The setting is Belgrave Square, London 1899. Very fashionable. Lady Isobel and Lord Robert Dilberne live there along with their two adult children: Rosina, a new and modern thinking woman and their son, Arthur, who just loves to live for the moment. The Dilbernes are living off the remains of the original family fortune and the money that Isobel brought to the marriage from her father, the coal baron. Despite her low birth Isobel married well and has been accepted into London society.
Robert receives word that a gold mine he invested heavily in has been flooded during an attack in the Boer War. This news is received from Eric Baum, his lordship's financial adviser. Baum is worried because he has lent Dilberne money and knows the precarious financial situation of the family. Bad investments and free spending have brought the family to the brink of financial ruin.
Baum feels the family gives him no respect judging by their behavior even though he has as much money as they do. The Prince of England personally recommended Baum as an adviser. Once the family realizes they may have to declare bankruptcy and be ruined, they decide the only way to survive is to have Arthur marry an American heiress. Since the debutante season is over they have to rely on late visitors. Lucky for them, Minnie, a beautiful heiress to a meatpacking fortune from Chicago arrives. Her reputation at home is not good, but times are desperate for the Dilbernes.
This book is reminiscent of Downton Abbey and since I'm a fan of that show, I loved this book. The women - Minnie and Rosina - are "modern" for the time, while Arthur is a throwback. Their Lordships are clueless and Minnie's mother, the wonderful Tess O'Brien makes everybody look like they are hiding something. The servants are loyal and the business partners are not. The Habits of the House gives an intimate look at the workings of this house. Wonderful! Also available is part 2: Long Live the King.
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