THE ASHFORD AFFAIR – Lauren Willig
A Perfect 10
St. Martin's Press
April 2014 (Trade Paperback edition)
New York City; London, England; Kenya – The Past and Recent Times
1999 - For seven long years after college, Clementine Evans feels she's worked hard and deserves a partnership in the law firm where she works. Her life has been devoted to her job, lately at the expense of a long term relationship. But when she attends her grandmother's ninety-ninth birthday party, a long hidden family secret is suddenly revealed to her. It's a mystery that even her mother hasn't discussed with her, not that Clemmie is surprised by that. So Clemmie begins her own research into her grandmother's past.
1906 - When her parents are killed by a bus in London, Addie Gillecote is thrust into a world she knows little about. Her uncle, the earl, and his wife take her in, although it's immediately apparent to Addie that her aunt is far from happy about having her. But her cousin Bea seems thrilled, and takes Addie under her slightly older wing, guiding her into the new, sometimes confusing life of the privileged. It's the early twentieth century, and things are changing rapidly. Addie always feels like the outsider no matter how much Bea includes her. Bea is pretty, outgoing, flamboyant, and a risk taker, and Addie is none of those.
1999 – Clemmie has gone to London on business, and her boss has booked them into an old, fashionable hotel. And there on the wall is a portrait of a woman that Clemmie has seen in pictures in her grandmother's apartment. When she questions the marquess who owns the hotel, he admits that she was his grandfather's first wife, but that she ran off with another man. Clemmie would like to learn more, but gets a call from Jon, her Aunt Anna's step-son, a boy she grew up with, that her grandmother is seriously ill and Clemmie must return to New York. Her boss is furious, but Clemmie gets to the hospital in time. It's during this period that she and Jon renew their sometimes quarrelsome relationship as they find more links to Granny Addie's past.
1920s – With Bea leading the way, Addie slowly drags herself through the endless parties that young ladies attend to find the right husband. But to Addie, it's not enjoyable as she sits in the shade of the glorious Bea. It's obvious that Bea's mother wants her daughter to marry into her own class, and when she does, Addie knows right away that it's not a marriage of the heart. Meanwhile, Addie meets the studious, serious Frederick, a man with whom she can discuss literature, attend lectures, and feel comfortable around. But surprising circumstances will keep them apart.
THE ASHFORD AFFAIR is a new literary path that author Lauren Willig has taken, and it's a wonderfully entertaining one. As with her Pink Carnation series, Ms. Willig seamlessly transitions from one decade to another, building the anticipation all along. Her characters are beautifully and realistically portrayed. As usual, the research is impeccable, from the sights and smells in Kenya, to the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Once you start THE ASHFORD AFFAIR make sure you have plenty of time to finish it, as it's going to be really difficult to put down! I wish I could give it higher than A Perfect 10! It's brilliant.