Beauchamp Hall by Danielle Steel - book review: Sit back, put a log on the fire and let the cameras roll'¦
Inspired by watching a British TV series set in a magnificent Norfolk stately home, a disillusioned American woman jets off across the Atlantic to chase her dreams.
Over the next year, Winnie Farmington will discover whether gambling her future on an extraordinary adventure was merely setting herself up for a fall.
Danielle Steel – one of the world’s most popular authors with almost a billion books sold since 1972 – puts some extra magic into Christmas with an uplifting story forged in gritty reality and then honed into enchanting modern fairy tale.
Beauchamp Hall is a sparkling seasonal treat which pays homage to the enduring popularity of the hit ITV historical drama, Downton Abbey, which won the hearts of viewers across the world, and attracted a particularly adoring and loyal audience in the United States.
And Steel certainly knows what her audiences like as she delivers a glittering package of cosy English charm, mishaps and romance set against the enticing backdrop of a gorgeous stately pile and a busy, bustling film set complete with all its gossips, scandals and dramas.
When Winona (Winnie) Farmington graduated from college, she had big dreams of moving to New York City and pursuing a career in publishing but then her mother became seriously ill and instead Winnie returned to her small Michigan home town to care for her.
Seven years later, when her mother died, Winnie was 27 and felt too old to contemplate pursuing her ambitions so she stayed on at her mother’s house and found work around town.
Again, the years passed and now she is 38, stuck in a dead-end job at a local printing company and has been dating no-hoper Rob for 11 years. Winnie has concluded that dreams were meant for others and, after winning some DVDs in a gift exchange, she is staying up late binge-watching the British television series, Beauchamp Hall.
Winnie can’t help but be enthralled by the sumptuous period drama set on a great Norfolk estate in the 1920s in which a rich upstairs-downstairs world is brought to life by a cast of superb actors.
On the day Winnie is passed over for a long-overdue promotion, she is also betrayed by her boyfriend and her best friend and makes the first impulsive decision of her conventional life. She packs her bags and flies to England to see the place where Beauchamp Hall is filmed.
Before long, her quaint B&B where she stays feels like home and she has found herself work on the set of Beauchamp Hall which is filmed at Haversham Castle, owned by the Marquess Freddie Haversham, and his sister, Lady Beatrice. The pair, it seems, are rich in titles but poor in cash and desperately need all the money they can raise to pay for the enormous upkeep of their home.
Meanwhile, Winnie’s prodigious organisational skills are proving invaluable to the film crew and there is drama aplenty with the colourful company both on the set and behind the scenes.
But Winnie has yet to find out if her dreams of a new life really can come true…
Beauchamp Hall is the ultimate feel-good story for readers looking for a Christmas escape. Winnie’s mission to take back control of her life and her search for personal happiness really are the stuff of dreams for anyone still mourning the end of the heady Downtown Abbey era.
So sit back, put a log on the fire and let the cameras roll…
(Macmillan, hardback, Â£18.99)