Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher:  St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder. 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?"

Janie Van Duyvil has always been in the shadow of her charismatic brother, Bay.  Janie, still unwed and figuring out her life, is the polar opposite of Bay. He is married to Annabelle, whom he met in London, and they live a charmed life in their stately home along with their twins.  Except tragedy strikes and a mystery ensues.  Bay throws an extravagant party at his house and ends up dead with a knife in his chest uttering one final world to Janie that only she hears.  To complicate matters further, Annabelle is nowhere to be found! The reporters are all over this scandal and start to formulate their own theories surrounding the confusing turn of events, but Janie wants to get the bottom of this on her own. She doesn't know Annabelle or anything about her past, so she really wants to uncover the truth.  She forms a relationship with a reporter with the hopes of cracking the case, but the more she figures out about things, the more she is questioning everything.  Who can she trust? The English Wife by Lauren Willig is a fun Gilded Age mystery that at first drags a bit, but as the mystery unfolds, the story definitely picks up.

The characters in The English Wife could have been fleshed out a bit more.  I will admit that I struggled in the beginning of the book trying to figure out who was who and I kept getting Anne and Annabelle confused; I mean couldn't she have come up with a different name? Plus, the flashbacks to a mystery woman only complicated things further. Once I had that sorted out, I was able to enjoy the mystery and budding romance.

The strong points of The English Wife are the historical details. Willig is excellent at bringing various time periods to life and she excels at this as well in The English Wife. Gilded Age New York is such a compelling time in history and I loved the lavish parties, the extravagance, the social etiquette, the family secrets, all in combination with a murder mystery.

I wasn't able to predict the mystery in  The English Wife. It definitely took me by surprise. There are some definite plot twists that kept me turning the pages.

While I didn't enjoy this novel as much as some of Willig's others, I still appreciated the tale and was glad I read it. So, if you are looking for a historical mystery that will keep you guessing, give this one a try this winter.


  1. I just got this from the library and look forward to reading it. I am glad to hear the mystery isn't predictable. Great review!

    1. Thanks, Christina! I look forward to your thoughts on it. It wasn't my favorite of Willig's, but still entertaining. The time period was fantastic! I hope you like it!


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