Monday, 16 December 2013

Downton Interview with... Writer Morgen Bailey!

Hello Morgen! As a fellow Downton Abbey fan, no doubt you are looking forward to the Christmas Special. What would your fantasy storyline be for the plot of that episode, if you were behind it? Mine would be for Carson and Mrs Hughes to finally (please!) get together and for Mr Bates NOT to be revealed as having anything to do with the suspected murder of vile valet Green. I couldn’t face another jail storyline.

Hello, Sam. Thank you for inviting me. They've killed off too many characters recently so I'd not have any more... which may surprise those who know me as I do it often enough in my own stories. The Bates' are due some good fortune but I suspect if they found out they were going to be parents that would throw another spanner in the proverbial works. It's about time Daisy had some fun, and Isobel Crawley and the doctor got together.

In your book The Serial Dater’s Shopping List, journalist Isobel MacFarlane must date 31 men in a month and she labels them ‘Mr Could Be Right’, ‘Mr Not Bad.,’ etc – how would you label a couple of the men in Downton, if you got to date them? I would label Thomas Barrow ‘Mr Not On Your Life’!

Ah yes. I remember him from Coronation Street (he's far better in this). Would it be too sad to say that I like Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville) as he was one of my favourite characters from Notting Hill (one of my favourite films)? He'd be my Mr Safe (although there's a sparkle in those eyes) and Matthew Crawley my Mr Yum (I was NOT happy when they bumped him off). The ex-chauffeur, Brandson, is cute too, although a little young, I fear.

Which character in Downton would you like to take the credit for creating? For me, it has to be the Dowager Countess with her sparkling one-liners.

Words are what make the show and she certainly has some corkers. I do like women with gumption and that's often where British movies / TV shows excel (dare I say, without alienating your US readers?) often action/banana skin-reliant US movies. Isobel gives the Countess a run for her money on more than one occasion so I'd be proud of her.

Out of everything you have ever written, which character are you most proud of creating and why?

Oh my goodness. Mmm. I've written eight novels and 400+ short stories so that's a tough one but one that springs to mind is April (from April’s Fool (short story)). She's a tough cookie. Issy (our aforementioned journalist) is no pushover either and if you / your readers read the book they'll see she stands up for herself.

Julian Fellowes , the writer of Downton, is also an actor – are you creative in any other way?

I love drawing cartoons, although unlike my writing, I struggle from imagination. One of my 2014 wish-list items is to draw more (and learn to lip read - I'm studying the latter locally next month, and for free, as I'm a fellow tutor!). 

Upstairs or downstairs?

  Upstairs, I'd love to wear brighter colours and be waited on.

Lady Mary or Edith?

Sorry, Edith, but it has to be Mary - it's her sharp tongue - although Sybil was feisty. Edith will get her moment, I'm sure. She has had meatier roles of late.
Mrs Hughes or Mrs Patmore?

Mrs Patmore's hilarious. Mrs Hughes has her moments, and yes, get your act together Carson!, but it's Mrs P for me. Lucky escape from Mr Tufton 

Thanks for joining me, Morgen and enjoy the Christmas Special!

 You're very welcome, Sam. Thank you for asking me. I look forward to it. (Sky+ planner at the ready).

 Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, editor / critiquer, tutor, speaker, and podcaster. Chair of two writing groups, she is a freelance author of numerous short stories, novels, articles, and some poetry. Like her, her blog,  is consumed by all things literary. Her books are available to buy from US Amazon and UK Amazon Morgen's email is

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Reality Show Interview with... Author Georgia Hill!

Hello, Georgia, lovely to have you on the blog as a fellow writer of reality-shows. In Doubting Abbey aristocratic contestants strive to win Million Dollar Mansion, to save their run-down estates… Can you tell us a little about the reality show Who Dares Dances in Say it with Sequins?

Hi Samantha! Thank you so much for inviting me on here. I absolutely loved Doubting Abbey, by the way! Who Dares Dances, which is the reality show in Say it with Sequins: The Rumba, is a mixture between Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of Here! Contestants have to learn to dance but also face a series of bizarre challenges, dreamed up by the director. I had great fun thinking up nasty things for the celebs to do!

The cover is gorgeous and really reminds me of Strictly Dancing – are you watching this year’s show and who have you most enjoyed watching? Mark Benton has really entertained me this year – brilliant!

I have to confess to being a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing with the Stars in the US). I never miss a series and have even gone to see the live shows, which are great fun. I’ve just booked to see Pasha Kovalev, my favourite pro-dancer, perform in his own show next year. I can’t wait. The cover of Say it with Sequins is absolutely gorgeous – I love it. I was away when it was emailed through and my husband tried to describe it down the phone – very funny and he didn’t do any justice at all to Alexandra’s beautiful design! Usually, I have a favourite dancer who I develop an enormous crush on but that hasn’t happened this year. Pasha remains my passion (he’s clever and a reader too, what a man). I’ve enjoyed watching Mark Benton and Dave Myers has made me laugh until I cried.

Having created a fictional reality show, does this mean you are a fan of the genre? I am, my favourites being Celebrity Big Brother and the jungle I’m a Celebrity…

I think I am a fan of reality TV, to some extent. I love Come Dine With Me and Four in a Bed but it’s really Strictly that does it for me. I love it.

Often, in the TV shows larger-than-life characters take part. In Million Dollar Mansion the Croxley family’s opponents, the Baron of Marwick and his son, are indeed larger-than-life. How would you describe your characters in Who Dares Dances?

Well, Bob Dandry, the director of Who Dares Dances is definitely larger-than-life and not in a good way (we learn more about him in later books). Jan, the Russian pro-dancer, is larger-than-life too – he’s about 6’5” – and mean!

Sum up your main character in three words.

Julia Cooper, my main character in Say it with Sequins: The Rumba, is talented, funny, insecure.

If you could take part in any of the current reality shows, which would it be? Have to say, I would LOVE to learn to dance properly – and wear those outfits!

Well, I’d have to say Strictly, of course but I’d be a ‘dance disaster’ as Craig would say. I’d work my leg-warmers off, though, if it meant wearing those gorgeous dresses every week and being held in the muscular arms of a hot pro-dancer. Pasha maybe?! Not to mention it’s a great way to lose weight and get fit!

What sort of contestant would you be in the jungle?

I’d be AWFUL! No way, could I eat those bugs. Ugh. And – all that endless sitting around in the heat and getting bored – I have a very low boredom threshold and would probably end up making trouble, just for the sake of it. And trust me, no one would want to watch me wearing a bikini in the outside shower …

Georgia Hill writes contemporary romantic comedy, written with love. She lives in a tiny village in Herefordshire, with her two beloved spaniels, husband (also beloved) and a ghost called Zoe. Say it with Sequins: The Rumba is the first in a series of three novellas, for Harper Impulse.

Who Dares Dances is a reality TV show with a difference. Not only do contestants have to learn to dance, they also face a series of bizarre challenges.
When Julia Cooper signs up, all she wants is to revive her flagging acting career. When she meets dare-devil Harri Morgan, though, the attraction is instant – and hot!

Forced to perform a sexy rumba together, the sequins really start to fly. Will they score the perfect ten, or is their romance destined to be a dance disaster? Find out in Say it with Sequins, the first in a series of three novellas.

Why not pre-order the first book now?! Available here

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Downton Interview with... Author Teresa F Morgan!


 Today I'd like to welcome Teresa F Morgan. She writes contemporary romance for digital-first Harper Impulse - and like me, loves Downton Abbey!

As a writer yourself, Teresa, and fan of Downton Abbey, which element do you think has been most important for the series’ success -  the characters or plot/setting?

--- I love the plotting and era, plus how everything has to match history, however the characters are what make this series such a hit. I have my favourites (Mrs Hughes especially) but they are all brilliant in their own ways.

If it were real, would you prefer to spend a month living there Upstairs or Downstairs?

--- I'd want to be Upstairs. Those servants worked so hard and hardly got a day off! And look at the lovely clothes Edith gets to wear.

Yes, me too! Who has the biggest woo-factor - Lord Grantham or Matthew Crawley?! (as in, who would you like to woo you!)

---- Oh, Matthew for me. Lord Grantham's too old and too oldfashioned lol! Matthew had a modern way of thinking. But I think I'd really go for Tom Branson :)
Which character would you like to take the credit for creating and why?

---- Ha ha! I don't think I can take the credit for these characters. Mrs Hughes is one of my favourites though, because she's very clever and approachable, and has a very warm heart.

Yes, she is wonderful - everyone needs a Mrs Hughes in their life... So, which is your favourite character out of Loving Winter Nights, the new collaborative book you have out from Harper Impulse (which, incidentally, is free!)?

----- There aren't that many characters, and it was such a short piece. I suppose Mark, because he does become the hero in the end.

Yes, we all like a hero! 
Julian Fellowes is also an actor – are you creative in any other way?

---- Actually I used to paint with acrylics when I was a teenager/young adult. But it's been a long time now since creating a landscape. I'm not that great otherwise. I don't do crafty things with the kids, it just creates too much mess and more work for mummy! Am I bad?

:) Thanks for joining me Teresa! And to finish off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in sunny Weston-super-Mare, trying to hold onto my Surrey accent where I was born and bred.

For years I persevered with boring jobs, until my two boys joined my nest. In an attempt to find something to work around them, and to ensure I never endured full time boredom again, I found writing.

I’m at my happiest baking cakes, putting proper home cooked dinners on the table (whether the kids eat them or not), reading a good romance, or sitting at my PC emptying my thoughts onto the screen.

I love writing contemporary romance, stories with a touch of escapism and creating heroes readers will fall in love with. Men who in reality, let’s face it, just don’t exist.

Find out more about Teresa here !

Loving Winter Nights:
Inspired by roaring campfires and the cold nights of the Pacific Northwest, a group of HarperImpulse authors came together to write their own round robin style romance.
Sitting around our virtual fire, one author starts the tale before passing it off to the person beside them and so on… The story builds as each person adds their part, concluding when it reaches the one who started it. The result is this charming, beautifully told romance ‘For Clara’.
So wherever you are – at home on your sofa, a steaming mug of hot chocolate in your hand, or snuggled into your softest scarf on the commute to work – imagine yourself out their in the wild, the crackle and hiss of the wood burning, the glow of the fire warming you through. Sit back, relax and let our authors entertain you for a while…

Loving Winter nights is available here !

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Downton Interview with Author Terri Nixon!


Hello Terri! Now, like me, you are a fan of the wonderful Downton Abbey – from a writing point of view, what is it you like about the series – the characters, plotlines or setting…?

I think it has to be the characters; without them, all you have is a big, beautiful, but empty box. Highclere Castle is famously gorgeous, of course, but without the right people to bring it to life it’s just a house, when all’s said and done.  As for the plotlines … well, to begin with they were mostly wonderful, but – although my love of DA hasn’t wavered over time – I think we all know the storylines can get a little bit silly. Which is fine, I love a little bit of silly, me! But now and again they do stretch the bounds of believability, don’t they!  Even the first series, with Anna helping Lady Mary carry a dead body down the stairs – if that wasn’t shades of “Fawlty Towers” (and a definite breach of upstairs/downstairs etiquette,) I really don’t know what is! Fun though. Definitely fun.

And which character would you like to be able to take the credit for creating, and why?

I think the Machiavellian Thomas is the most interesting at the moment, and has been most of the way through, in fact. Despite his devious nature and seemingly irredeemable nastiness, now and again he shows flashes of courage, and – dare I venture – vulnerability. He’s obviously got a chip on his shoulder the size of Ripon, and I’d like to know what put it there. Most of the others are a bit black and white, they show a bit of a mid-shade now and then, but we know whether we’re supposed to like them pretty much from the outset. I think Thomas is the most complex, and I’d like to have written him because to have the power to attribute his nastiness to something in his past, and perhaps to redeem himself one day, would be wonderful.

I really can't bear Thomas and wonder if he truly has any redeeming qualities... But something must have made him the way his is. I wonder if we'll ever find out what...
Out of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite?
Ooh, now THAT’S probably the hardest question I’ve ever been asked! I suppose at the moment it would be the hero of my self-pubbed series, The Lynher Mill Chronicles. His name’s Richard Lucas, and he’s troubled, passionate, funny and courageous, and a little bit dangerous, although he doesn’t acknowledge that side of himself and just wants to live his life quietly.  But he’s got a shadowed past that won’t leave him alone, and when he’s forced to deal with it things get very dark, very quickly. And, of course, he’s sex on a stick!

Why do you think Downton Abbey has become so popular and when writing do you consider your target readers and consciously try to make the book appealing to them?

Downton Abbey filled a niche we probably didn’t even know about. (Now, of course, I’m going to have to do my usual; “I wrote my book first,” thing!) When I began writing the book that was to become Maid of Oaklands Manor, there was very little around, in the way of new work, focused on the era immediately prior to WW1. By the time I’d finished my first draft Julian Fellowes had announced Downton Abbey, and by the time it was edited and pitched, the country had gone mad for the era. I’ve been playing catchup ever since! Now we have the centenary memorial coming up, and although Downton moved on (rather too quickly, for my taste) it still maintains that feeling of another age. We’re now heading for Gosford Park times, and that was politically unsettling too - there are people who will remember that era, so it will remain relevant, I think.
As for the second part of that question, of course anyone writing with a target audience in mind must consider them at every step. I hadn’t planned to write a romance, but the love story was central to the plot, and when Piatkus picked it up they encouraged me to explore that side of it. Now when I’m writing, in the back of my mind is Caroline Kirkpatrick’s urge to let my characters “spend more time on the page together.” And blow me down if, when they do that, they don’t start to sizzle a little bit!

What is your writing fantasy, Terri? Mine is to have one of my novels adapted for TV or the big screen.
I think it’s a rare writer who’ll say they wouldn’t want that! So, to start small then, I just want to see my books in paperback, on the shelves of bookshops. To be able to walk into my local Waterstone’s and see my own work on their shelves would be the fulfilment of many many years’ dreams. It’s all very well calling yourself a published author, but without the tangible evidence it sometimes still feels as if I’m playing make-believe. Oh, wait …

Yes, I'd love to see a physical copy of my book in a shop. But assuming you also got that film deal, who would you cast as the hero/heroine (or both) in you latest book (Maid of Oaklands Manor).
Lizzy Parker is very slightly-built, with masses of cloudy dark hair and big blue eyes. I have NO idea who’d play her! Any ideas? Possibly Zooey Deschanel if she could do a convincing English/West Country accent!

 Jack Carlisle is quite a bit older than her. He’s tall (of course!) quite strongly-built and has very dark blue eyes and dark hair. I’m thinking of Henry Cavill. Not to play Jack, just generally.  ;) (kidding!)

In the 1970s Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, used to write romantic novels under the name of Rebecca Greville. Would you like to write a different genre under a pseudonym?
I already do. Not much of a pseudonym though, to be fair. I recently revitalised a collection of short, at times extremely graphic, horror stories, which I released free on Kindle at Hallowe’en under the name T Nixon. The Lynher Mill Chronicles (starting with The Dust of Ancients) is not at all like Maid of Oaklands Manor, but it’s got a very strong love story at its heart, so I released that one under my real name. However, it might be fun to go in a totally different direction at some point, and make up a new me! We could have arguments in different accents (see my next answer …)

Fellowes used to do a lot of acting (and was even in Fantasy Island!) Have you any other creative talents?
I LOVED him in Monarch of the Glen! Poor old Kilwillie! Creative talents then … well, I can do accents! While I’m writing I’ll often talk to myself out loud, in a silly accent, and it’s not necessarily the accent of the person I’m writing, it can be quite random (and quite alarming, I should think!) Beyond that, nope. I’ve been in a couple of stage shows, was Ronnette in Little Shop of Horrors once, but I leave that to people who can sing, nowadays!

Carson or Mrs Hughes?
I have sympathies for both. Carson’s desperate to hang on to the old ways, and he often comes across as unbending. It’s nice to see him softening slightly now. Mrs Hughes is so solid and dependable but I’d like to see her break out and do something a bit wild and unpredicatable one day!

Upstairs or Downstairs?
Downstairs, without a doubt!

Dinner with Hugh Bonneville or Maggie Smith? 
I think we know! MAGGIE! 

Thank you so much for joining me, Terri! I’ll just ring for Carson and he will see you out…! 

I’ll get me coat …

Terri was born in Plymouth, England in 1965. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one's ever offered to pay her for doing those.

Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press. As a Hybrid author her first commercially published novel was Maid of Oaklands Manor, published by Piatkus Entice (a digital-first imprint of Little, Brown,) and short-listed in the "Best Historical Read" category at the Festival of Romance 2013.
Terri's self-published Mythic Fiction series: The Lynher Mill Chronicles has now been launched, the first title of which is The Dust of Ancients, available in e-book and paperback.

Terri now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts at Plymouth University where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don't possess pens.

Terri also writes under the name T Nixon, and has contributed to anthologies under the names Terri Pine and Teresa Nixon.

Terri's website

Lynher Mill website

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Great Reviews for Doubting Abbey!

Well, the reviews are trickling in now and here is a fab one from the Room for Reading blog. Donna Trinder says..

"Doubting Abbey is a lovely fun read, set in a beautiful old hall and with a lovely family ethos behind it.

The characters are easy to warm to - I especially liked the cook, Kathleen, and the antics give lots of giggles. I enjoyed the whole reality tv plot, it is well explored and easy to imagine."

ChicklitClub gives Doubting Abbey 8/10 and said:

"I was hooked from the start, by this impressive debut novel"

Monday, 18 November 2013

Doubting Abbey and Reality Shows! I'm a Celeb, Episode One!

The plot of Doubting Abbey revolves around a reality show, Million Dollar Mansion - waitress Gemma must pass herself off as aristocratic friend Abbey, to help run-down Applebridge Hall win the show to secure its future financially...

And what a joy the book was to write, as I LOVE reality telly! Big Brother is one of my favourites, but every year I particularly look forward to jungle fever sweeping the country in December.

So, what do we think of the series this year? Matthew Wright has already set himself up for being voted to take part in every bushtucker trial. I suspect Joey from TOWIE and designer David won't be far behind. I think the secret to this show's success is that it immediately cuts through any celebrity veneer. Plus the challenging ways the teams have to make their way to camp, on the first day, are great bonding experiences and its lovely to see the two different teams pull together. 

But the revelation for me last night was good old Steve Davis! He could win. Down-to-earth, a good team player, yet despite his "boring" reputation from the Eighties, a great sense of humour.

Ant and Dec were, as usual, on fine form - their joke about "ticks" was hilarious. 

Yay! The Christmas run-up has started! I might pull out the mulled wine for tonight's show!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Classic lines and classic looks - Season Four Downton Abbey Finale

Wasn't last night's finale splendid? Although just a little disappointing that we didn't actually get to see what happened to vile valet Green. I was looking forward to witness his downfall, for myself. In fact, as usual, Fellowes has left us with plenty of questions - was Bates involved? Will he be found out and hung? Will Gregson come back? Will Edith really go to Switzerland? Will Mary choose Blake or Gillingham? I could go on...

People ask why I love Downton and it's down to the characters - love them or loathe them, you care what happens.
But it is also the classic lines - and here are a few from last night's show:

Mr Drew, the pig farmer, to Mary: "Work is like old age, m'lady - the worst thing in the world until faced with the alternative."

"We can't fall out, we've never fallen in." Daisy about Ivy.

"I don't believe in types, I believe in people." Branson.

Plus the classic looks are brilliant - the Dowager Countess when she held court with Edith and Rosamund, clearly aware of what was going on. Plus Branson, when he saw Rose and the band singer together. Also Mary, when Anna told her about Green - what a moving scene.

There are many things I will miss, until the Christmas special, including the sumptous clothes, the quintessentially English scenery and the Dowager Countess's poe-faced stares... Whilst Season Four didn't end with a big bang, at least this time, an untimely death was off the menu. Roll on December! And please, I know I keep asking, but let's finally see Mrs Hughes and Carson finally get together!.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Doubting Abbey Prizes!

Over the coming weeks I shall run various competitions, in places such as Twitter and Facebook, for the launch of my debut romantic comedy novel, Doubting Abbey - out 10th November from CarinaUK Harlequin! 

Amongst the prizes are Downton Abbey drinks coasters, Highclere Castle bookmarks and chocolate, plus fudge, a favourite recipe of Doubting Abbey's Scottish cook, Kathleen!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Only Four Sleeps To....

Um, ahem, it would be nice to say fame, seeing as Sunday 10th November sees the launch of my debut novel, Doubting Abbey - but I suspect the reality is only four sleeps to Amazon rank obsessing and next novel deadline panicking! Nevertheless, I can't wait for my launch day, it sees the culmination of almost nine years hard work, churning out novels and learning the process - and I'm still not saying I've got it 100% right! But Doubting Abbey is my best work yet and I'm thrilled people who aren't friends or family are actually going to read it - um, hopefully! And friends and family, that doesn't mean you're let off the hook from pulling out that purse (or pressing one-click!)

My online launch is on Facebook on Sunday, where there will be great prizes, such as Highclere Castle chocolate and leather bookmarks, plus other non-aristocratic goodies. They will also be up for grabs on Twitter, so keep your eyes peeled!

Thanks for the support, everyone who's helped me along to this point - you know who you are. Right. Better get that bubbly in fridge - or perhaps I'll just call Carson...

Monday, 4 November 2013

Downton Abbey - Episode Seven - Be Afraid, Green...

Ooh, that's what I've been waiting for - the look Bates gave Green, right at the end of last night's show. It even made me shudder. Fantastic. Please let the vile valet get his come-uppance in next week's final programme. Green really dropped himself in it, when he mentioned that the performance by opera singer Dame Nellie Melba was too much for him and he'd had to go down to the servants' quarters. As for Mrs Hughes confronting him about the attack - bravo! He should, indeed, "Keep to the shadows".

Mary was less of a cold fish this week, and looked a decade younger when she had the mud-fight with Mr Blake. It's nice to see her take on the reponsibilities of the running the estate. Plus I warmed to her when she supported Anna by making sure Bates didn't accompany the Earl to the States.  And now there are so many men after the beautiful Lady Mary Crawley... I have a feeling no-nonsense Blake will end up at the top of her list.

I also warmed to one of my least favourite characters, this week, Edith, as she changed her mind at the last minute about terminating her pregnancy. Instead of doing the practical thing, she's put her feelings for Gregson first. Her love-life has run far from smoothly. Let's hope there is some happiness for this middle sister in Series Five.

Of course, the best bit about last night was finding that - for the moment anyway - Maggie Smith is to stick with the show. How hilarious the Dowager Countess was, reluctantly showing her gratitude to 'nurse' Mrs Crawley. Thanks goodness this witty lady didn't catch pneumonia.

All in all another excellent episode. I can forgive the flaws, for example Mary telling Blake they could leave the front door open at night, as there wouldn't be burglars. "This is England" she said. Hmm. Surely she hadn't already forgotten the brutal attack on Anna - as far as she knew, perpetrated by a stranger! I can't wait for the final show next week - one reason being that Sunday 10th is also the launch day of my debut novel, Doubting Abbey! So if you feel morose at leaving the Grantham household, why not dip into my book and enter the world of the aristocratic Croxleys?!

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