The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is really not "Downton Abbey" - it's Evelyn Waugh/Bright Young Things-meets-The Secret Garden. The "Out of Africa" parallel is apt, however.
We're told the story in two timelines: the first is Addie's story of her life as an orphan taken in by her Edwardian Aunt (and remote Uncle), trying to fit in at Ashford (modeled on Castle Howard) and becoming best friends/sisters with cousin Bea, through Bea's marriage to Marcus and then affair with Frederick and finally Bea's disappearance in Africa. The other is Addie's granddaughter Clemmie's story as her high-powered lawyer life falls apart when Addie, by then 99, dies. The questions of what family really is, and how one person's truth may not actually be Truth, arise.
The depictions of Jazz Age London, with Bea as Debutant of the Year, are well done if a little stereotypical. Ditto the scenes in Kenya and Ashford. It was disappointing that there was so little of Toby and his connection with Clemmie - if the two of them had explored the back story of Bea and Addie together it would have been a little better than the way things unfolded. Despite this, I really enjoyed reading this - it's Waugh/Dinensen-light.
ARC provided by publisher.