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I Belong

Review: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

Title: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

Author: Wendy Wax

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Series: N/A

Publication Date: April 2, 2013

Format: Paperback, 384 Pages

ISBN-10: 0425263312 (Penguin/Berkley)

ISBN-13: 978-042563310 (Penguin/Berkley)

Reviewed by: Michelle


When the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and—even more unexpectedly—with each other…

Samantha Davis married young and for the wrong reason: the security of old Atlanta money—for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire Walker is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for the old world charm of The Alexander, and for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there’s Brooke MacKenzie, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She’s just starting to realize that it’s time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke—and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings—it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life’s hardest moments—all of it reflected in the unfolding drama, comedy, and convergent lives of Downton Abbey.

Quick & Dirty: A refreshing tale of three women that are so different from one another, but come together for a great friendship.

Opening Sentence: As a child Samantha Jackson Davis loved fairy tales as much as the next girl.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

I was drawn to Wendy Wax’s While We Were Watching Downton Abbey mostly because of the infamous TV show. For those of you who don’t know, Downton Abbey is a period drama about life in the early 1900s, between the life of those upstairs (the wealthy) and downstairs (the help). I am a huge fan of the show, so when I read that the premise was about three women coming together for weekly screenings of the show, I had to read it. Wax is marvelous writer, bringing me the lives of these three very different women and rekindling my love for the show.

In While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, Summary Samantha Davis, Claire Walker, Brooke MacKenzie are all residents of The Alexander. Each one with an individual story, and each with their own problems. They arrived at The Alexander for different reasons: the prestige, a settlement, and a fresh start. A weekly viewing of Downton Abbey brings these three women together. A show is the main reason for introductions and a bond, but they are what keeps them together. A merry group brings together these wonderful story of love, friendship, and Downton Abbey.

Samantha was swept off her feet by her husband. Along with his riches, he played her white knight and saved herself and her two younger siblings. She is indebted for his generosity and financial support. Many years later, Samantha is about routine and expectations. The expectations she puts on herself to keep a happy home to make her husband’s life as stress free as possible. Routine of meeting her mother in law and placating her weekly questions. But through it all, Samantha loses who she is and whom her husband met all those years ago. I liked Samantha. Many people misconceive who she is. Deep down she’s warm and loving, and a regular person like anyone else. She was easy to get along, and my favorite, by far.

Claire is seeking a fresh start. She is a writer who is finally considering herself a full-time writer. Her daughter is away at college and has downgraded from her spacious home to a place at The Alexander. Claire left her husband long ago, when she felt that it wasn’t right for her or her daughter. Her writing saved her, Highland romances with a humble following. But the time is now for Claire to start thinking about herself and her goals. The only problem is, she can’t focus with all this free time. I didn’t relate to Claire as much as the other two women, but I enjoyed her story. Starting fresh isn’t something that can be taken with a grain of salt. I’m glad she had friends to help her, even if I felt she could have done it on her own.

Brooke is a divorced mother of two. She put her husband through medical school and has quickly become the starter wife. Her husband isn’t the kindest man, nor is he consistent. Brooke has catered to everyone but herself. Her husband is threatening to cut her financial support and to kick her out of her home. But with due diligence, Brooke slowly gains her independence. I liked Brooke’s story. I feel she had the most difficult situation, only because I disliked her ex-husband. But she is a strong character, not only as a mom, but as a woman.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey is written in a mature voice. The women are established in who they are, despite any shortcomings they feel they may have. The dialogue is witty and clever, perfect for the genre it is written in. I never once felt like the story dragged, nor did I feel the characters were mundane. The Alexander serves as a great background for the story, allowing Wax to mirror between present day and the time period of Downton Abbey. Regardless of social stature, Wax made it clear that self respect and self worth was important. I also found it interesting that the scenes chosen from Downton Abbey were relevant to the scenes in the story. It made everything come full circle, and also for an enjoyable read.

I really enjoyed While We Were Watching Downton Abbey. Friendship plays a big part in the the story, from the power to the importance. And I really appreciate the fact that it wasn’t about romance or about a guy. The story was just about women believing in themselves and in each other.

Great read! I urge you to pick it up and enjoy it for yourself.

Notable Scene:

Brooke barely breathed as she watched a finger tap out a message on a Teletype. A train whistle sounded. The train cut through the countryside while an unknown man stared out the window. Scenery swept by. Music played lightly. The hum of the telegraph wires that ran along the track could be heard, an urgent clacking. The message arrived at a British telegraph office, but it was too early to deliver it.

The music swelled and a magnificent castle loomed toward the screen to better breathe in the stunning opening visuals as the servants began their day and the fateful telegram arrived. Beside her Samantha Davis went still as Robert, the Seventh Earl of Grantham and his rich American wife awoke to discover what the sinking of the Titanic would mean to all of the inhabitants of Downton Abbey.

FTC Advisory: Penguin/Berkley Trade provided me with a copy of While We Were Watching Downton Abbey.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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