Editor's Note: Julian Fellowes is taking his skills to the literary world in a new book, Belgravia, being released in individual installments, starting with the we've met the Trenchard and Brockenhurst families in the Prologue (Episode 1) & Chapter 1 (Episode 2), gotten into quite a predicament in Chapter 2 (Episode 3), and stayed “at home” in Chapter 3 (Episode 4), before things get complicated in Chapters 4-7 (Episodes 5-8). And now we're onto our binge-reading recap of the finale, Episode 11's “Inheritance” with special guest blogger, author Gwyn Cready.
We find ourselves at Episode 11, the final episode in Julian Fellowes’s engaging Victorian novel Belgravia. As part of the Progressive Blog Tour for the novel, I have the pleasure of recapping and reviewing the finale (spoilers ahead). So far scandalous secrets have been revealed. And, as always, with their exposure the ripples will have surprising, and in this case, potentially deadly effects.
Belgravia is a serialized novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. Each week, we have gotten to know both the upwardly mobile Trenchard family and the gracious, noble Brockenhurst family—see recaps on Heroes and Heartbreakers from the earlier chapters. We have shared in their losses. We have seen the families cross paths, unaware of the connection they share. We have met the men whose financial and social positions are threatened by scandalous secrets. And we have witnessed those who have uncovered the truth and are willing to disclose it. Our perfectly simmering plot is about to boil over! Catch up with a look at Episode 10 at Laura’s Reviews.
To recap, the novel begins with an elegant dinner party just before the battle of Waterloo. Thirty years later, the daughter of Anne and James Trenchard and the son of Lord and Lady Brockenhurst, the two families at the heart of this story, are dead. Sophia Trenchard died giving birth to Edward Brockenhurst’s child, the product of a brief, embarrassing affair before Waterloo. Edward, it seems, tricked Sophia into a fake marriage using a friend who posed as a cleric. Sophia’s parents know the truth, but no one else does. And it hardly matters. Edward was killed during that infamous battle, and the baby was spirited away to be raised by another family.
After meeting Lady Brockenhurst and knowing that without a direct heir—Edward was their only child—the family title and their fortune will go to a nephew, Anne Trenchard decides she must inform Lady Brockenhurst of her grandson’s existence. The child is a bastard and cannot inherit the title or the fortune, but his existence will undoubtedly provide his grandparents with some comfort in their old age. Anne knows telling Lady Brockenhurst is a risk. If Lady Brockenhurst does not keep the secret, Sophia Trenchard’s reputation and that of her family will be destroyed even beyond the grave. Nonetheless, Anne feels strongly the truth must be told.
While Anne worries about the impact to her daughter’s reputation, she hasn’t considered the risks that are always attendant when one begins to stir up the past.
The grandson, now named Charles Pope, has grown into a capable man with a good heart and a thriving business. Armed with the knowledge her grandson exists, Lady Brockenhurst tracks Pope down and shares the news with Anne Trenchard. Together they visit and befriend him. Lady Brockenhurst invests in his business, and Anne Trenchard discovers that her husband, who has also secretly tracked down Pope, has invested too.
Neither tells Pope of his relationship to them, and Pope is mystified but grateful for their support. Thrown into the company of those in the upper ranks of society, he falls for Lady Maria Grey, who is engaged to Lord Brockenhurst’s nephew and heir, John Bellasis. Maria has already told her mother she does not wish to marry Bellasis, and her newfound feelings for Pope absolutely preclude it. Her mother tells her she may not marry a businessman, however capable, and Maria predictably bridles.
Late in the novel, darkness is stirring. Bellasis is desperate for money, and he’s growing suspicious of the attention being bestowed by his aunt on Charles Pope, whom he considers to be nothing more than an upstart businessman. Bellasis begins to ask questions, questions whose answers do not please him.
As must happen in stories such as these, bribes and back alley meetings lead to a secret being revealed. But it is not the secret that Charles Pope is the bastard child of Lord and Lady Brockenhurst’s son. It is something much more surprising. The story transforms with a lightning crack into a quickly-unfolding tale of suspense. Will the truth reach those who can help before it reaches those who seek revenge?
Fellowes has woven a neat tale of love and loss, secrets and betrayal that casts its magic across half a century. As in Downton Abbey, we move between the worlds of the upstairs nobility, the downstairs staff, and the rising middle class, who live somewhere in between. Fellowes’s descriptions bring Victorian-era London delightfully to life:
“A damp fog was rolling up the Thames by the time Charles arrived at the narrow, cobbled street that led to the tavern. It was think and heavy and permeated his coat, making him shiver and pull the dense material around him. He knew Allhallows Lane but not well, and not at night, when the smells of the dirt and waste and refuse in the gutter seemed to be compounded by the odor of fish from nearby Billingsgate Market.”
We expect a Fellowes story to give us a happy ending—but Belgravia makes us wait until the very end to see if our expectations are rewarded. And wait we will, savoring each page as we go.
What did you like best about the ending? What surprised you? Which character changed the most? Did you foresee each twist, even the last?
Learn more about or order a copy of Belgravia, Episode 11 by Julian Fellowes, available now:
Learn more about or pre-order a hardcopy of Belgravia, by Julian Fellowes, available on July 5, 2016:
GWYN CREADY is the author of nine novels. She won the RITA Award, the highest award given in romance writing, for Seducing Mr. Darcy. Booklist called her, “the master of time travel romance.” Four of her books received coveted starred reviews from Publishers Weekly. Her next book, Every Time with a Highlander, comes out August 2. It's the final book in her Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands trilogy, which tells the stories of three powerful men in the twenty-first century who are pulled back in time to serve the needs of women on the border of England and Scotland in 1705. In addition to writing, Cready spent twenty years in brand management at a large consumer healthcare company. She lives in Pittsburgh. Find out more at cready.com and follow her on Twitter as @GwyCready, and on Facebook and Goodreads.