Monday, July 15, 2019

Book Review: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams


Pages: 480
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives and A Certain Age creates a dazzling epic of World War II-era Nassau—a hotbed of spies, traitors, and the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?  Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.  Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen.  The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple. "
Lulu, a young widow, is on the gorgeous island of the Bahamas working for an American magazine.  The British Royal family is all the rage in the 1940s, especially Edward VIII and the woman he left the crown for--Wallis Simpson.  Lulu infiltrates their social circle one socialite at a time all while dealing with spies, politics, the ongoing war, and of course,  a budding romance.  The story jumps back to Switzerland and slowly shares the tale of Elfriede von Kleist who is stuck in a health clinic due to her postpartum depression.  Her husband, a Baron, has put her in this clinic indefinitely due to events that are slowly shared.  While there, Elfriede hits it off with Wilfred Thorpe, a solider recovering from an illness.  After their time together, they can't forget one another, but Elfriede is still married despite the fact that she never sees her husband or her young son.  At first, Elfriede and Lulu's story seem worlds apart. It's almost as if the stories will never collide, but Beatriz Williams slowly and surely weaves them together expertly like a tapestry whose picture slowly comes to fruition.   If you love war time stories featuring romance, a breathtaking tropical setting, espionage, and politics, you must read The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams this summer.  

I was very interested in Lulu's story and was completely captivated story in the Bahamas.  I loved that she was a journalist sharing the activities of the Royal Family and I also enjoyed her moxie.  While in the Bahamas, she meets Benedict Thorpe and they quickly become a couple. But Benedict is often gone for periods of time and he is holding a secret from Lulu.  Is he really who he says he is? The setting of the Bahamas in The Golden Hour was picture perfect. Williams captured the tropical island so very well, but also kept a dark cloud overhead with mentions of the war and the political intrigue.  Also, Williams' portrayal of the Windsors was fantastic.  I have always been really interested in Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson's story and I loved that they are featured in The Golden Hour.

Williams' depiction of the Bahamas in the 40s was done so well that I often felt like I was watching a classic movie like Casablanca.  There were so many cocktails that needed filling, thunderstorms rolling in, atmospheric bars filled with interesting people, spies, parties, and plenty of cigarettes.  I couldn't get enough of the setting in The Golden Hour.

Williams does switch back to Switzerland forty years earlier and Elfriede's story.  To be honest, I found myself not as interested in her as Lulu.  In fact, I was getting some of the characters confused. My advance copy didn't include a family tree, but I would have definitely benefited from one.  Once I realized that Elfriede's story was important to the overall story, I found myself having more patience.  Be forewarned, you must give The Golden Hour time to unravel this secondary plot line. Trust that it will all make sense eventually.

If you enjoy historical beach reads with dual narratives, definitely give The Golden Hour a try this summer.  It will have you daydreaming of spending the afternoon under a palm tree in the Bahamas.


4 comments:

  1. So looking forward to this one, almost every one of Beatriz Williams' novels have been hits for me!

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    1. Me too! I hope you can read it soon. I look forward to your thoughts on it. Thanks for visiting, Michele!

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  2. I love Beatriz Williams, can't wait to get to the top of the wait list for this one!

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    1. I don't think you'll be disappointed by The Golden Hour. I look forward to your thoughts on it. Thanks for visiting, Angela!

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