Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm. As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband. But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice. Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York."
If you look at Theresa Marshall's life from the outside, you'd think she has it all. She's rich, she has three sons, a husband, and lives a lavish life that others can only dream of. However, if you dig deeper, you'd see all the cracks in her world. For starters, her husband has a mistress and has been with her for years to the point where he has children with her! This obviously bothered Theresa at some point, but then she realized that she could have a dalliance of her own. That's when she meets the Boy. He is much younger than her and every bit of him is irresistible. He flew planes in the Great War and is, surprisingly, one hundred percent dedicated to Theresa. He even wants to marry her! Theresa knows this can never actually happen though as she needs to keep up her appearances in society. Things change quickly though when Theresa's brother, Ox, decides to finally get married. He has his sights set on Sophie, a daughter of a very wealthy inventor. She doesn't come from old money or a family from good "breeding," but she has a lot of cash flow which Ox desperately needs. It doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous, too. Theresa asks the Boy, also known as Octavian, to help her brother out with his engagement and to also look into Sophie's family. This backfires in her face as Sophie and Octavian hit it off. Plus, Sophie's family is hiding a shocking secret. Chaos ensues in A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams. Fans of historical fiction as well as Gatsby's New York will enjoy this novel and being transported into the glittering and glamorous world of the Jazz Age.
Williams tells the tale through various points of view, which I think works well in A Certain Age. At times when authors do this it can be overwhelming, but in this case it works. Readers become familiar with Sophie's perspective as well as Theresa's. I liked how the story unfolded this way. Williams also includes tidbits from a newspaper article about the "trial of the century" and this was a nice touch that kept me flipping the pages.
I enjoyed both Theresa and Sophie in A Certain Age. I felt for both women and although they are definitely foils of each other, I liked how Williams kept them connected throughout the story. Sophie is younger and new to New York society whereas Theresa is a major player. She throws lavish parties and knows all the right people. Normally no one throws Theresa off balance, but Sophie's entrance into high society does throw her off kilter. Sophie is younger, she's fresher, and she garners a lot of attention from both her brother and Octavian. But Sophie, deep down, it's your usual girl. She is only agreeing to marry Ox to please her traditional father, but Sophie wants much more out of life.
The romance in A Certain Age kept me on my toes. I wasn't sure if I should be rooting for Sophie and Octavian or if I should sympathize with Theresa. Theresa's affair with Octavian kept me entertained, especially when Sophie was thrown into the mix. Normally I don't enjoy love triangles, but Williams does this one very well as it's not your usual triangle.
The best part about A Certain Age is the Roaring Twenties setting. I could practically feel it; that's how well Williams brought it to life. I was expecting Jay Gatsby to walk into the party at any point. It was very well done.
Williams is one of my favorite historical fiction authors and if you haven't tried her out yet, you will definitely want to. Throw this book in your beach bag this summer. You won't regret it!