Saturday, November 10, 2012

A visual preview of the winter season: Downton Abbey readalike edition

In updating the Historical Novel Society's forthcoming books list, I read through a lot of publishers' catalogs.  Certain themes quickly became apparent therein: A number of historical novels for late 2012 through early 2013 are being promoted as good choices for Downton Abbey fans.  (And I'm one of them.  No spoilers on Season Three, please!)  These dozen titles are the focus of this latest visual preview.

With Downton being so enormously popular, publishers are pouncing on literary comparisons.  This doesn't mean these books are carbon copies of one another, though, or that authors are rushing to imitate the show... but if there are any similarities in topic, theme, or setting, you can bet they'll be noted.  Some titles recommended as readalikes, like Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries, have been around considerably longer than Downton. (There'll be a new Winspear next March, Leaving Everything Most Loved, but the cover isn't available yet.)

That said, if you're an author working on an Edwardian- or WWI-set novel, this may be the year to make that sale!

Most of all, this varied list demonstrates the many different tie-ins that can be made to Downton Abbey, something that interests me as a readers' advisor.  Some of the historical novels below are set in the same pre-WWI-through-1920s timeframe; other are sagas that dramatize the interaction between aristocrats and servants on a grand English estate.  Some emphasize the changing social fabric during wartime in the early 20th century, and for one or two, the main link between them and Downton is their joint focus on strong, capable (British) women. 

All of the titles below are US editions.  Also interestingly:  I've been through some UK catalogs as well, and don't see nearly as many Downton mentions!


 
In Victorian England, a poverty-stricken young woman seeking personal independence and a way to overcome troublesome incidents from her past takes a job at an exclusive seaside resort.  Check out the gorgeous period artwork at the author's Pinterest page.  Gallery, January.
 
 
 
 
Fast-moving biographical fiction about adventuress May Dugas, a notorious con artist and social climber in Gilded Age and 20th century America, London, and Shanghai.  Doubleday, January.
 
 
 
The first two books in a trilogy about three women, two aristocratic sisters and the governess's daughter they grew up with, adjusting to society's changing rules in pre-WWI England.  Gallery, January and March.
 
 
An upstairs-downstairs friendship turns to romance at a great English country house in 1914, as political winds are shifting towards war and a glorious era comes to an end.  Isn't this a gorgeous cover?  NAL, January.
 
 
 
Julian Fellowes wrote a blurb for this literary romance set amid the beautiful, unforgiving landscape and cruel diamond mining operations of 1880s South Africa. A young Englishwoman travels there to establish a new life and finds herself confronting social injustice.  Amy Einhorn, April.
 
 
A backlist title from 1979 gets reissued with a fresh new look to attract Downton fans; the next two volumes in the series will follow. The Passing Bells centers on the aristocratic Greville family of Abingdon Pryory as their world of elegant garden parties and debutante balls comes crashing to a halt as war breaks out in 1914. Rock died in 2004.  December, Morrow.
 
 
This debut novel by a well-known British historian is a romp through 18th-century London through the eyes of a young woman raised alongside her aristocratic cousins but who's forced to create a new life for herself on the streets. Grand Central, January. 
 
 
 
The grimly evoked post-WWI period in Charles Todd's long-running Ian Rutledge mystery series has obvious links for Downton viewers (who should also check out his standalone novel The Walnut Tree, which is out now).  In Proof of Guilt, a seeming hit-and-run accident turns into a murder investigation, but the victim's identity and place of death remain unknown.  Morrow, January.
 
 
 
First in a new trilogy from the Upstairs, Downstairs writer, Habits of the House examines the day-to-day lives of an aristocratic English family and their servants as the financially strapped Earl of Dilberne seeks to recoup his fortunes by marrying his son off to a Chicago heiress.  St. Martin's, January.
 
 
 
The lives of loves of the inhabitants of an English country mansion, from the original architect to its final owners in the present day, over the span of 240 years.  Simon & Schuster, January.
 
 
 
Willig takes an excursion away from her Pink Carnation series with this standalone novel that promises to "bring an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast."  A modern-day lawyer learns a century's worth of family secrets in a tale that moves from 21st-century Manhattan to WWI England to 1920s Kenya. St. Martin's, April.

Update, Jan 2013:  For more Downton Abbey readalikes, see Part 2 of this post.

47 comments:

  1. All these look great..They have made it onto my tbr list. Thanks for the great post.

    Kimberlee
    http://girllostinabook.blogspot.com

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    1. I have copies of three of these, and I'll have to get (or at least borrow) the rest. I want them all!

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  2. Anonymous2:16 PM

    Tasha Alexander also has a new stand-alone coming out, set in 1920s Kenya . . . Lauren Willig mentioned somewhere (her website) that they found out while doing lunch that they were both writing about the same era and place.

    THE PASSING BELLS - geez louise< I did a paper ON MY TYPEWRITER during library school on the advance reviews of this book and whether or not circulation and sales lived up to the hype. That was also an era during which a lot of similar titles were published.

    Sarah Other Librarian

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    1. Is 1920s Kenya the new Tudor era? Deanna Raybourn has a novel with that setting, too, out early next year (with a fab cover). I haven't seen a formal Downton comparison so didn't list it. I'll look out for the Tasha Alexander.

      What did you conclude - did Passing Bells live up to the hype? I could snag a used copy now, but I want one with the new cover.

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    2. Anonymous10:00 AM

      You're right, it is Deanna not Tasha (I get them mixed up, oops!).

      Sales weren't what were expected - that's all I remember. I typed it on my little baby blue Smith Corona.

      Sarah Other Librarian

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    3. I wrote my very first (and only) novel, a modern ghost story, on a Smith Corona when I was in 6th grade.

      Maybe sales will pick up with the new edition. I just got an email from Morrow Paperbacks about a readalong for the whole series. That's not anything I can commit to, but I DO want to read them.

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    4. Anonymous10:25 AM

      What's a "Readalong"?

      SOL

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    5. It's where a group of people (bloggers) read the same book together and take turns providing ongoing commentary on their sites. I haven't participated in one before, but I've followed along.

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  3. Every single one of these books is going on my wish list. As a huge Downton Abbey fan I've been looking to read books that have a similar feel. Needless to say I can't wait for these novels to start being released.

    Thanks for posting this, Sarah.

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    1. Hi Melissa, I'm glad you liked the post! A few may already be out in Canada, if the British editions are sold there.

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  4. I read Phillip Rock's book way back then, loved it! Always hoped he'd do more like it. Ashenden I recently tried to read, couldn't get into it.

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    1. Obviously I need to get with the program because I'd never heard of Phillip Rock before this! Books 2 and 3 will be out in Jan and Feb.

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  5. I need to get with the program too!! I said I had hoped he would do more and it seems he did! And I didn't know. Looking forward to their re-release. He died some years ago.

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    1. His books seem to be the closest matches to Downton that I've seen so far. I look forward to discovering them. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series!

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  6. Gorgeous! This is an era I adore, so I will be adding many of these to my wishlist.

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    1. It's come to be a favorite of mine, too!

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  7. Anonymous10:00 AM

    These all sound fabulous! Did anyone else notice
    the dresses on the covers of The Last Summer and The Passing Bells look identical?

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    1. Wow! I took a close look at both, and you're right.

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  8. Great list, Sarah! I have Parlor Games and The Last Summer on my Kindle and really looking forward to them. The rest just went on my wishlist! Thank you for the heads up on these great releases!

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  9. Guess I wasn't signed in...the last comment was from Amy at Passages to the Past :)

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    1. Hi Amy! I have copies of Parlor Games and Last Summer as well, plus Mistress of My Fate, which I snagged at a library conference. Glad you liked the list. I should do an update in a few months because next summer will bring even more of them :)

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  10. Oh, these look good! Thanks for sharing. :)

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    1. Glad you liked it. I've been meaning to do this post for a while, and kept finding more and more titles to add to the list. It would have been even longer if I could find more covers!

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  11. Sarah .. I write about WWI so these look enticing. With this kind of interest, maybe my agent can sell my novel now!!

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    1. Hi Mary, best of luck, I hope so!

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  12. You weren't kidding a few weeks ago about how many books are being pitched as related to Downton Abbey! I have Parlor Games and The Last Summer on my review shelf. But most of these sound good. I like the idea of being set it Kenya - have not read anything about that location. Thanks for the list.

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    1. I kept finding more and more. The Fever Tree is one I've wanted for a while (love the setting), and I held off buying it from the UK because I knew it would be available in the US eventually.

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  13. What a great list - thanks so much, Sarah, for compiling this list. My TBR list is getting to a ridiculous length, LOL.

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    1. Yours and mine both - and my guess is we'll be seeing even more of them! These lists are fun to put together.

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  14. That Summerset Abbey cover just screams Downton.

    It will be interesting to see when we hit the saturation point.

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    1. Doesn't it? I found an interview with author T.J. Brown on another blog, and the concept for the book was definitely inspired by the show!

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  15. Amazing -- I'm excited/dreading this -- like Willig's novel -- I'm *such* a Dinesen fan I want to wallow in that world -- but only if done well. :/ I'm on a blog tour for the Philip Rock novels -- here's hoping they're good (I saw Sarah Other Librarian's comment and am a little nervous!).

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    1. I hope they are too. I didn't have any clue they were such bestsellers at the time (and it was only 30-odd years ago). I wonder what other Edwardian-set novels will be reissued? Surely there are more.

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    2. Anonymous10:27 AM

      Audra, I think they will be eaten up this time!

      SOL

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  16. Excellent list, Sarah! So good to see some Edwardian fiction being published at last! Thank you, Downton.

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    1. Hi Laura, yes, it's about time! It's a trend I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

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  17. Some of these sound really good to me. I think I've added about 4 more books to my TBR from this list!

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    1. I may try to snag review copies of one or more of these, but time may be a problem. So many are published in January! And Downton Season 3 will be out in January in the US, too. Coincidence? :)

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    2. Anonymous10:48 AM

      Summerset Abbey now available for immediate download at Edelweiss.

      Sarah Other Librarian

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  18. Anonymous10:07 AM

    C.L. Skelton wrote a Quartet - the Regiment Quartet - about a family of soldiers, the Maclarens. I believe it started approx 1850s in India, but the last one was set during WWI and of course lots of losses in the family. I wonder if they'll revive that one?

    Sarah Other Librarian

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    1. I don't know that one either. I also see he has a Hardacre family saga which may be Victorian or Edwardian (?) by the cover art. I'll see what else I can find about it.

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  19. Interesting to see what this current revival in all things Edwardian/early 2oth century has thrown up. Ford Madox Ford's substantial "Parade's End" tetralogy has recently been impressively televised and the books reissued - not strictly HF of course, but a wonderful evocation of the period.

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    1. The replies to this post have been adding to the TBR pile; Ford's tetralogy is another I haven't heard of. (I'm more familiar with his novels about Catherine Howard.) I'll check them out!

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  20. Sarah, interesting about the interview. And for those who just finished enjoying Ken Burns' Dust Bowl film last night on PBS (the Dust Bowl also being the setting for my work), remember that there is also a book version of the Burns film.

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  21. They all look good but the one that caught my attention is The Fever Tree. I was already looking forward to Lauren Willig and Deanna Raybourn.

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  22. Here is my list of Downton-type books:
    http://perfectretort.blogspot.com/2012/01/downton-abbey-reading-list.html

    I have a couple of yours in a pile next to my bed; some look more substantial than others. Some great covers too!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your list! I've added a few of them to my Goodreads TBR list. Polland's Sabrina looks especially interesting. I've read Forster's Lady's Maid, which is very good.

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