society woman, Estelle Longacre, also recently deceased. Frank can’t be sure if Estelle’s risky behavior and the company she kept was to blame, or if her own ruthless family had a hand in her death.
Frank will need Sarah’s help to unearth the dark secrets of the wealthy Longacres and to discover if there is a connection between Estelle and Freddie’s death. Together they must navigate a perilous underground web of treachery to find the truth.
Release date: May 2
Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh
From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh, Becoming Bonnie is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo!
The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.
Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it — perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling — she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life — like her country — is headed for a crash.
Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.
Release date: May 9
Which of these books do you plan to read? Share in the comments!
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