Fay Weldon's credits include classic novels like The Life and Loves of a She Devil and Growing Rich, and the pilot episode of the original TV series Upstairs, Downstairs. In 2001 she was awarded a CBE for services to literature.
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. Agent: Georgina Capel, Capel & Land Ltd. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Conflict between the Boers and the British in South Africa could spell financial ruin for the Earl of Dilberne. The goldmine in which he has invested most of his assets, including his wife's inheritance and children's trust funds, has been destroyed by the fighting. Despite dire warnings from the solicitor who manages his business affairs, the Earl and his wife, Isobel, must maintain appearances. How to cover tailoring bills and gambling debts while maintaining Dilberne Court in Hampshire plus a London household? Arthur, the son and heir, must marry for money. He agrees as long as he can continue experimenting with steam cars and supporting his mistress. Enter Minnie O'Brien, daughter of a wealthy meat packer, who needs a titled husband to erase Chicago gossip about her affair with a married man. Arthur's sister, Rosina, professes support for numerous social causes from international peace to feminism but shows little concern for the Dilberne servants. They, of course, know everything that happens in the household and spend much time exchanging gossip. As 1899 ends, a stroke of luck averts financial ruin temporarily-or at least long enough to continue the Dilberne story in two more volumes slated for 2013. VERDICT Weldon, who wrote the pilot for Upstairs, Downstairs, travels well-worn territory here, but she does so effortlessly and adroitly. Fans of Downton Abbey and similar sagas will enjoy exploring the twists and turns of life in the extended Dilberne household. [75,000-copy first printing; see Prepub Alert, 7/6/12.]-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Weldon at her most spellbinding' The Spectator. A splendidly fun romp' The Times. Hugely enjoyable' Tatler.