Thursday Review: While we were watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

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The blurb: 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.

My thoughts: Okay, so this is going to be one of my very rare bad reviews. It’s my fault. This is not my type of book. I picked it up at a book exchange and money is tight and library wait times are long. So I finally picked it up.

I think one reason I didn’t like it is because it was just close enough to be my actual life that the differences made it jarring. I live outside of Atlanta, and lived in Atlanta for quit some time. Never, in my whole life have I heard people say “Oh, I live ITP” or “OTP” (inside or outside of the perimeter) instead of saying I live in midtown, Buckhead, near Piedmont Park, or whatever. I don’t know why it annoyed me to the extent that it did, but it did. To be fair, the author lives in Atlanta too, so maybe it’s just something people in her crowd do.

I’m a writer. So are one of the characters. I have a very, very difficult time believing a book that was apparently sketched out enough to land a contract and have an agent all excited that this book could really launch that characters carer could be so undeveloped that the character is flipping out because her 1) characters aren’t named 2) the writer doesn’t know the characters motivations, and 3) the author can’t produce the first three chapters within a week or two. Sorry! I don’t buy it. That the author also sold her house, and moved to an apartment so she could write full time (why move to do that btw?) without feeling passionate enough about her story to think it through BEFORE making a life changing gamble just makes no sense to me.

The “struggling single mom” doesn’t need to work, and sends her kids to private school on her ex-husband’s dime. I can see being stressed because he’s always behind on child support, but the kids are school aged. You are not struggling if you have the luxury of staying home. I stay home with my daughter and I’m married to a husband with a steady job. It’s a struggle for us to manage and that’s with me writing full time for multiple paying markets. Random single mom character, you aren’t struggling. Stop whining.

These women were professional victims. Random single mom is all upset because she doesn’t like her apartment, if it were up to her she would move some place more homey. Her ex offers to buy the place so he can move into it instead and she can move elsewhere, Oh that jerk! How dare he! Oh, if it were up to her she’d send her children to a public school, but he insists on a private school… that jerk (You’d choose to send your children to a public school in inner city Atlanta, Really?)

Random author is handed publicity most authors would kill for…and she whines because she can’t find the passion to write anymore. Nothing is as fun as watching Downton Abby.

Random old money character feels like her siblings are taking advantage of her husband’s money, so she bullies her butler into hiring her brother and cries victim when the brother who is always doing stupid things, does something stupid. Never mind that fact that she literally only married her husband for his money. Oh she came to love him, but she’d never stop being grateful that he rescued her from her dead parents debt (which does not inherit, btw, so how did it get passed on to the kids?)

And the lengthy descriptions of episodes of Downton Abbey. Writing rule, never ever rely on something outside of your story to describe something to your readers.

To be fair, the characters all grow and change, but I was so mad at them I didn’t even care. I alternated between outright hating them and wanting to punch them in the face. I’m going back to young adult and fantasy books where the characters have problems worth whining about.

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