New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig “spins a web of lust, power and loss” (Kate Alcott) that is by turns epic and intimate, transporting and page-turning. As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . . What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.(less)
I was very intrigued (and pleased) to hear about this new novel by Lauren Willig – I adore her swashbuckling, bodice-ripping, laugh-out-loud historical/contemporary romances – but I know all too well how a successful series can become a straitjacket for an author and I’m always wanting authors I love to be bold and take a few risks, and try something new and different.
So I came to this new book by Lauren Willig genuinely excited and curious and wanting her to succeed. And I’m very glad to say she has succeeded brilliantly.
I’ve always loved books that move back and forth between a contemporary setting and an historical one. I have always loved books that combine mystery, romance, drama and a vivid sense of place and time. THE ASHFORD AFFAIR has everything I love in a book, and it’s all put together in what seems like a simple and effortless way … until you try to do it yourself.
We begin with the story of Clementine Evans, a driven 34-year-old lawyer who is beginning to wonder if she has sacrificed too much for her career. She is running late – again! – to a family function celebrating her beloved grandmother Adeline’s 99th birthday. She is shocked and saddened to find her grandmother is frail and begin to wander in her wits … and calling her by another name.
Then the narrative goes back in time to Adeline’s childhood. Her parents have been killed, and she is sent as a charity child to live with the uncle she has never met, who lives with his family at the grand manor house, Ashford Park. Her Bea is her only friend, even though she has a habit of getting Adeline into trouble.
The two girls grow up together – one falls in love and the other marries. It is the ‘20s, and the giddy gaiety of the times does not suit serious, bookish Adeline. The young women grow apart, and, in their own way, hurt each other badly.
Meanwhile, Clementine realises that her family hides a secret … a story of love, betrayal, and possible murder.
The two stories touch and part, touch and part, in an intricate yet graceful dance, each new revelation helping the suspense to build. I was genuinely surprised at a couple of plot points and genuinely uttered a deep aaaah! at the end.