Cracking Irish 'Downton Abbey' saga continues in Castle Deverill
Fiction: Daughters of Castle Deverill, Santa Montefiore, Simon & Schuster, €16.99
For the Santa Montefiore uninitiated (as I was prior to reading this book), she writes sweeping, epic family and romantic novels at approximately the same rate as a printing press. The older sister of the ex-Sunday Times columnist and tragic party girl, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, she lives quietly in London with her husband and two kids and writes like the clappers. And so it was with some trepidation that I approached this book, the second in a trilogy but a stand-alone novel, as - given the author's prolific output - I feared the worst. But it's actually a cracking yarn.
This novel "sweeps" from 1925 to 1938 (presumably the third book will ''sweep'' from World War II onwards) and focuses on the lives and loves of the two wings of the Deverill family. The Ballynakelly Deverills are landed gentry stock, living on an estate in west Cork, and the London Deverills live in Kensington Palace Gardens. The War of Independence has left the Irish wing of the family - Kitty, her husband and child, and her father Bertie - living in the lodge of their former home since it was razed to the ground by the IRA.
Kitty's London cousin Celia decides to restore Castle Deverill to its former glory. She has the money, or at least her husband has, and the Irish Deverills are only too glad to see their beloved ancestral home coming to life again.
What nobody can foresee is the oncoming train wreck of the Wall Street Crash. The aftershocks will rattle even the silent hills of Ballynakelly. And Celia is to discover some awful truths about her beloved father, Digby Deverill. Against all of this, there are illegitimate children, an ex-IRA man attempting to atone for his sins, a former maid in the Deverill household, Bridie - drunk on her new-found wealth and her new-found vodka habit - and local aristocrat, Grace Rowan-Hamilton, willing to bed any handsome stranger. It's a well-paced, heavily-populated, great plot.
Montefiore's novels sell even faster than she can write them, and it's easy to see why. Her homework is meticulous regarding historical setting, at least in this novel, and she is scrupulously authentic with her dialogue. As the story bounces between Cork, New York, Connecticut, London and Johannesburg, this novel really does "sweep". Fans of Downton Abbey and The Halcyon are in for a treat.