Downton Abbey Meets Sherlock Holmes

WDSID

“Your Grace,” Lady Isabella Wharton coaxed, from the other side of the Ormonde library, “really, you must put the knife down. Whatever will your grandmamma think?”

But the Duke of Ormonde, accustomed to ignoring his family’s dictates, didn’t lower the knife at his wife’s throat.

As Amazon would say: If you like PBS’s Downton Abbey and Sherlock Holmes you’ll love the Wicked Widow Series by Manda Collins.

In the first of the trilogy, Why Dukes Say I Do, Manda artfully mixes murder, blackmail, sabotage and a who-done-it mystery with genteel life on a country estate.

The hero, Trevor is a newly titled Duke who wants nothing to do with the responsibility the title holds, especially since it means leaving his land and tenants for the chaos of London. The heroine, Isabella is blackmailed by her godmother (the hero’s grandmother) into forcing Trevor to do exactly that.Neither can afford to lose, which makes for a lovely clash of wills. As Isabella experiences the drama of ‘laid back life’ on Trevor’s country estate it struck me that this was deliciously similar to my favorite show Downton Abbey.
So I asked Manda about it:

Would you describe your heroine’s personality traits more like a Mary, Edith or Sybil?

Hmm. I’d say she’s a Mary from probably the second or third season. Once she’s softened up a bit and acknowledged that human frailty exists and is okay. Not the First Season “hellish beyotch” Mary.

If you had to cast your Dowager Duchess of Ormonde for a Hollywood movie, who would you choose?

I think Judi Dench could pull it off quite well. Or maybe Gemma Jones (the mother in Sense & Sensibility). But definitely the Dowager Duchess of Ormonde shares some traits with the DD of Grantham!

Robert Crawley is a laid-back Earl, who rarely capitalizes on his title. I would even call him a reluctant Earl, more interested in country-life at Downton Abbey and keeping his tenants happy than dealing with the politics and social mayhem of London society. As an audience, we generally gravitate towards mayhem for entertainment, yet both you and Julian Fellowes make this trait seem heroic and keep us enthralled. How did you do this and why do you think we are fascinated by the slower pace of life on a country estate?

 I think there is something enthralling and noble about a high-ranking person choosing to devote themselves to actually tending to their responsibilities. We’ve seen time and time again the hellraising Rake or politically active peer spending all their time in London carousing or trying to get some legislation to pass the Lords. Not to say that politics don’t have their place. But that gentleman who really cares about his tenants satisfies–at least for me–a need to see someone doing the right thing.

As to how I did this? I have no idea! I’m totally an organic writer. I might tinker with the prose or make changes my editor suggests, but I don’t consciously think–oh, he needs to look more sympathetic here…I wish it were that easy!

In both the TV series and your novel there is a ‘confidant’ relationship between the main characters and their servants. In your research do you believe this was so in the Regency period/early 20th Century? (Like we have with our hairdressers/bartenders today?)

Manda Collins

Manda Collins

I do. As much as we’d like to think that all people in the upper echelons of society saw their servants as furniture, I just can’t believe all of them were so callous to the people around them that they didn’t share some part of themselves with their closest servants like maids and valets and the like. Do I think that it was all jolly and Mary Poppins and happiness all the time between them? Of course not! But I do think, in some cases there were confidant relationships between them. And the servant would then use that reputation for discretion if they needed to get another position. It was as great a commodity as a letter of reference!

The murder, sabotage and blackmail is right out of a Sherlock Holmes plot and not usually seen in historical romances.  What made you blend genres (tricky at best) and are you finding a captive audience?

Well, thank you for the compliment, but I certainly do not see myself as the second coming of Conan Doyle (though wouldn’t that be awesome?) Like most writers I write what I like to read. And what I like to read most are Regency Historicals and Mysteries. So what I’m trying to do is blend together some combination of the two.

Sometimes I think it works better than others. I do know that my mystery plots aren’t always as complex or difficult to figure out as a true mystery–I think that’s because I sacrifice a bit of the mystery to the romance. After all, it’s not much of a romance if your hero and heroine never talk about anything but the mystery they’re trying to solve. And also there MUST be some sexy times! I insist upon it! So you get what I like to think of as Nancy Drew meets Jane Austen–or maybe Georgette Heyer if you want to be more precise.

As far as captive audiences, I don’t know! The number of positive reviews outnumber the negatives. But of course it’s the negatives I remember. And let me tell you, there is at least one person who DOES NOT like to have mystery mixed in with her romance! But that just means my books aren’t for her. Which is absolutely okay! There are enough books out there for everyone to find something they enjoy!

Can you give us a hint about the next novel in the series?

The next novel in the Wicked Widows Series is called WHY EARLS FALL IN LOVE Why-Earls-Fall-In-Love-by-Manda-Collins300x490and it is the story of Isabella’s friend Georgie, who also suffered a not so great marriage. The hero is the Earl of Coniston. He’s mentioned briefly in WDSID but is never onstage. The action of this one takes place in Bath and let us just say that our blackmailer is back in full force! Lots of adventures all over the spa-town!  It will be released the last week of January 2014.

OOOO! Scanty cover…Looking forward to another great read, Manda!

K&T Audience: to read an excerpt of Why Dukes Say I Do please click herehttp://www.mandacollins.com/why-dukes-say-i-do/#read-an-excerpt
For more information on Manda please visit www.MandaCollins.com or www.facebook.com/mandacollinsauthor

One lucky commenter will win a digital or paperback copy of Why Dukes Say I Do. Question: Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character and why? Check back on Thursday to see if we picked your name. (Paperback only available to mail in the continental states.)

*****

Join us tomorrow for Diana Belchase’s video interview of Allison Leotta and a preview of Allison’s latest book!
Allison Leotta

Allison Leotta

About Sarah Andre

Romantic Suspense That Keeps You Up All Night! I live in sunny FL, love daydreaming, reading and chocolate. I write in the wee hours of the morning before my helpless hubby and 2 male Pomeranian pups awaken with their demands. :) My debut LOCKED, LOADED and LYING is available now.

Posted on August 6, 2013, in Author Interview, Manda Collins, Sarah Andre, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments.

  1. Happy Tuesday, Manda! I know your novel has been out a week so I’m excited to be the one to officially trumpet the announcement here for our readers.

    The Question of the Day applies to YOU TOO! Who is your favorite Downton Abbey character and why?

    • Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for the great questions! You rock! Sneaky of you to make me answer the Question! It’s tough for me to choose a favorite, but I’d have to go with Sibyl. Boy was I upset when…well, I won’t spoil it for anyone. After that I’d have a hard time picking a favorite. They each endear me or get on my nerves in a rather equal fashion!

      • Yes. I remember sitting there open-mouthed with shock as the rest of that episode progressed. It was as real for me as a family member, which says a lot for the show’s characters.

  2. Manda, I am almost finished with WDSID and am loving it! But instead of Nancy Drew, I’d compare you to Victoria Holt–more gothic than detectivey. And Victoria Holt is still one of my all-time favorite authors. 🙂

    As far as my favorite Downton Abbey character, I’d have to say I adore Matthew. He’s adapted to his new life, but there’s always a sense about him that he knows it’s all a joke.
    Congratulations, Manda. I am so happy for you!

    • mandacollinsauthor

      Thank you so much, Sharon! That’s a high compliment since I am a big Victoria Holt fan too! This trilogy is more gothic than detective novel-esque–so you’re spot on! Thanks for the praise, Madam All-Star Daphne Winner!

    • Really? When I think of Holt and gothic I think of remote castles on the moors or Cornwall…a haunted, brooding, wealthy hero and a governess. 🙂

      • mandacollinsauthor

        True, but these books are closer to “woman in jeopardy” like Holt, than they are to, say, Nancy Drew. But agreed that Holt evokes more remote castles on a cliff than this is.

  3. Loving this series so far. Great writing and beautiful covers. As for my favorite Downton Abbey character, it’s Sybil. I’m still furious they killed her off. I thought she was the perfect blend of strength and humility, that rare breed of aristocrats who could understand and empathize with the lower classes. I just adored her. And of course, I loved Matthew too. Apparently I only fall in love with characters who leave shows (dramatic sigh).

    • mandacollinsauthor

      Thank you so much, Lena! 🙂 And I’m right there with you about Sibyl. I cried real tears. And I felt like the show lost it’s moral center when she left. I was less upset about Matthew, just because I knew from press stuff that the actor was trying to get out of it and go to Broadway. I’m not sure who I’m going to root for now, though.

  4. Manda, this book is so utterly delicious! I love the way you blend historical romance with mystery.

    Ah. Downton Abbey – I have to confess I’ve never seen it. I really want to watch it and think it’s available on Amazon Prime. I need to set aside a weekend and dive in.

    • mandacollinsauthor

      Thank you, Rachel! You’re so sweet! And now…

      Shame on you!!! How can you not have watched DA?!? Just kidding. It’s hard to watch something once you’re behind everyone else on it. It’s like, why bother? But I think you’ll like it. It’s entertaining. Plus, there IS romance.

    • Oh no, Manda let you off too easy, Rachel. 🙂

      You MUST make this series your next TV-watching priority. It’ll suck you in within 10 minutes of the first episode. Everyone I know (guys too) binge-watch 2 or 3 episodes at a time it’s so enthralling.

  5. I love Downtown Abbey and this book, too. Congratulations on another wonderful read, Manda!

    My favorite characters — the eldest daughter and the cook. But each character is so endearing — except Matthew who got himself killed only because the actor was mean and didn’t want to stay with the series. I wish they’d replaced him instead.

    XO

    • mandacollinsauthor

      Thank you so much, Diana! You’re a sweetheart!

      And OMG, yes, they should have just replaced Matthew. They used to do it on soap operas ALL THE TIME! It would have added a new dimension to the show!

      I have a soft spot for Mary too! Though the later seasons Mary. Early Mary was a not very lovable person!

      • I loved Why Dukes Say I Do! And what a terrific series idea. I can’t wait for the rest. As for Downton Abbey and Matthew – don’t even get me started!
        Favorite character- I’m a Thomas fan. The guy’s complicated 🙂

    • Oh, I love the cook! Her flashes of temper…there and gone.

  6. I think I will have to go for Tom (the chauffer, not Thomas the valet.) Not sure how realistic that whole subplot is/was, but I admire his strength to deal with the family and his passionate political beliefs and how he’s maintaining control over his daughter in the face of all those domineering in laws.

    • mandacollinsauthor

      I agree, Tom is intriguing. And he’s a good guy. I wonder what role he’s going to play in the household with Matthew gone. It’s going to take some serious attitude adjusting for Robert to unbend and let Tom help out with the estate.

    • Eh, Thomas the chauffeur doesn’t thrill me that much. I don’t appreciate men who put their families in peril no matter what their political beliefs are. When he left his wife pregnant and fending for herself while he escaped Ireland without her, I lost a great deal of respect for him. I also don’t care for arsonists.

      I keep thinking about all the pressure that’s going to be on Matthew and Mary’s baby. The show has been all about the rule of primogenitor and providing an heir to the estate. I think they’re gonna have that kid married before he’s 13.

      A lot of great characters from the upstairs family have left, for me now most of the action is below stairs.

  7. LOLOL – so am I the only K&T member who hasn’t seen Downton Abbey?

    Help, Krista, I need backup!

    • mandacollinsauthor

      The only one who’s commenting today, it would seem!

      Now, girls, don’t bully Rachel…

      • But it’s so fun ganging up on her! Rachel, I felt like I was the only person on the planet who hadn’t seen DA. So I bought the first two seasons on DVD. My hubby and I watched them in a marathon over a couple of weeks and got totally hooked. It’s not a lot of action or anything like that. It’s just a delicious soap opera with cool British accents!

    • Only watched Downton Abbey once, Rachel 🙂 Based on that single episode, I’m going with the DD of Grantham as my favorite. Gotta love the baddie!

      • Awww! Good choice. Maggie Smith steals so many scenes. My favorite is her horror of the men wearing white dinner jackets and she asks her son for a drink and then says “oh, sorry, I thought you were the waiter.” What a hoot!

  8. Wow, we’ve had some really interesting hits today. People from all over the globe have tuned in. I wonder why so few of them are leaving comments. I guess they must’ve already gone out and bought Mandas book on their own. I hope everyone who stops by does buy the book because it’s absolutely fabulous.

  9. I like your comment in the interview, Manda, about the highborn “doing the right thing” by their tenants in your stories. Hurray for you! And thanks for doing a series that combines mystery and romance. My very fave read! jdh2690@gmail.com

  10. Congrats on the Wicked Widows series, Manda! I loved the Regency twist on “I saw what you did…” Plus it was great how you explored some serious themes while still keeping the reader entertained with the mystery and the romance.

    Sarah, the Downton Abbey tie in was inspired! Fabulous!

  11. Thanks everyone for all the spirited comments and Rachel, we’re sorry we ganged up on you. But it’s kinda like meeting an American who has never eaten McDonalds or pizza. It’s the shock…that’s all. 🙂

    Manda, thank you for all your gracious comments and we all wish you the best of luck on sales. This is truly a terrific beginning to your new trilogy!

  12. The eldest daughter for sure. she can be a brat sometimes but you know in the end she’s good hearted. I love her relationship with the butler, it’s so endearing

    • mandacollinsauthor

      I like their relationship, too, Rissa! He’s like her second father:) And I think you’re right. She does have a good heart. It’s just hard to see it sometimes!

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