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Habits of the House trilogy ends in a whimper

POSTED: July 28, 2014 12:00 p.m.
St. Martin's Press/

"The New Countess" is the third in the Habits of the House trilogy by Fay Weldon.

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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 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.

"THE NEW COUNTESS, Habits of the House, Vol. 3," by Fay Weldon, St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 327 pages (f) 

It is 1905, and Lord Robert Dilberne is worried about money. His wife, Lady Isobel Dilberne, is terrified by an impending visit from King Edward VII, his mistress and the husband of the mistress. The son, Arthur Dilberne, is obsessed with his job and ignoring his wife, Minnie O’Brien, whom the family views as that horrible American girl. The daughter, Lady Rosina, is now a widow and has decided to write a shocking book.

And the servants are whispering about it all downstairs.
This is the world author Fay Weldon knows best. As the daughter of a housekeeper in a London townhouse, as well as one of the writers for the British television hit "Upstairs, Downstairs," Weldon understood how intriguing this world was before "Downton Abbey" proved it.

Though all of the elements of "Upstairs, Downstairs" are in play, "The New Countess" is disappointing. The plot moves slowly, when it does move, and the characters are undeveloped. Weldon fans may want to skip this final installment of the trilogy.
"The New Countess" contains discussions of sexual events and homosexual relationships. The language is clean, and there isn't any described violence.

Alicia Cunningham teaches American government and intellectual property law at Neumont University. Follow her blog at http://bloggingonbooks.wordpress.com

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