But for all the purported connection the part of the plot most literally inspired by the book - the marriage between American heiress Cora and impoverished peer Lord Grantham - takes place some nineteen years prior to the first episode of the show. The book actually covers the period from about 1871 to 1910, which means that the ends just between the timeline of the show begins.
That said, I'm glad that the Downton Abbey craze lead to this book being republished, because regardless of how relatively tenuous the connection to the show is, it's a fabulous book. The writing is exciting, and not at all dry; the authors are capable of capturing all sorts of interesting personalities, and most of all, it's incredibly comprehensive. I wouldn't be surprised if the book had also inspired numerous historical fiction writers, because it covers every single detail of the time period you'd ever need. The main narrative, which details the trend of American heiresses marrying impoverished English peers for their titles is split up by two-page spreads and inserts giving detailed information on the social mores of the time, the differences between American and British society, biographies of various important people, overviews of the types of heiress hunting swains, and New York fathers, timetables for sojourns in Newport, the staff of an English manor, lists of everything from prerequisites for an American heiresses London campaign to how to keep the Prince happy at a 'Friday to Sunday' house party, and of course, a lot of photographs of gorgeous heiresses and handsome peers.
I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. The only bad thing is that it made me want a Downton Abbey prequel...
One of the slew of books related to Downton Abbey to be released after the show's success, in this case, the book is a re-release of a 1989 non-fiction book, which (much to the publisher's delight)has a cover blurb from Julian Fellows, creator of Downton Abbey himself. To further drive the point home, the cover also bears the words: "An inspiration for the popular Television Series Downton Abbey."