Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday #Review - The English Wife by Lauren Willig #Historical #Mystery

Series: Standalone
Format: E-Book, 384 pages
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Historical, Mystery

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor house in England, they had a fairy-tale 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 named 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 try 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?

Lauren Willig's The English Wife is a twisted story full of family secrets, affairs, alternating timelines, and a shocking murder that will cause a family scandal of epic proportions. As the story opens, it is 1899 in Cold Springs, NY, home to Bayard and Annabelle Van Duyvil. The Van Duyvil's are an extraordinarily wealthy and established family in New York. They are right up there with the Astor's, Vanderbilt's and Carnegie's. The couple is throwing a party called Twelfth Night at their home they call Illyria. 

After missing for most of the evening, Bay's sister Janie (Genevieve) discovers Bay laying on the cold ground with a knife in his chest. She also believes that she briefly saw Annabelle's body floating in the cold waters of the Hudson. Janie becomes immersed in discovering what really happened to Bay and Annabelle. Rumors abound indicate that Annabelle was having an extramarital affair with a noted architect who was paid to bring her former home to life in the States. 

Rumors also abound that it was Annabelle, the so called English Wife, who is responsible for killing Bay and leaving her two nearly 4 year old children behind. Janie decides to put her faith and her trust in an investigative reporter named James Burke. Janie and Burke agree that they will pledge to be honest with each other, and let the pieces fall where they may end up. Burke works for a paper called The News of the World. Some would prefer to call Burke's job scandal mongering instead of investigative reporting. As the investigation continues, Janie discovers some very twisted and very devastating news about her brother and his wife. Information that could shatter the Van Duyvil family name. 

The story alternates between two timelines that end up converging in 1899. The story is told in the alternating narratives of Janie and Annabelle Lacey. Willig moves backwards in time to London 5 years before the story starts. Here we meet Georgie Evans, and shortly thereafter, Bay Van Duyvil who is exploring Europe with friends. There is something curious about Georgie that I won't spoil. There is also a question about Bay that tells a larger story. She and Bay have a curious relationship that ends with the couple getting married and later returning back to the States. 

Will Janie learn the truth about what really happened, or will it be swept under the rug by the family matriarch Ava Van Duyvil? The most curious aspect of this entire investigation is the name that Bay says before dying. Who is this person, and did this person have anything to do with killing Bay? Is anyone in this family really who they say they are, or is someone hiding a deeper, darker secret in order to protect the family legacy and name?

In the end, The English Wife is a riveting mystery that left me guessing until the end. The story is both compelling and heartbreaking. There is plenty of foreshadowing as well as some things you really must pay special attention to. 

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