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Julian Fellowes
The book opens with the Duchess of Richmond’s ball in Brussels the night before Waterloo. Those anticipating anything more military than the odd uniform are in for a disappointment as we then fast forward to the 1840s, where the remainder of the book is set.

The tale is one that touches on all of Fellow’s favourites; titles, class, snobbery, architecture, servants and gossip. It is primarily about the rise of James T. At Waterloo he supplied victuals to Wellington’s Army. He then moved into architecture and housebuilding, making lots of money on they way. His family now resides in Belgravia and he seeks inclusion in the elevated social circles of his neighbours. Along the way there are the customary twists and turns, albeit nothing astonishing – more of a meander than a switchback and the outcome is predictable. It’s comfort literature.

Some of the dialogue is amusing, some of the prose is pretentious – at times it feels like reading an architectural lecture. The pace wafts along and it is an easy read. Who will enjoy it? Anyone who enjoyed Downton Abbey. Fellowes knows his market and this is served up on time for those who are struggling to find a Christmas present for Downton Fans.

It is what it is. Three out of five.

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