From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig comes The English Wife, a scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.
"Brings to life old world New York City and London with all the splendor of two of my favorite novels, The Age of Innocence and The Crimson Petal and the White. Mystery, murder, mistaken identity, romance--Lauren Willig weaves each strand into a page-turning tapestry."--Sally Koslow, author of The Widow Waltz
"Her best yet...A dark and scintillating tale of betrayal, secrets and a marriage gone wrong that will have readers on the edge of their seats until the final breathtaking twist."--Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale
A Book of the Month club pick!
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 house in England, they had a fairytale 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 named 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 try 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?
Fans of romantic suspense will best appreciate this whodunit set in 1899 from bestseller Willig (The Ashford Affair). Janie Van Duyvil feels insignificant and out-of-place at a fancy Twelfth Night dinner party that her brother, Bay, and his wife, Annabelle, throw at the ancestral family home in Cold Spring, N.Y. Her self-pity is quickly superseded by horror after a cousin of hers stumbles on Bay lying on the ground outside the house, bleeding from a dagger wound. Bay utters the name George before expiring. Annabelle's subsequent disappearance and a tabloid's instant assertion that Bay murdered her before committing suicide heighten the tragedy of his death. Determined to exonerate her sibling, Janie turns investigator, finding passion and love along the way. Flashbacks to 1894 London introduce a woman known as Georgie and describe her initial encounter with Bay, interrupting the momentum of Janie's story line, and awkward prose ("Fragments of poetry danced through her mind like crystal baubles") is a minus.
Perfect Blend of Love, Betrayal and Murder!
The English Wife is a perfect blend of love, betrayal, and murder. Mr. and Mrs. Bayard Van Duyvil lived a quiet life in New York. Bayard was a wealthy businessman, and Annabelle was a refined woman from England.
The mystery began when Bayard was found stabbed at his mother’s home. Law enforcement was leaning towards a double murder crime investigation. The rumor was that Annabelle was having an affair, with the architect. The same architect whom Bayard had hired, to build Annabelle her dream house. All the facts were not in, but most people were of the opinion that Bayard had murdered his wife in a jealous rage, and then turned the knife on himself. Although Annabelle’s body had not yet been found, evidence suggests, that she might have been drowned. Bayard’s sister, Janie, however, could not fathom the thought of her brother killing anyone, including himself. Either Janie truly didn’t know her brother at all, or something was seriously amiss.
Janie was determined to uncover the truth about her brother’s death. And, if she had to make a deal with the devil to untangle the lies and discover the true facts of what happened, then so be it.
The English Wife is a complex mystery with numerous surprises. There are many twisted players in this book, with their true natures, and intentions, well-hidden. Although this book is compelling and intriguing, I did find it confusing at times. All in all, though, it’s a great read.
Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
The English Wife is a new novel by Lauren Willig that takes us back in time to 1899. Annabelle Van Duyuil and her husband, Bayard (Bay) are holding a Twelfth Night Ball at their newly finished home Illyria. Later that evening, Bay is found stabbed to death in the folly and his sister, Janie catches a glimpse of Annabelle in the river. It is believed that Bay pushed Annabelle into the river and then killed himself. Annabelle’s body, though, is not found. There had been rumors swirling around society that Annabelle had been having an affair with the architect of Illyria. Janie does not believe the rumors and wants to discover what really happened that night at the ball. She knows that her mother would never hire a detective, so Janie seeks out assistance from reporter, James Burke. The pair delve into Annabelle and Bay’s lives seeking answers. The more Janie learns, the more she realizes how little she knew about her brother and his wife. Did one of their secrets get them killed? And why did Bay die with saying the name George?
The English Wife sounded like such a great book. A Gilded Age story with scandals, secrets and murder. The final product, though, was like being stuck in rush hour traffic. You move forward very, very slowly. The pace was slow, and the dialogue was awkward. There were a couple of good sections, but they were few (and did not make up for the rest of the book). There are numerous characters (with very similar names) and background stories on each of them. The book is written with one chapter in present time and the next chapter takes you back when Bay met Georgie. There are detailed descriptions of homes (inside and out), clothing, art, and plays (many discussions on Shakespeare plays). The author did capture the lifestyle of the rich living in 1899. The only likeable character is the reporter, James Burke. I quickly tired of Janie (whiny) and her overbearing, dominating mother. The author should have given Janie a strong backbone and a curious nature. Instead, she retreats into the wallpaper (very much the wallflower). There is a lot of repetition in the book. The mystery plays out slowly over the course of the novel and the reveal is anticlimactic. The identity of the killer was no surprise. The ending was disappointing with many threads left dangling. The author was attempting to capture the era with the writing style, but it comes across as contrived. The connections to the play Twelfth Night are apparent (for those who have read or seen Shakespeare’s play). The English Wife had potential, but it was not achieved. I found it a tedious book to read and I want the hours I spent reading it back.
Who did it?
I voluntarily read an Advance Review Copy of this book. This book starts out with a murder of Bay and Annabelle, his wife, is a suspect even though she disappears. The book goes back and forth in time which can be confusing at times. The book is full of suspense, mystery and there are secrets along the way. It is a good book to read but it is a little long.