Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Date of publication: January 9th, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction, drama, mystery
Number of pages: 384
Book synopsis (from Goodreads):
From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous 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?
Trigger Warning: None
I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction. Historical romance, yes. But historical fiction, no. So when I saw that The English Wife was up for review, I figured….why not. I am glad that I did read this book. It gave me a good idea on how the “polite” society was during the turn of the century.
There are two plotlines in The English Wife. One plotline focuses the murder of Bayard Van Duyvil. It also focuses on the disappearance of his wife, Annabelle. The other plotline focuses on an actress named Georgianna. There is also a major subplotline about Bayard’s secret and the strain it put on his marriage. All those plotlines are brought together at the end of the book for a spectacular finish.
It took me a while to realize that Georgie and Annabelle were the same people. I catch on to stuff like that but for some reason, I didn’t here. I did feel bad for Georgie/Annabelle. She went from one bad situation to another. I do think that she handled Bayard’s secret with unusual grace for that time. She dealt with vicious rumors to protect Bayard and his secret. But, when her secret was found out, Bayard was upset with her and there was talk of divorce. He did forgive her, which made me go “WTF“. Her secret wasn’t as bad as his and he acted like it was the end of the world. Now, if his secret came out, that would have been a whole different story. So yeah, I felt bad for her.
I thought Bayard was a bit of a wuss. He couldn’t or wouldn’t stand up to his mother. His only act of defiance was marrying Georgie and that went over well. When Georgie confronts him after the party with what she saw, he didn’t deny what she saw. But he also didn’t confirm either. Actually, he deflected the blame to the other person involved in what she saw. When they were building their house, he finally came clean with her. Then moved the architect into their house for a little over 2 years. He didn’t see or ignored the rumors that started circulating. He was all about himself. He drove me nuts when he showed up in the book.
The star of this book was Janie. She started off the book as a meek woman who didn’t say boo to a goose. I mean, her own cousin ran off, married her fiancée and Janie didn’t have anything to say about it. She was pushed to the background because of her meekness and the fact that her mother had no use for her. But finding Bay’s body changed her for the better. The more she dug into his death and Annabelle’s identity, the more self-confident she was. A big help with that was James, a reporter for the local paper. He pushed her to go out of her comfort zone and look for answers. It was something she needed. By the end of the book, her transformation was incredible. I loved it!!
The mystery angle of The English Wife was written wonderfully. There is more than one mystery and they were wrapped up by the end of the book. There were some endings that I saw coming, some that I had a feeling was going to end up that way and one that blew my mind. The author did a wonderful job keeping me hooked on the book. I needed to find out what led up to Bayard’s death and the aftermath.
The drama angle went with the mystery angle. I liked that the author would end Georgie’s chapter on a somewhat dramatic note and then start-up Janie’s. Like the mystery angle, that kept me hooked. There is also a slight romantic angle too but it isn’t revealed until almost the end of the book.
The English Wife is told from Annabelle’s and Janie’s 3rd person perspective. The author chose to have the book written in chapters dedicated to one person and then switch to another. I do not like that. But the author did it in such a way that it didn’t disrupt the flow of a book.
The end of The English Wife was explosive. All the major plotlines were brought together and Bay’s murderer was revealed. I was not expecting who it was. I was floored.
The English Wife is a fast-moving historical mystery/drama. The characters were very well-written. The plot was interesting and multilayered. This is a book that I would recommend to family and friends.
Will I reread: Yes
Age range: Adult
Why: mild violence
I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read and review The English Wife
All opinions stated in The English Wife are mine
**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**