Cavendon Hall, a frothy historical drama set in the wilds of Yorkshire, focuses on two families: the aristocratic Inghams and their devoted servants, the Swanns. The two families have been interlinked for over a century with the Swanns taking the motto “Loyalty binds me.” The Inghams are the predictably premier family in England; there is Charles, the current Earl of Mowbray, his wife Felicity, and their six gorgeous children. The daughters are known as the “Four D’s”: Diedre, Daphne, DeLacy, and Dulcie. Daphne, the beauty of the family, is expected to make a brilliant marriage until a tragedy clouds her prospects. This is where the Swanns swoop in: Walter, the earl’s valet; his wife Alice, the family seamstress; their daughter Cecily, playmate to DeLacy and her brother Miles; and finally there is Aunt Charlotte, who has a rather familiar relationship with the current earl. Indeed, the whole family is unrealistically familiar with their employers.
This is an interesting domestic novel with a huge cast of characters, both above and below stairs. As a result, the pacing is excruciatingly slow, and conversations are repeated over and over again. Despite this, Bradford excels at setting the scene. The gracious world of pre-World War I England is displayed in all its splendor. Food, dresses, and daily routines are described in exacting detail. As such, readers who require quick pacing and straightforward writing may want to give this novel a miss. But for those diehard fans of Bradford and readers who love the popular Downton Abbey television series, Cavendon Hall delivers in all of its sudsy glory.