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Publishers WeeklyRiding on the coattails of Masterpiece Theatre's hit series Downton Abbey comes this slight but pleasant recounting of domestic service in 1920's England. Powell (Below Stairs), who died in 1984, lures the reader in with her first-hand account of an unlikely romance at the Wardham residence. Rose, a comely parlourmaid with "lovely creamy skin" and "golden hair," catches the eye of the son of the house, Gerald, who is newly returned from Rhodesia. They elope and much discord ensues. While the Rose-Gerald plot is perhaps the book's most salacious one, the bulk of the narrative describes Powell's own life: her promotion from kitchen maid to cook (redcurrant jelly proves to be a particularly trying obstacle) and her relentless hunt for a husband. Powell and her "under-housemaid" best friend Mary want to get married "not just to get out of domestic service, but because to be a spinster was looked upon almost with contempt." Our author-narrator has a sharp eye and gaily skewers many of her contemporaries, both upstairs and down. Although the commentary is lively, one can't help but feel that this memoir is a little thin on plot; nevertheless, die-hard Downton fans will most likely find something here to enjoy.
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