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'Netherwood' is a flawed story of romance, historical detail

POSTED: July 24, 2014 4:00 p.m.
HarperCollins/

"Netherwood" is by Jane Sanderson.

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 Editor’s note: For fans of the British period drama “Downton Abbey,” the fifth season can’t come too soon. In the meantime, this is one of a half a dozen books — both novels and nonfiction — that have crossed our desks that have an upstairs/downstairs drama, are set in a similar era or may be of interest to fans of the historical series.

"NETHERWOOD," by Jane Sanderson, William Morrow, $15.99, 437 pages (f) 
The historical novel "Netherwood" is set just before the events of the first season of "Downton Abbey," probably about the turn of the century.

Eve Williams is the wife of a coal miner in Yorkshire, England, and through a variety of circumstances finds herself the proprietor of a bakery and cafe, mixing with working class and nobility alike.

Fans of "Downton Abbey" may enjoy the attention to historical detail in dress, food and social distinctions, but the storyline creaks along with no real surprises and a plodding pace. Bits of story tension appear and then fizzle. The heroine is all too perfect — beautiful, smart, caring and industrious, and everything she puts her hand to is a smashing success.

The book, which was published in paperback in December, has sections of foul language in the mouths of the working-class characters, although it's mostly limited to a single scene. The book also contains sexual content that is somewhat detailed but also brief.

The story continues in the sequel, "Ravenscliffe." Hardcore fans of spicy Edwardian romance may enjoy this while waiting for "Downton Abbey" to return.

Margot Hovley has published two novels: "Sudden Darkness" (2012) and "Glimmering Light" (2014). Her popular self-reliance blog is at mynewoldschool.com, and she shares her writing adventures at margothovley.com.

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