The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Oh, Tuesday. You’re not Monday, but you’re almost as bad because sometimes I think you’re Monday. That’s why I’ve decided to bring some sunshine into everyone’s lives {literally right now} with The English Wife.

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Title: The English Wife {384 pgs.}

Publication Date: January 9, 2018

Genre: Historical fiction/Mystery

Summary:

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?

Review:

If we’re being honest here, this book took a little while getting into. I kept putting my Kindle down and doing other things, even cleaning, before I would pick it back up again, because I knew I had to finish it. The first couple of chapters are introductions, and I absolutely hated Anne, the main character’s cousin, so it took me forever to power through her to get to the real meat of the story. Once I did, though, everything took off {I literally read the last half in a night because I needed to know what the heck was going on with this family} and I’m really glad that I didn’t abandon this book.

The English Wife is told in both the present and the past, with Janie and Annabelle as narrators. In Annabelle’s time, she tells us the story of her past life and how she met Bay, as well as their lives after their marriage and the secrets surrounding her husband that are revealed at rather inopportune times. When Janie takes over, the grand ball is over, Bay is dead, Annabelle is missing, and Janie knows that she must find the truth of what happened or else her niece and nephew will have their mother branded a murderess. She joins up with a newspaper reporter, a one Mr. Burke, in order to find justice for Bay, but not everyone is as they seem, not even Janie.

Look, I’m a sucker for Edith Wharton-era novels. I’ve read them all – most of them several thousand times – and I’ve always been on the lookout for the kind of novel that would transport me back to that time, with a certain kind of character, with a certain kind of atmosphere {not specific at all, right?}. The English Wife has it all: rich people who need a good slap, a spunky girl who defies societal standards, and secrets that need to be laid bare in order for everyone to begin living again. While some secrets were more obvious that others, Lauren Willig did a fantastic job at leading you down one path only to shove you off it once you thought you had your footing. I love these kinds of mysteries, the ones where I get cockier the more I read and then I’m slapped right down because I’m wrong, just so so wrong. In this case, being wrong was so much fun, since Bay constantly surprised me and Annabelle’s reactions were not what I expected IN THE LEAST, even though they really shouldn’t have.

If you’re looking for historical fiction that is also a mystery and a love story, then The English Wife is definitely for you. Don’t worry if you’re struggling with the introductions, because it gets infinitely better. But Anne isn’t cast out of the family and forced to live on an ice floe in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sorry. That’s the only complaint I have.

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