For fans of Downton Abbey comes a ravishing portrait of the late 19th Century family from one of Britain's best-loved authors.
Fay Weldon's new novel takes us inside the lives of an aristocratic household in the last three months of the nineteenth century. It's a time of riot and confusion, social upheaval, war abroad and shortage of money. Tea gowns are still laced with diamonds; there are still nine courses at dinner, but bankruptcy looms for the Dilbernes.
Whilst the Earl, gambler and man about town, must seek a new post in government; his wife Lady Isobel's solution is to marry off their son Arthur to a wealthy heiress, and without delay. But how? It's the end of the season, and choices are few. There's Minnie O'Brien from Chigaco – rich enough, but daughter of a stockyard baron, and with a vulgar mother and dubious past. Hardly suitable...!
Fay Weldon tells this tale of restraint and desire, manners and morals with wit and sympathy – if no small measure of mischief – as young Minnie and Arthur, thrown together by their parents, strive to determine their own destiny.
This first installment of Weldon's late-Victorian trilogy centers on the Dilberne family, a titled albeit impoverished British house. The earl makes poor business decisions and continually runs up debts gambling with the Prince of Wales. Resolving to restore the family fortunes, he decides the clearest way to do this is to marry off his children. He sets upon son Arthur and, with the help of the household servants, locates a wealthy Chicago heiress, Minnie O'Brien. However, as the young couple start learning about each other, they realize that they both carry secrets that could ruin the engagement and their prospects. Weldon introduces several characters, both upper class and lower class, and in many ways the whole book feels expository because it lacks high-stakes drama. However, it succeeds as an opening to a new series and should entice enough to make it worth checking out the subsequent installments.