A Preview of Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame (2012)Seven months until Downton Abbey season 3 airs on Masterpiece Classic PBS. So, what’s a Downtonite to do in the meantime besides re-watching the first two seasons again? Why – read of course.

Please join us today in welcoming author Abby Grahame on her blog tour in celebration of the publication of Wentworth Hall, released this month by Simon & Schuster. Set in Edwardian England, not only will its title intrigue most Janeites with its reference to a certain romantic Captain from Austen’s novel Persuasion, but its author was inspired by Jane Austen throughout. Abby has generously shared with us some insights on her inspiration for writing her first young adult novel.


A must-read for Downton Abbey fans—a lush, historical novel about the secretive Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall.

Can’t get enough of Downton Abbey? Visit Wentworth Hall. It’s one of England’s oldest estates, and the Darlingtons are among the elite class of British society. But under the wealth are secrets that must stay hidden.

It’s 1912, and eighteen-year-old Maggie and her mother have just returned from a year abroad where Lady Darlington has had a baby boy, James. But he is not the only addition to the house. They have also brought back Therese, their new French tutor, as well as welcomed the orphaned teenage twins, Teddy and Jessica, who have just lost their father aboard the Titanic. This adds to an already crowded house of Darlingtons and staff, all of whom have a penchant for gossiping about their employers.

As time passes, it becomes clear that Teddy and Jessica would rather be anywhere else and that Maggie is a different person from the one who left Wentworth. Her family’s financial future rests with her finding the best husband—and her parents are sure that is Teddy.

When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, the family is determined to find the culprit and keep their affairs under wraps. But at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long….


The “Persuasive” Influence of Jane Austen on Wentworth Hall

A writer’s tool chest is the mind: It is filled with all that the senses have imbibed; the memories and the emotions; the people, the places; the ceremonious days filled with frivolity and the fleeting moments when great truths can be revealed in a subtle nod.  Some things are recalled as if yesterday, others have sunk beneath the forgetful blanket of the unconscious. The profound and entertaining books one has enjoyed are in there too.

All of this comes into play in the act of writing. Sometimes a writer “borrows,” from another source in full consciousness. It is a parody or homage, or simply a theft. Other times the influence bubbles up unbidden from the underground caves of the authorial psyche. Such was the case—I realize only now—when I embarked on writing my first published novel Wentworth Hall.  The spirit of Jane Austen was there, whispering in my ear, for sure. But she was so clever that I didn’t notice her presence at first.

The immediate influence can be seen in naming the novel after a venerable location rife with history and family secrets. (Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park)  But, I have to admit this was also influenced by the luscious TV mini-series Downton Abbey.  (A title that was probably in itself influenced by Jane Austen too.) The upstairs, downstairs approach captivated me. This leads me to the next—and larger—influence.  Class!

In Jane Austen’s posthumously published Persuasion, Ann Elliot is madly in love with Captain Frederick Wentworth but is “persuaded” that he is not of high enough social consequence to merit a match. As in so much of Austen’s work, it is a statement on the hypocrisy and changeability of social class.

In my novel, I wanted to write about these things too. The stratification of our world into a 1% elite with gradations going down to the bottom of society’s poorest has been in the news lately. It is something that has been developing over the last fifty years in an accelerating fashion. These class distinctions are as relevant now as they were in Austen’s day.

Of course there are differences too. Wentworth Hall is set in 1912. Electricity has arrived and the radio will soon be in every home. World War One is looming. The characters see themselves as being on the cusp of a new, modern world that will shake up the power of the old aristocracy around them. A space was opening for the entrenched serving class to rise above their station of birth, just as naval service in the Napoleonic Wars allows Captain Wentworth to become a man of status and wealth.

In Wentworth Hall, the central story involves a great love affair thwarted by class differences. There are also less prominent characters whose lives are affected by the positions they were born into (in some cases the upper class feels trapped as well as the lower class). Hopefully I have explored the common humanity that makes these divides so superficial even though the lock they put on the lives of the characters seems unbreakable and can be disastrous.

So when the name Wentworth Hall occurred to me as a title, I had to have been somehow remembering that Captain Wentworth was man of rising stature in Persuasion  even though at the time I simply thought it had a good sound to it. And now that I have been made aware of the connection by the Jane Austen fans of my acquaintance, I couldn’t be more pleased. I loved Persuasion when I first read it as a college Literature major. Wentworth Hall is, indeed, imbued with the spirit of Captain Wentworth, the dashing character whom Jane Austen created with, if not precognitive, then certainly with the keen social perceptivity she brought to all her books.

So, thanks, Jane Austen. I couldn’t ask for a more acute and observant guide through the halls of class, romance, and social change.


Abby Grahame lives in upstate New York. Her interest in historical fiction and British period dramas inspired Wentworth Hall. This is her first novel.

Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame
Simon & Schuster (2012)
Hardcover (228) pages
ISBN: 978-1442451964

Cover image, book description, guest blog, and author bio courtesy of Simon & Schuster © 2012; text Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

37 thoughts on “A Preview of Wentworth Hall, by Abby Grahame

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  1. While I feel compassion for the situation of Ladies Mary and Edith, caught up in Victorian rules and mores which bind them fiercely in Downton Abbey I and II, my favorite character is Lady Sybil! She is daring enough to order a pair of tea-trousers in season I, but follows her heart straight into the garage and the arms of a man well-below anything her parents could possibly approve in social standing. She follows her rebelious heart espite efforts to persuade her to give up her driver.


  2. I would very much like to win a copy of this book! Carson is my favorite Downton character because of his loyalty and the love he has for the family (especially his sweet relationship with Lady Mary)!


  3. I fell head-over-heels in love with Downton Abbey about a month and a half ago. A few of my students (I teach high school English) recommended it to me earlier this year, and I was lucky enough to find the DVD at one of the few remaining video stores in town. And WHAT a TREAT!! I think that, hands down, my favorite characters are Bates and Anna. I found myself rooting for Bates almost from the beginning – his sense of honor and integrity are so “Austen” and even though they’ve gotten him in so many scrapes, I just hold out with the hope that, like an actual Austen hero, he’ll be rewarded for sticking to his morals in the end. And I love Anna for the way that she sees the worth behind the man. They are soooo cute together! Oh, I how I “awwww”-ed when first Anna brought Bates a tray of food and then, a few episodes later, he returned the favor when she was sick. I was a goner from that point on.


  4. This sounds like it is going to be a great book. Combining Downton Abbey and Jane Austen is a great idea. I LOVE Lady Violet….she is just a riot to watch!


  5. Lady Mary has her share of flaws, but I love that she’s been able to change and admit her mistakes.
    I love to read any book that tips it’s hat to Persausion which is my favorite book!


  6. Maggie Smith as Lady Violet…she has some great one liners. Also, Lady Mary and Matthew…I actually first heard about Downton via this blog…so THANK you for introducing me to some quality tv. Wentworth Hall looks like a good read…I find the class relations during the pre-war era fascinating. (I live in Canada so can’t enter the contest).


  7. I can answer both questions…

    I love the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey the most. I can’t even think of some of the things she says without laughing!

    And even though I am well outside of the demographic for Young Adult fiction, I read it when the subject matter intrigues me, as this book does.


  8. I would have to say that my favorite character is Daisy, the kitchen maid. She is just beginning to show signs of blossoming into a woman. I hope that her character is developed in the next series.
    Wentworth Hall sounds like a perfect read for spring or maybe the beach. Thank you for the giveaway.


  9. I love Lady Mary and Matthew. What I think really draws me to them is the parallel between Elizabeth in her misunderstanding of Darcy’s character. Of course, she wasn’t selfish from the start, as Lady Mary starts out being. But I guess I’m referring to the humility that comes from learning from our mistakes. I’d love to read this book. I’m totally hooked by Downton Abbey and would be interested in this for the connections.


  10. My favorite character of “Downton Abbey” is Edith Crawley. I can relate to her. She is overlooked and forgotten and is searching for something to make her whole. I hope that Season 3 gives her more attention.


  11. 1) I really admire Mr. Bates. In a world of back-stabbing, gossip, and lies, he flies above the fray with dignity, honesty, and class. Being a little late to the party, my wife and I have just now finished season ONE(!)
    2) At 66 and with 6 grandchildren I still love childrens’ books. AND, my 12 year old granddaughter, bless her heart, is on ch 8 of Sense and Sensibility! I am always looking for classy wholesome age-appropriate literature on her behalf.


  12. Your book sounds like an enjoyable read! Lady Violet, Carson & Anna are my favorite characters on DA.


  13. This book looks so good! I’m all about anything that is reminiscent of Downton Abbey, so I’m really excited about this book finally being out. And my favorite Downton Abbey character is DEFINITELY Sybil! Branson & future Baby Branson would make the favorites list, too.


  14. This books sounds amazing! I am so excited to get my hands on it! My favorite characters would have to be Matthew and Mary. I just can’t get enough of their love story. I am so eager for season three, I’m not really sure how I am going to wait that many months! I’m sure this book would help!!:) Thanks for the giveaway!


  15. I love the idea of this book combining the two influences. I cannot wait for Downton Abbey to return. I am eager to see if Lady Sybil will return with her baby, and how Mary’s marriage fairs, and will Lady Edith find the love she deserves. I also am eager for a down week this summer when I can watch the Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice DVD set I recently purchased. Looking forward to reading Wentworth Hall, and I would love to win a copy of it!


  16. I have to agree…. the Dowager Duchess!! I just LOVE her!! Maggie Smith is such a talented actress & I love when she gets to be “feisty”! LOL And I have to say that I also love the title of your book & very much looking forward to reading it – Persuasion is one of my very favorites of JA ;) Thank you so much for offering the giveaway :)


  17. I haven’t actually watched Downton, but I *love* Dan Stevens, so let’s just say I’d like Matthew ;)

    As to why I want to read this book: It sounds really awesome, and I love historical fiction!


  18. I love Bates, I love Anna, I love Lady Mary, I love Carson, but most of all the Dowager Duchess because she can get away with saying anything just by who she is! But I also love everyone’s attachment to the Downtown Abbey home–the building, the grounds and the love everyone has for it. I miss Downtown and can’t wait for the next season…a wedding!!!


  19. I love the Dowager Duchess too! Love her blunt wit. And Lady Mary. Your book sounds very intriguing! Thank you for the giveaway!


  20. Dowager Duches for me, as well. She gets the best lines. I love reading YA books- they’re so full of imagination.
    Thank you for the giveaway!


  21. Anna Smith, Bates’s girlfriend, is my favorite character. I like how she is always there for him and wanting to work through their problems. I would love to win the book because it sounds interesting and I did look at the excerpt on Amazon and it sounds like something I would enjoy. I do like Y.A. books and there don’t seem to be that many that are historical.


  22. I’m torn between Lady Violet and Anna as my favorite. I don’t know if I like Lady Violet so much because she gets all the great lines and Maggie Smith is awesome, or if it really is her character.


  23. Thanks to you, I found Downton Abbey! I have watched Season One multiple times on-line and cannot wait for Season Two to become available. The character Maggie Smith portrays is wonderful. She has wit, intelligence, and humor and is thoroughly enjoyable to watch.


  24. As a Persuasion addict myself, I’m very excited about this one — the cover is lovely, too. I can’t get enough historical fiction and am very intrigued by Wentworth Hall.


  25. Been reading for awhile now…first time commenter though. My favorite characters are Anna and Matthew.


  26. I’m a confirmed “Downtonite” – favorite character is Lady Violet. Thanks for the giveaway. This book sounds wonderful.


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