The best books like Downton Abbey

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Downton Abbey and why they recommend each book.

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The Palliser Novels

By Anthony Trollope,

Book cover of The Palliser Novels

While walking through a Barnes and Noble some thirty years ago, I stumbled upon Anthony Trollope—probably because he took up about three whole shelves. Curious, I chose one of his fifty novels and then another and another until I concluded that he is undoubtedly one of the most underrated authors in the English language. Both of his series—The Chronicles of Barsetshire and The Pallisers—make Downton Abbey look like upstairs/downstairs-lite. Highly recommended! 


Who am I?

As the author of a historical/mystery/romance series that has won over sixty international awards in multiple categories, I’m attracted to books that cannot be pinned to one genre. I love sweeping sagas with elements of all three, perhaps because I was so immersed in classic literature as a kid and fascinated by stories of the past. I suspect I may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, I have resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting myself back there. I am, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. 


I wrote...

A Girl Like You

By Michelle Cox,

Book cover of A Girl Like You

What is my book about?

Henrietta Von Harmon works as a 26 girl at a corner bar on Chicago’s northwest side. It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide, leaving Henrietta to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings.

In desperation, Henrietta takes a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall, and just when she’s beginning to enjoy herself, the floor matron turns up dead. When aloof Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene, Henrietta agrees to go undercover for him and is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld. While she attempts to uncover a potential serial killer, little does she know that the Inspector is keeping his secrets of his own.

A Countess Below Stairs

By Eva Ibbotson,

Book cover of A Countess Below Stairs

This is my favorite comfort read, the perfect book for days when life has too many sharp corners. I must have read this one at least twenty times. It has all the virtues of a classic fairytale: a pure-hearted, brave heroine; an honorable, steadfast hero; and a happy ending earned through suffering and effort and against all the odds. It tells the story of Countess Anna Grazinsky, a young refugee from the Russian Revolution, who finds work as a maid at a stately home in the English countryside, where she falls in love with the gallant war hero who owns the house. But the Earl of Westholme is promised to another woman. Heartwarming, triumphantly romantic, wise, and funny, A Countess Below Stairs is one of those rare books that makes the world seem a better place.  


Who am I?

I’ve always loved historical romance, ever since my mother gave me my first Georgette Heyer when I was eight, and my grandmother gave me my first Barbara Cartland shortly after. The fascination has never waned, which is a good thing because I grew up to become a historical romance author myself. Since publishing my first romance in 2006, I’ve written nearly 50 books, mainly set during the Regency period (first quarter of the 19th century). I’ve always adored how a good historical romance whisks me away to a larger-than-life world replete with dashing rakes, smart-mouthed ladies, and glittering high society, not to mention witty banter, glamour, and heart-stopping romance.


I wrote...

One Wicked Wish: A Scandal in Mayfair Book 1

By Anna Campbell,

Book cover of One Wicked Wish: A Scandal in Mayfair Book 1

What is my book about?

Her secret lover…Lord Halston and impoverished companion Stella Faulkner start a sizzling affair under the cover of a respectable house party. But once this interval of heady delight ends, what will become of the humble governess and the wicked earl? Must they return to being strangers as originally arranged, or will five days of intoxicating sin turn into forever?

“One of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.” 5 stars. Amazon reviewer.

The Country House

By David Cannadine, Jeremy Musson,

Book cover of The Country House: Past, Present, Future: Great Houses of The British Isles

This book combines superb photographs with scholarly text by two of the most eminent writers on the country house today, with additional essays by other authors who are respected experts in their fields.  I like nothing more than to just open it up and flick through the pages, dipping into the text and enjoying the images. The book is a beautiful object in itself. 


Who am I?

I have loved visiting country houses ever since I was a child. There is something unique about the combination of art, architecture, and people. Over my lifetime, I have been privileged to visit all sorts of houses and castles. I used to work at Christie’s and during that time I visited many country houses, some of which were completely private. It was a natural progression when I moved to Goodwood and became the curator of the art collection, enjoying the house as part of my daily life. The view from my office looks out through the columns of the portico, across the park, with the sea glinting in the distance. What could be better?  


I wrote...

The English Country House: New Format

By James Peill, Foreword by Julian Fellowes,

Book cover of The English Country House: New Format

What is my book about?

The country houses of England are among her crowning glories. The English Country House describes ten outstanding examples, all still in the hands of descendants of the original owners. They range from Kentchurch Court, a fortified medieval manor house that has been in the Scudamore family for nearly 1,000 years to a delightful Strawberry Hill-style Gothic house in rural Cornwall, the ducal palace of Badminton to Goodwood, England’s greatest sporting estate. Many of the houses are not open to the public and some have not been featured in a book before. The beautiful atmospheric photographs by James Fennell capture the essence of each unique property. 

The Light Years

By Elizabeth Jane Howard,

Book cover of The Light Years

Opening in the second half of the 1930s, this is the first in a five-book saga chronicling the extended Cazalet family living under the shadow of World War Two, based loosely on the author’s own life. We hear from a whole cast of characters, their loves, fears, and foibles: the children’s excitable, misguided take on war, and the adult’s version, when they know only too well. The different voices are distinct and relatable; the writing is a lesson in storytelling. Immersed in the almost-century old world of London and the Sussex countryside, I devoured the whole series, finishing one book only to pick up the next.


Who am I?

I am a journalist and writer fascinated by the fact that every family has a story to tell, and secrets to keep, passed down the years. As a child, I was intrigued by the adventures of my great-aunts and great-uncles during World War Two; ordinary people thrown into conflict—that older, no-nonsense generation no longer with us. My first novel, A Season of Leaves, is based on my great-auntie’s incredible experiences during and after the war. I listened to her account, researched meticulously, and wove fact into fiction. All my novels have a touch of romance, family conflict, and the real trauma of war visited upon people’s doorsteps.


I wrote...

Map of Stars: A heartbreaking Second World War love story

By Catherine Law,

Book cover of Map of Stars: A heartbreaking Second World War love story

What is my book about?

It’s 1967, and a mummified carrier pigeon falls down the chimney of an old country manor in Kent with a wartime message attached to its leg. Eliza, who the note was meant for all those years before, is taken back to the war: a time of danger and betrayal, with the enemy waiting across the Channel. Eliza had never forgotten Lewis, who’d sent her the message; Lewis, the man she loved and lost. 

Eliza’s daughter Stella sets out to discover more about this mysterious man from her mother’s past and uncovers a terrible secret that Eliza had wanted to remain buried. And as the enigma of what happened to Lewis begins to unravel, Stella unearths a truth that changes everything she knew about herself.

The Governess of Highland Hall

By Carrie Turansky,

Book cover of The Governess of Highland Hall

If you’re like me and a fan of Downton Abbey, then you’ll appreciate the well-researched Edwardian period details found in this charming story, as well as the sweet romance. Julia Foster is not your usual governess, having a remarkable backstory of her own, but the way she cares for the widowed William and his children is heart-warming and will captivate your heart. 


Who am I?

I’m a long-time lover of Christian romance, and now with over a dozen Christian historical romance books published, and a similar amount of Christian contemporary romances published or soon to be, I think I’m someone who has a true appreciation for romance that is soul-stirringly Christian, not just clean or sweet, but which contains truths that will inspire and encourage as well as entertain with swoon-worthy romance.


I wrote...

The Breakup Project

By Carolyn Miller,

Book cover of The Breakup Project

What is my book about?

New Year. New Resolution. New Romance? What happens when the best-laid plans break a friendship? As the twin sister of hockey’s hottest forward, romance-loving Bree Karlsson is used to being ignored, leading to a New Year’s resolution to not date any athlete in her attempt to find Mr. Right. But what happens when the man who might prove to be her personal Mr. Darcy is her brother’s hockey-playing best friend?

This friends-to-more romance has plenty of heart, humor, and swoon-worthy kisses in this first book of the Original Six, a sweet Christian contemporary romance series.

The Red Cross Letters

By Dorothy Trebilcox,

Book cover of The Red Cross Letters: A Real Life Account 1944-1946

My favorite thing about this book is that it contains copies of the actual letters sent home by Dorothy, about half handwritten and the other half typed. The accompanying photos and newspaper clippings enhance the narrative of her work and travel in England. This is one of the most complete sets of letters I’ve ever seen. Dorothy was the Red Cross secretary at a U.S. Army hospital located at a country estate (think Downton Abbey). I love her conversational tone, charming descriptions, and positive attitude. I almost felt like I was her mother reading the letters as they arrived so many years ago.  


Who am I?

I’ve been devoted to reading memoirs since childhood. My favorite memoirs are based on letters written by people who served in World War II. Their letters encapsulate their experiences with an intimacy meant only for their loved ones. I am fascinated with the immediacy of their personal experience, the longing for home, and the courage to carry on that is expressed in these letters. I continue to be astonished and inspired by the lives of “ordinary” people who tell their own extraordinary stories better than anyone else could. I am the author of two non-fiction books based on letters and my current project is a World War II-era historical novel.


I wrote...

I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home from a Navy Girl

By Karen Berkey Huntsberger,

Book cover of I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home from a Navy Girl

What is my book about?

Frustrated with a career she did not like, Lucy Berkey enlisted in the Navy WAVES in 1943. She chronicled her life in letters home for two and a half years. Lucy’s vivid and captivating letters are filled with warmth, humor, and love for family and friends. She details her training, work as a map artist in Washington, DC, travel, and the unique friendships and camaraderie that developed between the women of the WAVES. Lucy’s story of personal and professional transformation, told against the backdrop of World War II, provides insight into what it was like to be a young military woman receiving the same rank and pay as a man for the first time in history.

The Lord of Stariel

By A.J. Lancaster,

Book cover of The Lord of Stariel

Imagine if Downton Abbey neighbored Faerie. Then make the idea ten times more awesome, and you have The Lord of Stariel. I discovered it right before the final book in the quartet came out and binged them all.

The premise—a family’s magical estate will choose its next lord after the old one passes on—is intriguing enough. But what really sold me on this book is Hetta, the prodigal daughter. She’s level-headed, sharp-witted, and unwilling to be limited by society’s (or her family’s) ideas about the proper role of a lady. 

I don’t want to tell you too much about her counterpart—the book should unfold its secrets. But he’d make a strong showing in a Best Hero contest.


Who am I?

I write romantic fantasy set in twisted versions of the United States because half of me wishes magic were real. (The wiser half thinks that would be a disaster.) Typical contents of my books: banter, antagonist love interests, dramatically billowing coats, twisty plots, and oppressive systems in need of taking down... by bantering antagonists in magnificent coats. I consume books like they’re as necessary as food—and aren’t they, really? 


I wrote...

Subversive

By Colleen Cowley,

Book cover of Subversive

What is my book about?

In an America controlled by wizards and 100 years behind on women's rights, Beatrix Harper counts herself among the resistance—the Women's League for the Prohibition of Magic. Then Peter Blackwell, the only wizard her town has ever produced, unexpectedly returns home and presses her into service as his assistant.

Beatrix fears he wants to undermine the League. His real purpose is far more dangerous for them both.

The Saltwater Murder

By L.B. Hathaway,

Book cover of The Saltwater Murder: A Cozy Historical Murder Mystery

Even if there’s just a hint of something Italian in a story by the sea, I’m smiling. When you first meet Miss Posie Parker in this story, she’s wearing a scent reminiscent of Parma Violet, first distilled by the second wife of Napoleon I. For the next 300 pages, I couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful Posie smells and how she must leave behind a whiff of her violet-scented perfume everywhere she goes a-sleuthing. Such a telling detail about a character and one that stayed with me as I tried in vain to solve the mystery.


Who am I?

I am fascinated by all that was happening in the world before WWII. Amidst a silent, looming economic collapse, many social norms were turned on their head, women broke out of their molds, and art, literature, technology, and music all flourished. And a heady mix of cultures blended not altogether seamlessly to influence the Roaring Twenties like no other decade before it. The juxtaposition of this exciting yet challenging tumult lures me into reading books and writing immigrant-forward stories about this period—and as an author with deep roots in the boot—I particularly enjoy doing so through an Italian lens.


I wrote...

Slain Over Spumoni

By Tessa Floreano,

Book cover of Slain Over Spumoni

What is my book about?

My book, Slain Over Spumoni, is set in 1920 in a seaside resort in northern Italy, and features a former WWI nurse, a former soldier, and a spumoni recipe that The Gelato King of Italy is killed over. It is a light beach read in the mystery genre with a dash of romance thrown in to sweeten the tale. You’ll enjoy this family story about sibling rivalry gone awry, but also a budding romance between two people from different cultures who find commonality that has staying power beyond sampling the famous spumoni and  sleuthing by the sea.

The Passing Bells

By Phillip Rock,

Book cover of The Passing Bells

I came upon this 3-part series almost by accident and quickly gobbled it up, surprised that it is not more well known. It is a fabulous upstairs/downstairs type of saga in which both the aristocracy and the servants who wait upon them are upended by the outbreak of WW1. Excellent writing; hard to put down.  


Who am I?

As the author of a historical/mystery/romance series that has won over sixty international awards in multiple categories, I’m attracted to books that cannot be pinned to one genre. I love sweeping sagas with elements of all three, perhaps because I was so immersed in classic literature as a kid and fascinated by stories of the past. I suspect I may have once lived in the 1930s and, having yet to discover a handy time machine lying around, I have resorted to writing about the era as a way of getting myself back there. I am, not surprisingly, addicted to period dramas and big band music. 


I wrote...

A Girl Like You

By Michelle Cox,

Book cover of A Girl Like You

What is my book about?

Henrietta Von Harmon works as a 26 girl at a corner bar on Chicago’s northwest side. It’s 1935, but things still aren’t looking up since the big crash and her father’s subsequent suicide, leaving Henrietta to care for her antagonistic mother and younger siblings.

In desperation, Henrietta takes a job as a taxi dancer at a local dance hall, and just when she’s beginning to enjoy herself, the floor matron turns up dead. When aloof Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene, Henrietta agrees to go undercover for him and is plunged into Chicago’s grittier underworld. While she attempts to uncover a potential serial killer, little does she know that the Inspector is keeping his secrets of his own.

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