Thursday, 31 October 2013

Launch date moved forward!

I am thrilled to announce that the publication of my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, from CarinaUK Harlequin, has been moved forward to... Sunday 10th November, to coincide with the last episode of Downton Abbey!

So after we've caught a last glimpse of Crawley family, don't be too down-hearted about missing Carson and the Dowager Countess and all our other favourite Downton friends - why not download Doubting Abbey and enter the aristocratic world of hunky Lord Edward? Hopefully the story will tide you over until the Downton Christmas special!

In fact, if you read right to the end of Doubting Abbey, there's something of a Christmas Special in there too!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Downton Abbey - Episode 6 - It's All About Carson

For me, the Dowager Countess used to be the head honcho of peeved glances and cracking one-liners - but not any more. Carson's face last night, when band singer Mr Ross said "I'm no more African that you" was an absolute corker. Jim Carter, who plays him, expertly manages the balance between Carson's gruff exterior and soft centre. Take last night, when Molesley was reduced to serving tea to the servants - eventually Carson cracked and gave him a more suitable role. Quite often he is more of a snob than his beloved Crawleys - yet, over this series, we've seen he has real heart.

Heart also, it appears, might exist within Mrs Baxter. She's growing on me as a character and I'm keen to know exactly what hold Thomas has over her. Whereas the tough exterior of Charles Blake, with his imminent report on local stately homes due, hasn't yet cracked. I wonder if we are to see a romance between him and Mary - a tempestuous love-hate relationship! 

The real shocker last night was Edith's pregnancy and for the first time in four seasons, I felt a grain of sympathy for her - my least favourite character. Where is Michael Gregson? Will he return? How will he face the prospect of being a father? 

Shocking for Mary, was the sight of Rose kissing singer Mr Ross down in the kitchen. Since her bereavement the oldest Crawley sister appears more weighed down by the world than ever and has taken her role in the running of the estate seriously -  perhaps this will transfer to taking responsibility for carefree Rose as well.

I also empathized with poor Daisy when Alfred left. Unrequited love squeezes your insides and she showed a new maturity on managing to wish him good luck. I can clearly see her as the next Mrs Patmore.

As usual, Fellowes has left us with lots of questions unanswered, especially given the sneak-peek of next week's episode. Are we to see the arrival of Cora's brother, Harold? Will Mr Bates twig that Green attacked his wife, when the vile valet arrives next week? And as for the poorly Dowager Countess... Please don't say Maggie Smith is leaving the series? 

Roll on next Sunday which - sadly - brings us the penultimate programme of this season.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cover Reveal for Doubting Abbey!

And here it is! The cover for my digital-first, debut novel Doubting Abbey. I hope it makes you feel Christmassy and enticed to read a book which might fill the void when this series of Downton Abbey finishes!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Downton Abbey - Episode 5 - Thankfully No Soap

Thank you, thank you, Julian Fellowes, for not taking Downton Abbey down the path of becoming a soap. He hasn't eked out the storyline of Bates discovering what really happened to Anna - nor has she become pregnant by vile Green, a well-worn  theme (will husband find out the baby isn't is?) in TV serials. What a relief it was, last night, when Mrs Hughes finally told Bates of the attack. His reaction was moving, as was Anna's when she realized her husband didn't see her as 'spoiled'. Excellent acting. We can rest easy now that one of our favourite couples is back together.

There were shades of dark and light last night - much of the latter provided by Mrs Patmore's reluctance to move with the times. The new sewing machine made her feel dizzy and she was highly suspicious of the new-fangled idea of a fridge, instead of an ice-box. Strong characterisation is one of Fellowes' strengths -  I always enjoy Mary's cutting remarks towards her sister Edith and Carson's unsympathetic attitude towards poor Molesley never fails to make me chuckle. 

So, no sooner is Lord Gillingham officially engaged, another love interest for Mary, Mr Napier, turns up. And something is going on with Michael Gregson... Will affairs of the heart ever run easily for the Crawley sisters? As usual, plenty of questions were left open for next week's episode. What is the agenda of Napier's boss, Charles Blake, did John Pegg the gardener really steal the paper knife and what exactly is the relationship between Barrow and devious Mrs Baxter?

Of course, some questions are bigger than others, but Fellowes has the knack of making us care about them all. Like I said earlier, strong characterisation is the key, with the different Downton personalities staying true to their intrinsic nature and not being twisted simply to fit in with plot.

The outfits, once again, were fabulous and Maggie Smith's cutting comments now feel as familiar as a favourite bar of chocolate. Roll on next week - but not too quickly as we are now past the half-way mark and I'm not ready to face Sunday nights without this sumptous trip back in time.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Downton Abbey - Episode 4 - A Well-needed Trough

Every good story has peaks and troughs and last night's episode was a much needed dose of calm, after the brutal attack Anna suffered last week.

In episode 4 - sadly we are already half-way through the series - the outfits, particularly of Cora and Lady Mary really stood out. I'm not a person much interested in fashion, but I love the  whole ambiance of the Twenties with the flapper dresses and jazz bands... 

Carson got us off to a good start, with his wry observation that "There's something rather foreign about high spirits at breakfast" - I couldn't agree more! Every house could do with a member of staff like him - and how touching it was, to see him stroke the photo of his true love. Finally we are seeing the tender side to this gruff man.

Mary seems to be taking an increasing interest in the running of the estate and one comment of hers rang true to the circumstances of Lord Edward from my upcoming novel "Doubting Abbey", who strives not to let down his ancestors by failing to save the future of Applebridge Hall - Mary said her father often commented that the Crawleys were "not owners but caretakers" of Downton Abbey. In other words, everything should be done to preserve the estate, in its entirety, for future generations.

It looks like ghastly Barrow is back on form, next week, bringing in a devious-looking new Lady's maid for Cora, since - THANK GOODNESS - Braithwaite left. I felt the plot was stretched a little with Mrs Hughes conveniently happening to stumble across the Stopes book on contraception. However, I can forgive the loyal, kindhearted Mrs Hughes anything. Yet I wonder if that really was the last we saw of Braithwaite.

As for Lady Mary's rejection of Lord Gillingham... Oh please, at least give him some hope, woman! He's clearly a good-un - despite there being a high price to pay for him being a regular feature on the estate (namely the presence of Nigel Harman's dastardly valet character).

Yet again we see Rose getting into trouble, dancing with dashing Jack Ross, the bandstand singer. I feel Fellowes is building up to something really controversial happening with her. 

So yes, all in all, another excellent episode with plenty of questions left open about the next four weeks' programmes.
Please, let Bates find out about Green and... Oh come on, we all want it to happen - Mrs Hughes and Carson get together!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Downton Abbey Season 4, Episode 3- Be careful what you wish for...


Phew. I am still recovering. How about you? Whilst I've enjoyed the series so far - the settings and costumes, as ever are lush - I felt, up until Sunday night, something was missing. Lady Mary's deep grief, whilst realistic, seemed overdone. There was no gripping storyline to set the pulse racing and leave you on a cliffhanger. My emotions weren't yet thoroughly involved. 
So when I sat down, Sunday night, a jab of disappointment pricked my mind. During the first half of the show with nothing much happening apart from the arrival of guests and talk of Lady Mary's involvement with the estate, I wished for a bit of action.
There were the usual hilarious and cutting comments from the Dowager Countess and as the programme progressed I enjoyed the thought of the Lord of Grantham getting in trouble with Cora for gambling. Plus Mr Carson... Isn't he great - clearly struggling with the changes in etiquette since the war?
Yet where was the big story? Who was going to pull on my heartstrings? Cue Nigel Harman - Lord Gillingham's valet, Green. I'd been looking forward to him joining the show! I still remember Harman as twinkly-eyed Dennis in EastEnders. So, it was a double-shock for me when he attacked Anna.
The portrayal of his abuse was a case of less is more, in some ways - scenes cutting from Dame Nellie Melba's beautiful performance to hearing Anna's desperate screams for help. Whilst we only saw the beginning and aftermath of the attack on-screen, is even this the sort of action we want from Downton, on a Sunday night? I suspect it was too brutal for some viewers.
However, I feel it was sensitively done. It left me feeling angry and sad for Anna and the predicament she'd been left in. Will she be pregnant? Can Bates have children or could she pass a baby off as his? Or will the outcome be that she distances herself so much from Bates, he finds comfort elsewhere? 
As long as it isn't the dreadful new maid, Braithwaite! Clearly brought in to replace horrible O'Brien, I'd much rather see Myanna Buring, who plays her, as the beautiful blonde vampire Tanya she was in Twilight. In Downton she is devious and conniving and out to make trouble. The saucy woman clearly has her eye set on unassuming Branson.
Yes, Downton Abbey Season 4 is shaping up to be a great series and I for one won't miss a second.  It's going to be interesting to see the fallout from the last brutal episode. The story did pull on my heartstrings, yet not in a romantic way - I'm praying for Anna. That, somehow, she can find a way to move forward...

Monday, 7 October 2013

Hello! Welcome to the website for Doubting Abbey, my romantic novel that will be published in December 2013. Do take a look around and familiarise yourself with the Croxley family. There's a tour of their stately home, Applebridge Hall, plus tips on how to become a lady in a modern world. And why not try their cook's favourite recipes - I've already had a go and put up the photos to prove it! 

If you want to know what the story's all about, scoot over to the homepage.

I'll be blogging right here about the book and characters and any exciting news I might have!

Plus why not vote, on the sidebar, for your favourite literary hero?

See you soon and thanks for visiting!

Samantha xx