Feature: Doubting Abbey by Samantha Tonge

dountingSwapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!?

Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin –
I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke!

The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion.

So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m just Gemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no
flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward. Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…

doubtingmemeThis was an adorable book. It was like The Prince and the Pauper (the Barbie version) meets Jam and Jersusalem in a run down stately home for a reality Television show.  Gemma is such a lovable character, she really steals the show with her humour.

At first Lord Edward comes off as a bit starchy, but Gemma brings out his Mr. Darcy side and he really becomes very wonderful. There are  many slap stick moments between him and Gemma; that just make this such an endearing novel.

Doubting Abbey is full of rich desvriptions of what life is really like living in a stately home. You really feel transported to your own Downton Abbey and a way of life that most of can only dream about. I highly recommend this funny, light hearted book.

samI was lucky enough to catch up with Samantha Tonge lastweek for an exclusive interview:

EPBR: What inspired you to be an author?

ST:It sound corny, but writing is something I always knew I would do. I read voraciously as a child, but didn’t attempt my first novel until my twenties. Then I knuckled down to the business of novel-writing seriously in my late thirties. It felt like coming home.

EPBR: What inspired Doubting Abbey’s identity switch?

ST: The global success of Downton Abbey fascinated me and made me wonder how a modern gal would cope with being thrust into such an old-fashioned, stuff environment. Putting characters into situations out of their comfort zone is always huge fun!

dountingmeme1EPBR: The cookery school is part of the plot –are you a good cook?

ST: Yes and no – I consider myself to be a good baker and love making cakes and biscuits. And I’m okay at savourymeals, as long as I have a recipe to follow. But I’m not one of those cooks who can instinctively just throw ingredients into a pan and come up with something wonderful.

 EPBR: What is your favourite dessert?

ST: Ooh, that’s hard, there are so many to choose from! Um… Sticky toffee pudding with custard. No, chocolate tart. Urgh, but then there is Key lime pie… You see my dilemma!

peopelsEPBR: What is your favourite mansion house tv or film?

ST: It has to be the stately home at LymePark, near where I live, the grounds are beautiful – photo attached. It’s where Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth was filmed. The building is similar to how I imagine Applebridge Hall to be, from Doubting Abbey.

Samantha’s latest story “An Acquired taste” is in this weeks issue of “The People’s Friend” dated March 8, 2014. Get your copy of this wonderful magazine while supplies last.

Samantha often writes for “The People’s Friend” and other womens magazines, I will keep you updated on when are where to find them.

key lime pieKey lime pie is one of my favourite pie as well and very hard to get a good one outside of Florida. If you are brave enough to try your hand at it:


Preparation method

  1. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the crushed biscuits. Lightly press into the base of a 23cm/9in deep loosed-bottomed fluted flan tin. Chill whilst preparing the filling.
  2. To prepare the filling: place the lime juice into a large bowl, add the cream and condensed milk. Whisk for 1-2 minutes. Add the lime zest and lightly stir. Pour onto the prepared biscuit base. Place onto a tray and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
  3. Decorate with crystalized lime zest and serve.

Receipe owned by BBC GoodFoods

Here are some other books you may enjoy:

habitsA love story, a happy end, a lively attack, haute-couture dresses and haute-cuisine meals: some quotable characters, some agreeable sex, some very witty lines – what else can you want from a novel? – unless perhaps a soupçon of Weldon perception and brains. Think fin de siècle and it’s all here, in HABITS OF THE HOUSE.

Isobel, Countess of Dilberne, is obliged to pair off her handsome, wilful son with a rich and pretty heiress from the Chicago stockyard. He’s all the new internal combustion machines: she’s all art. It’s a clash of cultures and principles. Gold mines fail, bankers plot, bad girls flourish, London fog descends, Royalty intervenes, and your heart’s in your mouth, hoping for the best for these unlikely lovers in the first in Weldon’s Love and Inheritance trilogy.


Hetty Longden’s mother thinks that looking after Great Uncle Samuel’s crumbling stately home will be just the thing for Hetty’s broken heart. Hetty doesn’t mind; at least she can be miserable in private. But ‘private’ is a relative term in a village which revolves around the big house. Particularly when you are expected to thwart Great Uncle Samuel’s awful heir, and his nefarious plans for his inheritance. Pitchforked into the community’s fight to save the manor, Hetty has no time to wallow. And once she has shared her troubles with one neighbour (Caroline: a very understanding shoulder, despite her glamorous appearance and impossibly long legs), and cast an appreciative eye over another (Peter: equally long-legged, but offering rather more practical help), she wonders if her heart is irretrievably broken after all…


Series five of Downton Abbey was annouced last month and it will hit our television screens in the Autumn of 2014. I found this documentary to get you in the mood, it is “Secrets of the Manor House”:

Today’s quiz is “Which Downton Abbey character are you”. Don’t forget to post your results. We love hearing from you.


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