“There’s something about her that projects authority – whether or not someone in her position would traditionally manage a crisis like this doesn’t matter, it’s an unspoken agreement among everyone buzzing around that Mary knows what she’s doing and is unmistakably in charge while they ride out the storm.”
In this modern adaptation of Downton Abbey, we’re plunged headfirst into a beleaguered Prime Minister’s office, a host of political machinations in a precarious coalition government, and the private lives of the civil servants involved. Although this story is a romance between canon lovers Mary Crawley and Matthew Crawley, the politics are cleverly intertwined with the personal drama, and the biting, insightful depiction of the British political system leaves you with the impression that the author has personal experience in civil service.
This is truly first-rate storytelling that does not depend on knowledge of canon. It also stands out in the world of fanfiction, because it captures the personalities and dynamics of the canon characters brilliantly. The adaptation into a modern setting is insightful: nearly all of the working-class canon characters are in positions of political power in this story, and nearly all of the upper-class canon characters are their assistants, which reflects the actual political and social changes that took place in British society after World War I.
The plotting and characterization are excellent; it all just flows with complete believability, and the author does a great job of maintaining tension, building mystery, and slowly peeling back layers of complexity as the plot unfolds. The author’s writing voice is unusual: there’s a lot of tell, but it’s a tell of surface things, which serves to show that there’s a lot more going on. The pacing never drags, and the characters come across as three-dimensional, even the antagonists. There’s a lovely redemptive quality to the characters and their relationships. I acutely felt their strains and conflicts, their mistakes and their victories, and their love—or not—for one another.
If you want to read a story with an empowered female character and an equally-strong male character; if you want to read a story that is rich with meaningful themes and hope amidst believable, realistic struggles; and if you want to read a story that humanizes politicians and their staffers without ever once becoming partisan in the telling, then this is a novel for you. For fans of Downton Abbey, or for people who just like a compelling romantic political drama, this novel is a gem well worth reading.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Concept & Plot: 5/5
Writing Style: 4/5
Grammar & Punctuation: 3/5
Mary Crawley: daughter of a great British political dynasty, keeper of her dysfunctional family’s secrets and the woman holding the UK Government together with her bare hands, meets Matthew Crawley: politically inexperienced but with the power to make or break all she stands for. Power, romance and scandal ensue.