BOOK REVIEW: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

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?

My Thoughts:

A very clever historical murder mystery, The English Wife begins with the point of view of Janie, a subdued young woman from a very wealthy American family. She is at a Twelfth Night ball at her brother Bayard’s immense mock-Tudor mansion in winter 1899, doing her best to keep out of the way of the glittering socialite guests. Then her brother is found dying, a jewelled dagger thrust into his heart. He dies with a name on his lips: George …


To make matters even worse, his beautiful wife Annabelle is gone. Janie is sure she saw a drowned woman in the river, but no-one believes her. The case is a scandal, and Janie does not know what to believe. She is determined to uncover the truth, and so makes an unlikely alliance with a journalist.


The story then switches to the point of view of a young woman named Georgie, struggling to make a living as an actress in London in 1894. She meets a rich and handsome American gentleman named Bayard van Duyvil, who seems to promise her an escape from her precarious existence. Georgie has secrets in her past, however, secrets she dare not confess …


This book was so good, I devoured it in just a few readings. A fabulously Gothic romantic mystery with lots of clever banter and surprising plot twists.


You might also like to read my review of The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift:

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