Pairing: Mary Crawley/Matthew Crawley, Anna Smith/John Bates, Cora Crawley/Robert Crawley
Title: Not For Turning
Rating/Warning(s): T (for mild sexual content, threatened non-con)
Word Count: 126,121
Genre: romantic political drama, modern AU
Recced on LiveJournal By: reveilles / Rachel Smith Cobleigh
Story Summary: Mary Crawley: daughter of a great British political dynasty, keeper of her dysfunctional family's secrets and the woman holding the UK Government together with her bare hands, meets Matthew Crawley: politically inexperienced but with the power to make or break all she stands for. Power, romance and scandal ensue.
Why This Must Be Read: Unlike many of the modern AU adaptations of Downton Abbey, this story captures the personalities, stakes, and dynamics of the canon characters brilliantly, without awkwardly shoehorning them into a modern setting. The plotting and characterization are excellent; it all just flows with complete believability, and the author does a great job of maintaining tension, building mystery, and slowly peeling back layers of complexity as the plot unfolds. The pacing never drags, and the characters come across as three-dimensional, even the antagonists. There's a lovely redemptive quality to the characters and their relationships. I acutely felt their strains and conflicts, their mistakes and their victories, and their love—or not—for one another.
For fans of Downton Abbey, or for people who just like a compelling romantic political drama (because you don't actually need to know anything about the TV show to follow the narrative), this novel is a gem well worth reading.