I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
The English Wife
Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: 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?
The English Wife by Lauren Willig is a suspenseful reading experience set during the Gilded Age in America. It’s a story that keeps the reader immersed with the family dynamics and the mystery behind the death of Bay and his missing wife. Secrets and pasts unravel at a steady pace, but still leaves you on your toes even during the climax.
Lauren Willig is an auto-buy/read author for me. The English Wife is a slightly different read from her other books. Part of it being that this story takes place during the Gilded Age. The author really shows her expertise in the historical setting and this book did not disappoint. She’s also really good with the time hopping, a trope that can be over done and confusing, but was not the case here.
The time hopping is only a few years apart. From early 1890s to the late 1890s. The purpose is to tell the backstory of the doomed couple, whose story kind of sounds like a Shakespearean tragedy. It’s not a love story that is full of swoonworthyness, but more of the gritty, realistic feel. A lot of secrets, and there are a lot of them, are slowly revealed throughout the course of the story. The anticipation and mystery was really what kept me invested in this story. I loved the fact that there were so many suspects with possible motives and although I had my suspicions, the conclusion was still a shocker.
“When you’re living in a nightmare, even the shadows have claws.” ~Mr. Burke
Bay’s sister Janie starts off as the underdog, a character greatly influenced by her mother’s overbearing nature and her Cousin’s questionable attitude. But with her Brother’s death, Janie’s personality blooms into something more. With the help of Mr. Burke (who quickly becomes a love interest), a journalist, the mystery of Bay’s murder slowly unravels.
Overall, this was such a fun read. I only wish there was more of it. Definitely wouldn’t mind more books with the Gilded Age setting.
Have you read a book set during the Gilded Age?