Book list
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Before there was Downton Abbey, there was Upstairs, Downstairs, and, having written the first episode of that iconic television series, it is only fitting that Weldon now returns to the scene of the crime to further explore the disparate worlds of them that has and those what serve 'em. On the brink of the twentieth century, all is not well in the House of Dilberne. The earl has gambled away most of his patrimony and lost the remainder in an ill-timed investment. Inspired by his own fortuitous marriage to Isobel, daughter of a wealthy coal baron, his lordship's only hope of saving the family bacon is to marry his son, Arthur, off to the daughter of an American businessman. What with Arthur's predilection for a local trollop and preoccupation with experimental automobiles, this won't be an easy task. Luckily, there's a mansion's worth of dubiously loyal maids, butlers, and cooks to conduct vital backroom negotiations. Always a ripe target for mockery and disdain, the British aristocracy comes in for a thorough drubbing in Weldon's snarky send-up. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The first novel in beloved British writer Weldon's new series launches with a hefty print run and all-out national marketing campaign carrying the banner, Poised for Bestsellerdom. --Haggas, Carol Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal
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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.

Publishers Weekly
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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.