Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Book Review: The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull

Pages: 430
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date:  July 21, 2020
Publisher: Mira
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "For fans of The Paris Wife and The Crown, this stunning novel tells the true story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson.  In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she’s immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and privilege. For Thelma, the daughter of an American diplomat, her new life as a member of the British aristocracy is like a fairy tale—even more so when her husband introduces her to Edward, Prince of Wales.  In a twist of fate, her marriage to Duke leads her to fall headlong into a love affair with Edward. But happiness is fleeting, and their love is threatened when Thelma’s sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, becomes embroiled in a scandal with far-reaching implications. As Thelma sails to New York to support Gloria, she leaves Edward in the hands of her trusted friend Wallis, never imagining the consequences that will follow.  Bryn Turnbull takes readers from the raucous glamour of the Paris Ritz and the French Riviera to the quiet, private corners of St. James’s Palace in this sweeping story of love, loyalty and betrayal."


At first glance, one would think Thelma Morgan had it all. She married into the British aristocracy and she rubs elbows with all sorts of interesting people, especially Edward, Prince of Wales.  Things with her husband aren't always the stuff of fairy tales, so she finds herself as a possible love interest for the womanizing Prince. However, things don't prove to be just a fling between them, but rather something more steady.  As things inevitably fall apart with her husband, she finds them coming together with the Prince. The Prince can't actually enter a serious relationship with her.... can he?  Meanwhile across the pond in the New York City, Thelma's sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, is headed for some major turmoil.  She is about to enter one of the most infamous custody battles that ever occurred and Thelma find herself longing to be by her sister's side. How could she not support her during this horrible time?  However, if she were to go to New York, she would have to leave behind the Prince of Wales and his wandering eye.  What if their relationship suffers in her absence?  Thelma decides she can go to New York and have one of her married friends keep an eye on the Prince.  Who better than her trusty friend, Wallis Simpson?  Cue the plot twist. Bryn Turnbull's debut, The Woman Before Wallis, covers the lesser known story of Thelma Morgan and her relationship with the Prince. I found it utterly fascinating; it's the perfect read for the fans of The Crown.

I knew just a little bit about the Vanderbilts, so a lot of the background regarding Thelma, and especially Gloria, was really interesting. This is another situation in history where the truth is most definitely more interesting than fiction.  I knew nothing about Thelma's relationship with the Prince, so it was really captivating to watch how it all unfolded. I also loved her relationship with her sister, Gloria. I heard a little bit about the notorious custody battle, but The Woman Before Wallis really brought it to the forefront.  Having Thelma involved in that trial along with her relationship with the Prince made for a lot of drama and major scandals. 

I had a lot of prior knowledge of Wallis Simpson before reading The Woman Before Wallis, so how she ended up with the Prince really didn't come as a surprise, but how she helped out her friend Thelma did.  I mean what a bold move! The sole purpose of keeping an eye on the Prince was to keep him out of trouble and could you imagine finding out the very person who trusted to keep him out of trouble led him right into a huge vat of it? Again, there was a lot of drama, but I was here for it!

My only gripe with The Woman Before Wallis was the slow pace at times. It was quite a long book at over 400 pages and some parts dragged more than others; however, I thought overall it was a solid historical debut. I will keep my eye out for Turnbull's future novels.

So, have you read The Woman Before Wallis? Are you a fan of stories involving royals? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 



  1. I'm really looking forward to this one - I've read a bit about Wallis, but I don't really know too much about the other women the Prince was with.

    1. That was exactly how I went into it, so I was surprised by all the drama! I hope you get to read this one soon! Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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