I've never watched Downton Abbey, but after reading Jane Sanderson's Netherwood, I can see where the comparison and the attraction might lie. Set in a Yorkshire mining town around 1904, Netherwood isn't Sons and Lovers or Women in Love, nor is it Lady Chatterley's Lover, lacking much of the grime, earthy poetry and literary frankness of D.H. Lawrence - but it draws from the same source towards different ends, with a more modern sensibility for a new readership.
Part of the difference - and this is the attraction that will determine whether this goes on to be a successful series of books - lies in the depiction of the characters and its gentler, more equitable attitude towards both sides of the class divide. The privileged lifestyle of the upper class family of Lord Hoyland is given almost equal time with that of Eve Williams, the wife of a working class miner in the coal pits owned by and turning in a considerable profit for the Hoyland family. There's certainly some sense of the misery and social injustice in the conditions endured by the lower classes for the benefit of a rich few with little care or conscience for their position, but it's not the main purpose of Netherwood.
Rather through an episodic series of events - entertaining, tragic, funny and romantic - Jane Sanderson's book takes a rather more open look at the period, creating strong believable, human characters (even secondary figures have unique, recognisable characteristics and attitudes), seeing the good and the bad in the lives of those upstairs, as well as those downstairs. Some local historical colour is well integrated into the story, and it's an interesting period that - much as it did with Lawrence - lends itself to a fascinating examination of the changing social attitudes and emergent feminism that were beginning to challenge the prevailing gender and class divisions in society at this time. It doesn't get heavy on that kind of historical and social detail, but it's all there nonetheless within the figure of Eve Williams, within the events that change her life and that of British society forever.
With strong characters and so much local colour to draw upon - and perhaps some family history - the author makes this hugely entertaining to read, understanding the fascination that exists for the lives of people on both sides of the social and the north/south divide. She is able to pour this into delightful and well-drawn characters who you are quite happy to spend some time with, through events small and momentous, romantic and confrontational, historical and cookery lessons included, with a lightness and charm that makes it all wonderfully readable.