Monday, May 5, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately. I decided I needed something to shake me out of it, something out of my norm- so I picked up a book that I won in a giveaway from Kristin at Always with a Book.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax is contemporary women’s fiction. The title caught my attention and the description sounded appealing so I entered the giveaway. I was lucky enough to win the book and it was a perfect Friday night read, just the thing for pulling me out of my slump. (Thank you, Kristin!)

The novel follows three very different women in a luxury condo in Atlanta who are at difficult points in their lives, who meet and bond during weekly screenings of Downton Abbey.

Samantha Davis is a wealthy, middle-aged socialite, a long-time resident of the condos. She is the woman everyone else envies. She’s married to a handsome lawyer who seemingly dotes on her. But no one knows what goes on in her head. She was orphaned at 21 and left with two young siblings to raise. When Jonathan proposed, she saw it as a kindness. He was a friend of the family offering a lifeline. He has been bailing out her family ever since, and she has been eternally grateful. But after more than twenty-five years, her gratitude is wearing a little thin and she’s terrified it might no longer be enough to hold onto him.

Claire Walker was also married young. She had a child, divorced young, and raised a wonderful daughter on her own. But the daughter has just left for college. Claire moved in to a small apartment in the complex. She is embarking on a whole new life–one where she will be writing full-time. (She is a writer of historical romance.) But she discovers that with so much empty time on her hands, she is unable to write and the future she envisioned is becoming cloudier and cloudier.

Brooke MacKenzie is recently divorced with two young daughters. She put her nasty husband through medical school and residency so that he could establish himself as a plastic surgeon. However, when she refused to let him turn her into a walking billboard, and when he decided she was not good for his image, he divorced her. She got the luxury condo and the kids. He got a beautiful young girlfriend.

The concierge of the complex is the very proper Englishman, Edward Parker, who is in the process of building up his own company, Private Butler services. The wealthy residents find that things run very smoothly overall, but Edwards strives for a bit more sense of community, hence the weekly screenings of Downton Abbey. He serves drinks and themed snacks, and brings the tenants together. Mostly, he brings together Samantha, Claire, and Brooke.

The women get to know one another and soon become vital support for each other helping one another through the rough spots of a particularly trying year.

The novel is sweet. The bad-guy males bring conflict to the storyline and the female friendship is nicely empowering. I did find Samantha’s trouble to be a little contrived. I’m not sure she could really be married for twenty-five years to a man that perfect and not "get it." But the bond between the women was more important than the love stories, and as a book about female friendship, this one excels.

As a bonus, there are references to the plots of some of the episodes of Downton Abbey. It isn’t enough to slow down the book, but just enough to be fun, recalling particular scenes. But if you haven’t seen Downton Abbey, you can skim over the paragraphs lightly and not miss anything important, plotwise.