The English Wife – by Lauren Willig – independent book review – Historical Fiction (U.S.)

A fast-paced murder mystery set in New York during the Gilded Age. Not great literature, but very fun to read. Gave it four stars on Goodreads, though that may be a bit generous.

The novel is set around a golden, wealthy couple — prominent in the New York society of the Vanderbilts and Astors. Bay Van Duyvil (descendant of prominent Dutch settlers and heir to the family fortune) travels to Europe where he meets and marries British heiress Annabelle Lacey. Though, as it turns out, neither of then is quite what they seem.

Upon returning to New York there are others who join their story. The attractive architect who is building their dream house. Bay’s younger sister — recently jilted Janie — who everyone fears will now become a spinster. A cousin, Anne, who stole Janie’s fiancé. A journalist, James Burke, who has a hidden past of his own. And Bay’s formidable mother – Alva – who loves to rule all those who live in her orbit and, above all, insists on preserving the family reputation.

This is the third book I’ve read by Lauren Willig – an author I consider quite accomplished in crafting historical page-turners. This one however is just a story, meaning there are no other significant historical issues raised (unless you count the self-involvement of the wealthy during the Gilded Age.)

Author Lauren Willig (from her Website)

I much preferred Willig’s THE SUMMER COUNTRY which has just as strong a storyline but has an added dimension of exploring an island society both during and after legalized slavery. The third Willig book I’ve read, THE ASHFORD AFFAIR, touches on the decline of the aristocratic class in Britain after World War I — although that is peripheral to the plot.

Overall, an enjoyable page-turner.

More about the author.

If you are interested in my reviews of the other Willig books: