Lauren Willig returns to the blog today with a Gilded age historic mystery with plenty of atmosphere, gilt, riches and trappings of the age. Please read on for my review of
The English Wife
A story set in the luxe time of the Gilded age: the story is set in a mansion on the banks of the Hudson River, Illyria. Bayard is the son of an old, established Knickerbocker family, his wife Annabelle is English, having grown up in an old Tudor home. Together they are a couple deeply in love with young twins and a place guaranteed in society. A Twelfth Night ball ends with Bayard dead with a knife in his chest, his wife missing. Murder? Suicide? Both?
Told in two perspectives: Annabelle in flashbacks and Bayard’s sister Jane in the present time of 1899, clues, twists, motives and more are unearthed as Jane pairs up with a reporter to uncover the murderer and bring some closure. Back and forth the story moves, twists and turns galore. Every character in this story has secrets: some are uncovered quickly, others come with more surprise: twists are surprising with the occasional reveal being predictable if well-placed.
Much like my introduction to Willig’s writing, the story had moments of brightness and beauty, but there was something missing for me. Not utterly captivating due to the slow pacing and a tendency to have multiple elements introduced that don’t ever really connect to the story or help it move forward, the story is compelling in that ‘travel to a different time and see how many secrets you can guess before the reveal” sort of way. I will say, however, that the read was an easy one if I ignored the overuse of ‘belied’ and didn’t overthink the dialogue when it moved to trite and heavy-handed: this is a story that almost feels like an escapist’s dream of the time and the mysteries that surround it. Escapism is the word for this title – easy to follow along and engaging well enough to overcome some planning and dialogue difficulties.
Title: The English Wife
Author: Lauren Willig
Genre: Gilded Age, Historical Fiction, Setting: American
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Published on: 9 January, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 13 Hours: 55 minutes
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From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.
Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.