Please join Julian Fellowes, creator, sole writer, and executive producer of the hit television series Downton Abbey and the author of the new novel Belgravia, who is touring the blogosphere with a progressive blog tour from April 14 to June 16, 2016!
Similar to a progressive dinner party, where a group of friends each make one course of a meal that moves from house to house with each course, this progressive blog tour features eleven bloggers and authors, each offering a recap and review of one episode from the book.
Visit The Calico Critic to learn more about Episode 4: At Home in Belgrave Square, and read on for our review of Episode 5: The Assignation.
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 hardcover copies of Belgravia–details below!
Reviewed by Alisha Churbe
At this point of the novel, we are well into the 1840s. We have been introduced to two families: the Trenchards and the Bellasises. The affair between Sophia Trenchard and Edmund Bellasis in 1815, as well as their subsequent deaths has fused the two families together. The characters are intertwined and Fellowes delivers on cunning jabs, hidden secrets, and unlikely partnerships between the characters within each of these families. All the elements that made Downton Abbey so likable.
We have learned that with the death of their only son (Edmund), Lord and Lady (Peregrine and Caroline) Brockenhurst (Bellasis) no longer have an heir. It has also just been revealed that Caroline has discovered her grandson, (not yet revealed to all characters, a secret kept for 25 years) Charles Pope, the son of Edmund. Sophia died during the birth of Charles. Caroline becomes interested in seeking him out and invites him to a party/soiree. Charles is a typical literary gentleman–tall, dark and handsome with just a bit of mystery.
We begin episode five, an episode full of assignations, as well as accusations of assignations. The episode begins with the assignation between Susan Trenchard (daughter-in-law of Anne Trenchard and wife of Oliver Trenchard who was Sophia’s brother) and John Bellasis, son of Stephen Bellasis and Edmund’s cousin. These two unlikely characters have just rolled out of bed. They are in a small house in Isleworth obviously designed for such affairs, sequestered away from those they know, those who could discover their secret.
“What an extraordinary proposition Susan Trenchard had turned out to be. Their meeting at his aunt’s soirée had been quite fortuitous and entirely unplanned, but she was his best discovery this Season. He really believed she would keep him entertained for weeks.”
Behind the curtains, the reader learns of both of their intentions. They both believe they are holding the upper hand, both believe they are the ones who will gain, playing the other for a time until they become useless to the overall plan.
“Her boredom and lack of affection for her husband had been obvious to him as soon as he’d approached her that evening at Brockenhurst House. All he’d had to do was flatter her a little, tell her how pretty she was, frown with interest at her opinions, and slowly but surely he knew he would be able to prise her away from the weak-looking Oliver Trenchard.”
“She [Susan] would certainly allow John to give himself the credit for turning her head and luring her into sin—all men like to feel they are leading the dance—but the truth was that if Susan had not made the decision to go astray, it would not be happening.”
Susan involves her maid, Speer, in the assignation as not to draw attention or suspicion. Susan cooked up a scheme to be away with John in Isleworth and Speer assists her with documents that will corroborate the lie Susan has told to be away. This is classic Fellowes, bringing the “downstairs” into the fold of the drama of the “upstairs.” This is one of the ways we were so enamored with Downtown Abbey and Fellowes continues within this new novel, Belgravia.
The episode moves away from the lovers to Stephen Bellasis (John’s father, Peregrine’s father) who is thick into a game of whist where he’s desperately gambling and losing a large sum of money. He turns to his brother for another loan on his inheritance and is refused.
“I wouldn’t normally ask…” [Stephen] “Yes, but the thing is you do normally ask,” interrupted Peregrine. “In fact you ask continually. I cannot remember when you last came to my house without asking for money.” He paused. “No.”
On Stephen’s way out of his brother’s estate, he encounters Lady Brockenhurst (Caroline, Peregrine’s wife) in conversation with Charles Pope (her grandson, Edmund and Sophia’s son) about his new cotton mill. She has agreed to finance his new entrepreneurial adventure and Stephen wonders how he can exploit both this assignation and this relationship for his own gain.
After the meeting goes better than he expects, Charles encounters Lady Maria (engaged to John Bellasis). She is overly interested in him and asks for him to spend time with her and explain his new cotton mill venture. He agrees.
Stephen now has less than two days to obtain the money he owes and turns to his son John (engaged to Maria, having an affair with Susan Trenchard), who refers him to a moneylender to obtain the money. Stephen even indicates that he has nothing else and that his house is “mortgaged to the hilt.” They cook up a plan to insert themselves into Caroline and Charles’ relationship.
“He and your aunt were laughing away, in her private sitting room of all places. I caught them as he came out. It all seemed very rum to me. The boy blushed when I saw him. He really blushed.”
“You don’t suppose they were enjoying an assignation?” John joked. “Good gracious, no.” Stephen chuckled as he leaned back into the banquette. “But there is something going on there, let me tell you. She’s investing in his business.”
“Stephen nodded again. “There has to be some history between them. Between Mr. Pope and Caroline, or possibly between him and Peregrine. And if we find it out, then maybe, as Caroline is being so free with her finances at the moment, she’ll pay to keep that information secret.”
The episode wraps up with John’s attempts to obtain information about Caroline and Charles’ relationship by bribing the Trenchard staff. John meets with Speer (Susan’s maid); she refers him to the butler, Mr. Thurton who refers him to Mrs. Ellis, the maid of Mrs. Trenchard.
“A valet or a maid could winkle out a family’s secrets quicker than anyone. He had heard tell that half the major powers paid valets and maids to spy for them. He smiled at Ellis, who was waiting in silence. “I wonder if we might be able to do a little business?”
The episode is full of secrets. Some are revealed, while others are presented but remain hidden and unknown. The secrets are between the reader and the story but also hidden within the characters themselves. Episode 5 moves swiftly. I felt like I had just started to read when it was already wrapping up.
Reading and reviewing only an episode is challenging but rewarding. The format of this novel’s release mirrors that of a weekly television show. You are thrown right into the action, pieces refer back to that which has already occurred, scenes move quickly and the episode ends with an uncertainty, a promise of things yet to come.
I’m hooked on this new novel by Julian Fellowes and can’t wait to read further episodes. The next episode, A Spy in Our Midst, will be reviewed at Risky Regencies on May 12. The novel will be released in its entirety later this summer, but I fully suggest reading as it’s currently presented, in episodes. The experience is very rewarding and may challenge how you read novels in the future.
Win a Copy of Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia
In celebration of the release of Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia, Grand Central Publishing is offering a chance to win one of the three (3) hardcover copies of the book!
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the stops on the Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia Progressive Blog Tour starting April 14, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, June 22, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Austenprose.com June 23, 2016. Winners have until June 30, 2016 to claim their prize. The contest is open to international residents and the books will be shipped after July 5, 2016. Good luck to all!
Belgravia Progressive Blog Tour Schedule
April 14 – Austenprose.com: Episode 1: Dancing into Battle
April 14 – Edwardian Promenade: Episode 2: A Chance Encounter
April 21 – Fly High: Episode 3: Family Ties
April 28 – Calico Critic: Episode 4: At Home in Belgrave Square
May 12 – Risky Regencies: Episode 6: A Spy in our Midst
May 19 – Book Talk and More: Episode 7: A Man of Business
May 26 – Mimi Matthews: Episode 8: An Income for Life
June 02 – Confessions of a Book Addict: Episode 9: The Past is a Foreign Country
June 09 – Laura’s Reviews: Episode 10: The Past Comes Back
June 16 – Gwyn Cready: Episode 11: Inheritance