Saturday, January 6, 2018

ARC Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

The English Wife
Author: Lauren Willig
Publication: St. Martin's Press (January 9, 2018)

Description: From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

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?

My Thoughts: THE ENGLISH WIFE was an amazing story. It begins at a party. Annabelle and Bay Van Duyvil are debuting their new home, designed to duplicate the home where Annabelle grew up in England, for the upper class society of New York. Things immediately go wrong when Janie Van Duyvil discovers the body of her brother who was stabbed with the knife that was part of his costume. His wife is missing and presumed dead. Janie needs to know what happened to the brother that she admired but didn't know very well.

The story has flashbacks to five years earlier when Annabelle and Bay met in London and fell in love which gives us information about the two of them that Janie doesn't have.

Janie has always existed under the thumb of her overbearing and autocratic mother. Nothing she does seems to satisfy her. Janie also shares the house with her cousin Anne who is back home because her husband is threatening to divorce her. Anne is the opposite of Janie. She is flamboyant and willing to defy her Aunt. Nonetheless, she is under her aunt's thumb as much as Janie is. Anne and Bay were closer in age growing up and they always seemed to form a team that left Janie out.

Because she feels that all of them - herself, her mother, her cousin - are being kept out of the investigation, she goes to a newspaper reporter who she had met when he visited her family kitchen saying he was visiting a cousin for some help. She asks James Burke to help her find out the truth about what happened to Bay and Annabelle. As they investigate, they fall in love but their vastly different social classes is only one of the impediments to a relationship.

This story brimmed over with the social mores of the most upper of upper classes in 1899 New York. It also brimmed over with family secrets, affairs, hidden identities, and murder. It was such an engaging story that I couldn't put it down and read late into the night and when I should have been doing other things. Fans of historical mysteries won't want to miss this wonderful story.

Favorite Quote:
Janie would have laughed if it hadn't been so miserable, all of it. To be reduced to reading the scandal sheets for word of one's own family.

Somewhere along the sides of the frozen river, they search went on for Annabelle's body. Or so they presumed. Their sensibilities, it seemed, were too delicate to be imposed upon by the police. Whatever they knew of their own tragedy came at third hand. They were as starved for news, all of them, as isolated as Robinson Crusoe on his island.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.


  1. I failed to get a copy so this is the nearest I am going to get to this intriguing mystery

  2. The English Wife sounds like a terrific Historical Fiction. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this novel.

  3. I loved her Pink Carnation series and definitely want to read this book.


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