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The English Wife: A Novel

The English Wife: A Novel

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The English Wife: A Novel

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Jan 9, 2018


From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig comes The English Wife, a scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

"Brings to life old world New York City and London with all the splendor of two of my favorite novels, The Age of Innocence and The Crimson Petal and the White. Mystery, murder, mistaken identity, romance--Lauren Willig weaves each strand into a page-turning tapestry."--Sally Koslow, author of The Widow Waltz

"Her best yet...A dark and scintillating tale of betrayal, secrets and a marriage gone wrong that will have readers on the edge of their seats until the final breathtaking twist."--Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan's Tale

A Book of the Month club pick!

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor house in England, they had a fairytale 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 named 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 try 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?

Jan 9, 2018

Sobre el autor

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty novels, including The Summer Country, The Ashford Affair, and The English Wife, as well as the RITA Award–winning Pink Carnation series. An alumna of Yale University, she has a graduate degree in history from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. She lives in New York City with her husband, kindergartner, toddler, and vast quantities of coffee.

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The English Wife - Lauren Willig



Cold Spring, 1899

Twelfth Night

"They say he’s bankrupted himself rebuilding the house—all for her, of course. Carrie Rheinlander’s voice carried along the high, arched ceiling. And then there are those frightful stories about … oh, Janie! I didn’t see you there."

No one ever did.

Sometimes, Janie felt like the threads on an old tapestry, blending into the background. That backdrop served its own purpose, Janie knew, but once, just once, she wished she could blaze out in a luster of silver and gold.

But not here. Here, everyone glittered, everyone blazed. Her brother’s guests dazzled in garb that would have put a Medici to shame, every breast adorned with diamonds and rubies, every neck hung round with gold chains. The men peacocked in tights and short cloaks; the women dazzled in silks and velvets woven with gold and sewn with jewels. Janie’s own costume seemed modest in comparison, the garnets set in and around the squared neckline subdued in their opulence, the poor cousin of rubies.

Carrie. Janie acknowledged Carrie’s greeting with a shy nod. They had played dolls together, made their debut together, but Carrie had no time for her now. Carrie had married and Janie hadn’t. Against that, all the bonds of kinship and childhood counted as nothing.

Carrie lifted a jeweled hand in acknowledgment, but she was already sailing past. Poor Janie Van Duyvil, she murmured to her companion. All that money and still on the shelf.

A backwards glance and a hushed comment from Carrie’s companion, one of the new people, the wife of a man who had made his money in mines.

Then Carrie’s voice again, a carrying whisper that was worse than a shout. Hardly! There’s been no one, no one at all, since Teddy Newland jilted her for Anne.

Janie forced herself to focus on the array of sweetmeats on the buffet table. Hothouse grapes spilled off the edges of platters of ornate silver-gilt. Strawberries, red and ripe out of season, glistened with sugar, like flowers under frost. Bay and Annabelle had spared no expense in this, their one bow to society.

A bow? No, more like the glorious condescension of monarchs, throwing open the palace for a day, letting the world come and gawk before slamming shut the gates and returning to their own quiet state.

Bay and Annabelle had made a point of shunning society—or at least that was how society saw it. The idea that they might simply prefer their own company was taken as nonsense. It was sheer affectation that drove Annabelle Van Duyvil to ignore Mrs. Astor’s invitations, to leave empty the family box at the Opera. It was, everyone agreed, all the fault of her being English and convinced of her own superiority. Just look at what she had done to the Van Duyvil family home on the Hudson! A simple house of white wood, with a mere three wings and a classical colonnade, had been abandoned in favor of a baronial fantasy, a replica of Mrs. Van Duyvil’s family home in England.

If she liked it there that much, why couldn’t she have stayed there? muttered the matchmaking mamas, thwarted in their ambitions for their daughters.

But they came anyway, all of them, in their private train cars, their landaus, their barouches, footmen in livery riding atop piles of baggage, ladies’ maids clutching jewel cases, eager to gawk at what Annabelle Van Duyvil had wrought, to cluck their tongues and shake their heads and spread what scandal they could as they dined on their hosts’ food and reputations.

Van Duyvil doesn’t trust his wife in society, that’s why they’re never in town. On account of her … intemperate appetites. Right next to her, Janie could hear the unmistakable bray of Alisdair McHugh, self-appointed social arbiter. It was an open secret that McHugh snuck stories to Town Topics, the notorious scandal sheet; no one dared shun him for fear of what he might invent. "The architect’s her lover, of course. Hadn’t you heard? Right under her husband’s nose, no less, and Van Duyvil footing the bill for the renovations."

Janie didn’t know whether to blush for her brother or his guests. Annabelle’s not like that, she wanted to say. They’re neither of them like that.

But her tongue felt like ice between her lips, frozen, as it always was in such situations. Don’t make a scene. Don’t put yourself forward. For goodness’s sake, Janie, stop that tiresome chatter. Those had been the strictures of her youth. Mr. McHugh might spread scandal all he liked, but if Janie were to contradict him, the world would whisper, No wonder she’s a spinster.

Where were Bay and Annabelle? Janie could see her mother, wearing the double ropes of pearls that were her pride, dressed as Gloriana. (Gloriana in her later years, thought Janie, and then grimaced at her own pettiness.) But it was very much like her mother to claim the primary role in a house that was no longer hers, masking her own ambition behind the excuse that her presence would lend countenance to her son and daughter-in-law. Janie’s mother considered herself the last of the true leaders of society, the last bastion of the old guard against those tedious mushroom growths, the Astors and the Vanderbilts.

There were times when Janie thought it might be rather nice to be a mushroom, to grow and flourish without the steely gaze of centuries of Dutch ancestors. Virtue, her mother told her time and again, was its own reward, but on a night such as this, virtue seemed about as much a reward as day-old porridge.

There were times when she wished she had been born a male, that she might make her own way, that she might marry as she pleased and live as she would.

But that was as much a fancy as this carnival version of the Renaissance. In a few hours, the jester in motley would take off his cap and become an actor again; Isabella of Spain would ring for her maid and put cold cream on her face; and the whole pageant would turn again into what it was, hard-eyed businessmen and their ambitious wives, scheming to attain the status to which Janie and Bay had been born, and which had offered them nothing but the right to be gossiped over.

Janie? It was her cousin Anne, breathless and impatient, her cheeks flushed with heat or something else. Janie!

Yes? Next to Anne, Janie felt like the faded copy of an old portrait, set beside the glowing tones of the original. They both had blond curls as girls, but where Janie’s had faded to mouse, Anne’s was glowing, unapologetic gold. Anne had chosen her own namesake for her costume; she had dressed as Anne Boleyn.

Are you sure it’s wise? Janie had heard Bay ask, as the family gathered for dinner. To call their minds to divorce?

Anne had lifted a caressing hand to Bay’s cheek, her laugh just a touch too bright. When have you and I ever been wise?

Now, Anne’s headdress was askew, and twin lines of irritation marked the sides of her mouth. Have you seen Bay and Annabelle? Supper’s nearly over, and they’re meant to be opening the German.

They’re not in the music room?

Annabelle, when she chose to share it, had a beautiful voice. It was a talent she used charily, although Janie had more than once heard her sister-in-law’s voice, low and sweet, through the darkened entry to the night nursery.

No, nor in the card room or the conservatory. Don’t you think I’ve looked? Anne sounded deeply impatient, but then Anne always sounded impatient. At least, with Janie.

They’re not with you? Realizing how idiotic that sounded, Janie said hastily, I’d thought Bay was with you.

It had always been Bay and Anne, from the time they were children, creating elaborate theatricals, keeping each other’s secrets, speaking in grimaces and symbols that only the other understood. Janie’s childhood had consisted of the echo of laughter from another room, the rustle of fabric disappearing around a doorway, voices that faded as she pursued them.

But they were adults now, all of them. She wasn’t the baby in the nursery anymore.

He needed to consult David over something or other. Anne’s voice was tense. There’s to be a spectacle in the gardens at midnight. David designed it.

It was like Anne to use the architect’s first name, regardless of propriety. But then Anne would probably say she had no reputation left to lose.

Then shouldn’t you be asking Mr. Pruyn? Janie was aware of how priggish she sounded, but she couldn’t help it. Something about Anne brought the prunes and prisms out in her, made her purse her lips and narrow her shoulders.

Anne cast her a withering look. I did. He said Bay went to find Annabelle.

The whimsy of it struck Janie. It’s like a children’s game—everyone following everyone else.

Anne was not amused. Do you want to explain to Aunt Alva why the dancing is delayed?

The invocation of Janie’s mother was enough to kill any hint of humor. Has Mother said anything?

Who do you think sent me?

Janie and her cousin exchanged a look, united in reluctant partnership.

It would have been like Annabelle to have gone up to the children, but if she tilted her head, Janie could see two small figures in white nightdresses between the heavily carved balusters of the minstrel’s gallery, the shadowy shape of a nursemaid behind them.

Did you say there’s to be a spectacle in the garden? No point in being hurt that Anne knew more than she; Anne always knew more than she. Doubtfully, Janie said, They might have gone to supervise.

Her mother would have. Her mother would have personally managed every aspect of the entertainment. Annabelle had never struck her as that sort of hostess.

Still, what did she know of Annabelle? For all that Annabelle was her brother’s wife, they had never proceeded beyond a polite reserve. It wasn’t that Annabelle was unkind; just distant, like the image of the moon reflected on water.

Janie wasn’t sure whether the fault was with Annabelle or herself. She suspected the latter; for whatever reason, she didn’t have the gift of easy intimacy. There was no one in the world Janie counted as truly an intimate except for the characters that lived beyond the pages of the plays in her father’s library.

Come along, then. Anne was already moving towards the back of the hall, her heels clicking rapidly on the flagstones.


No, to Sherry’s. Yes, outside.

Footmen in livery were stationed on either side of the door, which they opened without question or comment.

Our wraps—

We’ll just be a moment. Anne’s breath misted in the air. She moved sure-footed across the sleet-crusted flagstones, leaving Janie no choice but to follow or fall behind.

Janie followed.

The gardens had been hung with Chinese lanterns, creating sinuous lines of light in the dark, meandering pathways to the river. In the summer, the air would be rich with the scents of roses, jonquils, and carnations. Lavender would edge the paths, and knot gardens would bloom, fragrant with herbs. Now, hothouse flowers wilted in stone urns, their colors blurred by the light fall of snow that lent an otherworldly shimmer to the scene.

The falling flakes seemed insubstantial, but they caught on Janie’s lashes and blurred her vision, the snow and the lantern light casting rainbows at the corners of her eyes, turning the midnight gardens into something between fear and fairyland. The heavy brocade of her skirts tangled around her legs, impeding her progress. Janie’s dancing slippers had been designed for marble floors, not ice and snow; she could feel the cold creeping through her stockings as she stumbled and slid in Anne’s wake.

Ahead of her, dancing in and out of view in the lantern light, she could see the reflection of the great house shivering on the river, all fanciful battlements and crenellations, like the drowned towers of a mythical castle.

For a moment, Janie thought she saw the form of a woman floating on the water, long, dark hair streaming out behind her, skirts decorated in pearl and aquamarine turning slowly to shades of gray as the water seeped into their folds—

She turned again and the image was lost, the house behind them just a house, the river hidden by the trees. Janie swiped a wet lock of hair from her face and wondered why she had let herself be cozened by Anne yet again, had allowed Anne to lead her where she shouldn’t go, when Bay and Annabelle were undoubtedly warm and dry inside, opening the German, from which Anne and Janie would be conspicuously absent.

They had battled their way through the length of the gardens. Ahead lay only the river and the folly, bare, ruined choirs where monks had never sung, the false remains of an imagined abbey in a staunchly Protestant preserve.

But then in Illyria, nothing was as it was, was it?

Anne? Janie blinked snow out of her eyes. The light was dimmer here, the arches of the abbey that never was had been left in deliberate darkness save for two torches that sputtered in the wet. Where was her cousin? She could hear only her own voice, raised to shrillness against the deafening hush of the snow-shrouded garden. Anne? I’m going back.

Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. The words would have sounded like a chant, like the echo of a long-ago refrain, were it not for the edge of panic to them.

Anne? Janie’s voice was sharp. She squinted into the glare of the lanterns, searching for the rope that might be stretched out to trip her, the snickering town beau waiting to jump out and scare her.

Anne’s voice rose from the darkness, down by the folly. "Bay! Can you hear me? Bay…"

Janie could feel panic rising, quickening her step as she half ran, half slid the final few yards to the folly, her hands like ice in her gloves, light flaring at the corners of her eyes, the strange gray half dark of a snowy night pressing all around her.

Anne was kneeling on the floor, her skirts spread all around her, cloth of gold turned to rust. The air was heavy with the scent of sulfur from the torches and something else, an acrid tang that caught at the back of Janie’s throat like smoke.

What is it? Janie’s voice echoed in the stony room.

Anne rocked back on her heels, pressing a hand against her mouth. "It’s Bay. Oh, God. Bay. Bay."

What do you— A hand was extended as if in supplication, rings glittering on the fingers. Stage rings, designed for the occasion. Janie had seen those rings, had commented on them at dinner. It was Bay’s hand, Bay’s legs in elaborate knee breeches.

Bay. On the ground.

Janie dropped to her knees beside her brother, feeling the cold of the stones seeping through the thick material of skirt and petticoats.

In the uneven flare of the torchlight, she could just make out the bright flare of his blond hair, the pale shape of his face. Was it just a trick of the light, or were his lips tinged with blue? The ruins were open to the elements, a mere sham of a building. The wind blew cold off the river, scattering snow like diamonds.

The spectacle. Something about a spectacle. Janie’s mind stuttered and started again. Bandages. Medical assistance. It was no wonder if Bay had slipped and fallen on the icy stones. Janie reached for Bay’s hand, so cold, even through the material of her gloves. She squeezed his fingers and felt him stir, ever so slightly.

Anne. When her cousin didn’t answer, Janie tried again, louder. Anne. You go for help; I’ll stay with Bay. We need to get him warm.

She had no shawl to lay over him, but her brocade overskirt detached from the underskirt. If she could only remember where her maid had set the stitches.

I think— Anne rocked back on her heels, and kept rocking, rocking back and forth. She laughed, a wild sound, somewhere between a laugh and a hiccup. I think it’s too late for that. Oh, Bay. Bay, Bay, Bay. Can you hear me? I’m so sorry, Bay. Bay…

Anne! Pull yourself— The words died on Janie’s lips as her eyes moved from her brother’s face to his chest, to the jeweled hilt of a dagger protruding from his doublet.

Her brother exhaled, a labored, rasping sound. With effort, his eyes flickered open, focusing, not on Janie, but on something beyond.

His lips moved, shaping a word, a name.

Bay! Janie was squeezing his hand, squeezing as if the pressure of her touch could bring him back, hold him where he was. Bay…

This wasn’t happening. It was a game, a trick, part of the illusion. Any moment now, he would pluck the dagger from his doublet and leap to his feet with easy grace. Just a trick, a scratch, nothing more.

Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.…

Next to her, Anne was laughing, a high-pitched laugh that went on and on, keening and keening in the darkness.

Bay? Her brother’s head slumped back, his eyes closed, snow dusting the closed lids. Frantically, futilely, Janie brushed at the falling flakes. Bay, this isn’t funny.

Tricks were Anne’s province, not Bay’s. The smell of blood stung Janie’s nostrils, blood, seeping into the velvet of Bay’s doublet, trickling out of the corner of his mouth.

And in the river below, the long, dark tresses of a woman shimmered gently below the ice.


New York, 1899





It was impossible to ignore the headlines; they screamed out in bold black type from either side of the street, in the hands of newspapermen waving the latest editions.

Miss Van Duyvil! Miss Van Duyvil! Did you see him? Did you see the body?

Miss Van Duyvil! Did you know he was going to kill her?

Police had created cordons on either side of the front steps, keeping the press and sensation seekers at a distance. But they couldn’t contain the sound of them, the babble and rumble of the crowd, pushing and clawing for a better view, shouting out questions and opinions. The family had managed to evade the reporters at Grace Church, but the house was another matter. A jostling crowd had been waiting for them when they returned from the funeral—reporters and curiosity seekers, masses of them, mobs of them—wanting to get a look at the sensation of the hour, a proud old family brought low.

It had been only a week since they had found Bay, but since then, the story had whirled about them like a snowstorm, growing in force with every hour. All of the old nonsense had been dragged up: the whispers of Annabelle’s affairs, Bay’s jealousy, the adultery going on right beneath the marital roof.

Lies, all of it, but so much more compelling than truth.

And what was the truth?

Janie had no more idea than they. She knew only that Bay could never have done what the papers claimed.

Miss Van Duyvil! Miss Van Duyvil! Is it true that he bashed her head in?

Janie buried her chin in her fur collar and kept moving. The Cold Spring constable hadn’t believed her, not at first, when she said she’d seen a body in the water. He’d dismissed it as fancy. At least until they found that blue silk slipper on the bank.

They hadn’t found Annabelle’s body—not yet. The ice was too thick, the water too deep. It might never be recovered.

It. It, that had once been a she.

Janie could feel the beginnings of a headache pinching her temples. The noise, the clamor, it was all the stuff of nightmares; the past week was nothing but a bad dream. The funeral service, the flower-laden casket, the solemn pallbearers in their tall hats, the white-robed choristers, none of it had been real. Bay and Annabelle were at Illyria, sitting by the fire, the twins curled between them as Annabelle sang a lullaby, soft and low.

She tried to picture it, but all she could see was Bay, sprawled on the floor of the folly, his lips forming one last word as Annabelle’s body drifted beneath the ice, like something out of a painting by Mr. Millais.

Janie didn’t know what forces her mother had brought to bear to persuade the Putnam County coroner to release Bay’s body. Officially, her mother was in deep mourning, seeing no one, speaking to no one, delegating all the official offices of death to the family lawyer. But a series of notes on black-bordered stationery had made their way from Mrs. Van Duyvil’s desk to state senators and judges. And the coroner, who had initially hemmed and hawed and dithered, had discovered in himself unexpected depths of sensibility, issuing an interim certificate of death and postponing the inquest until such time as further information might be acquired.

Miss Van Duyvil! Did you see it? Did you see him stab her?

Anne addressed the crowd over her fur-trimmed shoulder, saying, in a carrying voice, Surely, there must be a brawl at a beer hall somewhere in the city. Go find it. Or, if not, I’m certain you’ll have no trouble starting one.

The laughter from the crowd stung the journalist into retaliation. He jostled forward, pushing his way free from the crowd. Mrs. Newland! Where’s your husband?

Anne went still, like a hunted animal, every sense on alert.

Leave it, Janie whispered. Just go inside.

But Anne didn’t go. She turned, slowly and deliberately, letting the journalists and gawkers look their fill. A cousin wasn’t required to shroud herself in black, so Anne had adopted half mourning, a bold purple that suited her rose and gold coloring. The evening editions would be full of every detail of her dress, the cut and color provocatively Parisian against the frost-bleached New York street. The sketch artists were already at work, blowing on cold fingers to warm them.

Anne looked the journalist up and down, her very pose a provocation. In a bored drawl, she said, Why don’t you ask him?

Janie tugged at her hand, but Anne didn’t need tugging. She turned on her heel, sweeping into the house with one magnificent flounce of her skirt, leaving Janie to scurry along behind.

In the parlor, the drapes were drawn and the lamps were lit; night in the midst of day. Janie shivered in her furs. They weren’t to have returned until Monday, and the house still had the chill of emptiness about it. Or maybe it was a different sort of hollowness entirely.

Janie’s mother looked up from the mirror by the side of the window, an innovation of their Dutch ancestors, glass cleverly angled so that one could spy on the street while seeming to look away.

You shouldn’t perform for them, Anne. It only encourages them. Janie’s mother looked narrow and pinched; she seemed, in the lamplight, like a portrait of herself, flat and grim. She turned away from the window, letting her eyes rest full on her niece. But then we do know how much you love theater.

The color rose in Anne’s cheeks. Or maybe it was just the snap of the cold—cold and scandal.

Janie turned quickly away, before they could turn their ire on her. Was this how other people were, afraid to admit grief, causing pain rather than be comforted? Or was it only the Van Duyvil household?

Bay hadn’t been like that. Bay would have defused the situation with a joke for Anne, a hand on his mother’s arm.

But Bay was gone.

Anne sank into a chair, a sinuous movement, even in her stays. You have to give the vultures something. If they’re talking about Teddy, they might not— With a convulsive gesture, Anne’s fingers closed around the slim gold case hanging from a chain at her waist. Does anyone else need a cigarette? Janie?

Janie ducked her head, an instinctive gesture.

Not in my house, said Mrs. Van Duyvil coldly.

"Even Ruth Mills smokes them these days, Aunt Alva. And she’s a Livingston. Anne’s voice was its usual drawl, but her hands gave her away, shaking so badly she could hardly work the clasp on her cigarette case. Isn’t that so, cousin dear?"

So I’ve heard, said Janie cautiously. She wouldn’t know. She’d never been invited to any of Ruth Mills’s house parties at Staatsburg. Janie went where her mother went, to select gatherings of the elect, parties that wouldn’t be sullied by the new people and their conspicuous expenditure.

And, of course, to Illyria. A silly name for a house, her mother had sniffed, but it was what Annabelle and Bay had chosen to call it.

Bay. The lamplight dazzled Janie’s eyes, refracting into the light of a thousand icicles. The snow had thickened after they found him, crusting his body with diamonds, turning him into a creature out of fancy, a sleeping prince waiting to be woken.

Janie! Her mother’s voice was sharp.

I’m sorry. I was—

Not attending. You never do. Go see what’s keeping the girl. You’d think she was harvesting the tea herself.

Anne rose from her chair with something less than her usual grace. The cigarette was still clutched, unlit, between her fingers. Even she didn’t quite have the gall to light it in the face of direct objection. I’ll go.

No. It’s all right. The parlor felt like the inside of a coffin, velvet lined. Janie could feel herself smothering in it. I won’t be a moment.

She escaped before Anne could object. If there was one skill Janie had learned over the years, it was the art of absenting herself. One could be absent in the midst of a crowded drawing room if one really tried.

If the parlor was a coffin, the hall felt like a tomb, the marble floor cold and bleak, the frieze of urns that skirted the ceiling disappearing into the gloom. Janie escaped gratefully to the nether regions of the house, down the half stair that led to the kitchen. She could feel the warmth even before she entered; warmth and coal smoke and the strong smells of food in various stages of preparation.

Is something burning? asked Janie.

The cakes— Mrs. O’Malley started up from the table, grabbing for a towel and catching up a newssheet instead. She stared at it as though not sure how it had got there. I was just—

Yes, I can see that.

DOUBLE MURDER ON THE HUDSON! shouted the headline.

Somewhere, they’d found pictures of Annabelle and Bay. Neither looked at all like themselves. Annabelle’s was an artist’s sketch, her hair piled high atop her head in a style she didn’t favor, her chin pushed into an unnatural position by the strands of a pearl choker Janie couldn’t recall her ever wearing. And then there was Bay. Janie recognized the picture, taken on the occasion of his graduation from the Harvard Law School six years before, his hair slicked down at the sides, high collar stiff around his throat. The same picture that sat in a silver frame on a table in the parlor.

Someone in the house must have provided the picture. Mrs. O’Malley? Or Katie, the downstairs maid? Katie was standing by the scullery, holding herself as though her very stillness would keep her from notice.

Janie nodded at the newssheet. You’d best not let Mrs. Van Duyvil see you with that.

Mrs. O’Malley clutched the paper close to her thin chest. Yes, miss. No, miss.

Janie had always wished she could be like a girl in a story, the sort of girl who was beloved by peers and servants alike. But she had never had the gift of commanding allegiance, either by love or by fear. The servants, she knew, took their cue from her mother. Janie was an extraneous female, but a Van Duyvil still, to be treated with nominal respect to her face and derision behind her back.

Janie held out a hand. May I?

Mrs. O’Malley surrendered the newssheet. The print was grainy, smeared by the touch of eager fingers. And this was only one of many newspapers being hawked on street corners. Not since the discovery of a dismembered body in the East River two summers ago had there been such a sensation.

Murder. Janie still couldn’t make her mind close around the word. Murder was something that happened in the tenements of Hell’s Kitchen, in the dark segments of the city through which a carriage passed with closed curtains. Not in her family. Not in Illyria.

I’ll dispose of this, said Janie, and was aware of just how much she sounded like her mother. A movement by the door caught her eye. A man, behind Katie, in the narrow passage between the scullery and the street. Sharply, she said, And who might this be?

Katie cast an agitated glance at Mrs. O’Malley. It’s … my cousin. Jimmy.

The man unfolded himself from the wall, stepping into the light, the gas lamp casting a reddish glow against his black hair, setting shadows beneath his cheekbones.

He held his cap in one hand; the other hand he extended to Janie. My condolences for your loss, Miss Van Duyvil.

Janie kept her own hands pressed close to her sides. This is not a time to be receiving callers—even cousins.

If he was one. The ink on his fingers said otherwise.

The byline on the article in Janie’s hands read James. James Burke.

James Burke. The name sounded oddly familiar, as though she had heard it before. On the pages of a newssheet? The family didn’t read those sorts of papers, but it was hard to ignore them entirely, plastered as they were across the city.

Janie pressed her eyes shut, seeing the glare of the gaslight against the inside of her lids. It would be a great deal less painful if people would respect that loss.

The interloper met her eyes, unabashed. Surely, truth should be a consolation to the family, Miss Van Duyvil.

Do you call this truth … Mr. Burke?

He didn’t deny the charge. Instead, he inclined his head in something that was almost, but not quite, a bow. Truth comes in all forms, Miss Van Duyvil.

On his tongue, the use of her name sounded impossibly intimate. "But seldom in The News of the World. I take it that you are the person responsible for perpetrating this … nonsense?"

The man had the gall to widen his eyes in innocence. We prefer to call it investigative reporting, Miss Van Duyvil.

I call it scandal-mongering, pure and simple. Janie was too angry to be shy; all she could think of was Viola and Sebastian in their nightclothes, crying for their mother. They were too young to understand what was being said. But what of when they were older? It was easier to fling mud than to scour a reputation clean. Making capital out of the suffering of innocent souls.

Mr. Burke leaned one hand familiarly against the back of a chair. And isn’t that the same way most of your friends on Fifth Avenue made their fortunes?

That’s not— That was what he wanted, to keep her talking. She’d find her own words flung back at her in the press, twisted and distorted. Stiffly, Janie said, This is a house of mourning. I would urge you and your colleagues to remember that. To Katie, she added, Mrs. Van Duyvil is waiting for her tea.

Katie bobbed a curtsy. Yes, ma’am.

Janie kept her attention fixed on Katie, her voice prim. I trust you will, in the future, restrict your family reunions to your half day. They have no place in this kitchen.

She sounded like her mother. No. Worse. She sounded like a sour spinster, tyrannizing the staff to mask her own powerlessness.

Mr. Burke stepped forward, a knight errant in a shabby gray suit. It’s not Katie’s fault.

In which case, it must be yours. Janie turned her displeasure where it belonged. This discussion is over, Mr. Burke. You are disrupting the household and keeping Katie from her duties.

And we mustn’t have that. Mr. Burke’s eyes met hers, the gray-green of moss over stone. Good day, Miss Van Duyvil.

Good-bye, Mr. Burke.

His only reply was a tilt of his cap as the door closed behind him.

A hint of French perfume warred with the scent of burning crumpets. Who was that?

Janie turned hastily, blinking at Anne in the kitchen door. No one. One of Katie’s cousins.

Anne shrugged, already losing interest. She looked out of place in the domestic confines of the kitchen, her taffeta gown too rich, her blond hair too bright for workaday use. Aunt Alva wants her tea sent to her rooms. Sometime this century.

Mrs. O’Malley sprang into action, assembling a tray with more force than grace.

You’re to go to her. Anne waved one long, white hand at Janie. When you’re done with your … reading.

Janie had forgotten the paper. Her fingers tightened around the page as she hurried after Anne, up the stairs. I was simply disposing of it.

Whatever you like. Anne’s tone was derisory, but Janie didn’t miss the glance she darted at the paper.

Janie would have laughed if it hadn’t been so miserable, all of it. To be reduced to reading the scandal sheets for word of one’s own family.

Somewhere along the sides of the frozen river, the search went on for Annabelle’s body. Or so they presumed. Their sensibilities, it seemed, were too delicate to be imposed upon by the police. Whatever they knew of their own tragedy came at third hand. They were starved for news, all of them, as isolated as Robinson Crusoe on his island.

Anne, with all her tricks and her charm; Janie’s mother, with her lineage and her money. All of their powers were reduced to nothing when it came to the workings of the masculine world of the law.

Janie looked anxiously at her cousin. What happens next?

Anne deliberately misunderstood her. Supper, I should think.

Janie pressed her eyes shut, schooling herself to patience. Grieving came upon people in different ways, and if it made Anne even more prickly than usual … well, there could be no doubt that she was grieving, or that she had the right to grieve. If there had been one person in the world who Anne truly loved, it was Bay.

There were times Janie had wondered if there might be something more between her brother and her cousin, if the rumors of Annabelle’s affair with the architect were just a screen for—

No. Janie bit down hard on her lower lip. Now she was being as bad as the scandal-mongers howling at the gate. Bay had loved Annabelle. If Janie was sure of anything, she was sure of that. Not the fevered love the papers meant to convey, something harsh and jealous, but a comfort with their own company, the intimacy of a hand on a shoulder in passing, a message conveyed with a look.

Words might lie, but not that.

Janie paused at the foot of the stairs, stopping Anne with a fleeting touch to her arm, the most contact they had had in weeks. What they’re saying—Bay would never have done that. He would never have hurt Annabelle. Not Bay.

Because you knew him so well.

Anne had always known just where to slide the knife. Janie forced herself to honesty, even if honesty felt raw and painful. I wish I had.

Ever since she was little, all she had wanted was for her brother to notice her. It wasn’t that Bay was particularly outgoing. His smile was a slow thing; his wit quiet. But there had been something about that very reserve that had promised riches to those admitted to the inner circle.

That would never happen now. Bay was gone, and all his subtle charm with him. Janie would never be privy to his confidences, never have him turn to her as he had to Anne.

Except that once, at the last, when his lips had spoken a name she didn’t know.

Janie stood at the bottom of the stairs, one hand on the newel post. She felt foolish asking, but if anyone would know, it would be her cousin.

Anne, she asked. Who’s George?

London, 1894


Fancy a free supper? Kitty popped into Georgie’s dressing room without knocking, banging the door cheerfully behind her.

Georgie eyed her friend in the streaked glass of her mirror. What is it this time?

Kitty adjusted her hat, frowned at the results, and tweaked it again, examining herself this way and that. "Not what—who. A Sir Something and his rich American friend."

Kitty had removed the wig she wore as Maria in the Ali Baba’s musical evisceration of Twelfth Night, but her cheeks were still streaked with red, her face lavishly painted and powdered. Coupled with her feathered hat and new crimson brocade walking dress, it made her look, thought Georgie, like the more prosperous sort of streetwalker.

Picking up a cloth, Georgie scrubbed vigorously and ineffectually at the grease paint on her cheek. It was a bad job, she knew. No matter how much cream she used, how much soap, it never entirely came off. She went into each performance with the shadow of the last beneath it. "How can you tell the American is

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  • (4/5)
    The English Wife is a dark tale of betrayal and secrets. It's Gothic suspense at it's best. This family drama has a twisty plot and intriguing characters that keep the pages turning until the final twist. It's rich in historical detail of high society in New York in 1899. This was my first book by Lauren Willig but I definitely will be reading more of her books in the future. I would highly recommend this book to those who love suspenseful historical novels.
  • (4/5)
    I had a challenge in determining how I felt about this book. It was interesting and enlightening but it also seemed at times a bit too romanticized for me. I will admit that it had more than it share of twists and turns and as the book progressed I became more and more absorbed in the story. On balance, I gave it the higher rating.
  • (5/5)
    The English Wife is an intriguing story from the beginning until the end. It switches back and forth from year to year but it is not difficult to follow. One can easily visualize the entire locations both England and the United States easily. There is a definite beginning, middle and end. The book ending is proper it actually comes to a conclusion. I highly recommend The English Wife, hence the five star rating that I attach here.
  • (4/5)
    Bayard van Duyvill, part of the American elite is on a European tour when he meets Georgie. Their marriage is one of love and tenderness shrouded by secrets and societal pressures that ultimately threaten their very existence. Told in different chronologies, Willig slowly develops the characters and their secrets to create a slow tension to the final scenes.
  • (4/5)
    "The English Wife" is a stand alone historical novel. Bravo to author, Lauren Willig, as this kept me intrigued and turning the pages. I was not disappointed. ** One again, my thanks to St. Martin's Press for this ARC I won in a GOODREADS giveaways! I always feel so devilishly evil to get to read them before they hit the market.
  • (5/5)
    I received a free advance e-copy of this book and have chosen to write an honest and unbiased review. I have no personal affiliation with the author. Wow! What a story, a little slow at the beginning, but once it got going I couldn’t put it down. The action never quits. Action packed and full of twists and turns, rumors, and gossip. There is murder, scandal, false ID’s, bodies that were never found, and oh so many secrets just waiting to reveal themselves. This is a well-written piece of historical fiction with a great plot and good character development. This was an exciting book that is well worth the read. I look forward to reading more from Lauren Willig in the future.
  • (3/5)
    On the night of her brother and sister-in-law's Twelfth Night party, Janie van Duyvil finds her brother on the lawn with a dagger in his chest. Her sister-in-law, Annabelle, is missing, but Janie is certain that she saw Annabelle in the river just before she found her brother's body. Janie is determined to find the truth about her brother's murder no matter where it leads, but her socialite mother is more interested in maintaining appearances. Janie enlists the aid of journalist James Burke to discover the circumstances of her brother's death. The more she learns, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her family.After the initial discovery of the murder, the story alternates between Bay and Annabelle's history and Janie's search for the truth about their life and death. The parallel stories barely intersect. Although Bay and Janie are siblings, they were not close, and Janie has no role in their side of the story. From time to time there are hints of danger in Janie's part of the story, but Willig drops threads before the suspense has a chance to build. The female characters are strong and they all tend to overshadow the male characters they're paired with, even down to the 3-year-old fraternal twins. The book starts with a bang but it fizzles out by the end.This review is based on an electronic advance reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
  • (3/5)
    I really liked how the story started, but midway through I started to feel bogged down in the story and I struggled to finish it. I did enjoy the characters, especially Georgie and her nemesis of a mother-in-law. The dialogue between the characters was also excellent, often displaying the quirks of British and upper-class American life. However, overall the story felt repetitive and not quite fast-paced enough to hold my interest.
  • (4/5)
    This historical fiction novel takes place between 1894 in London and 1899 in New York, moving back and forth in time as the secrets harbored by the characters unfold.It begins in 1899 in New York. Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil have just completed an estate they named "Illyria" on the banks of the Hudson, and are throwing a "Twelfth Night Ball" to celebrate. But at the ball, 26-year-old Janie Van Duyvil, Bay's sister, while searching for her brother outside, finds him dead with a knife in his chest. Annabelle is missing, presumed drowned, evinced by one of her dress slippers found by the waterfront. Rumors had been swirling about an affair between Annabelle and Illyria’s architect, David Pruyn, and the immediate assumption is that this was a crime of passion and jealousy.Janie doesn’t believe it, and wants to try to find out what really happened, but she has to work around her aristocratic and cruel mother, who is dedicated to avoiding scandal at all costs. Janie secretly enlists the help of a reporter, James Burke. They are from very different worlds, but both want the facts, and they make a pact to tell each other the truth, no matter where it leads.Complicating the search for truth, a mysterious relative of Annabelle's shows up and claims Annabelle wasn't who she said she was. But he seems venal and is very interested in Annabelle's estate. Meanwhile, Janie's cousin Anne, always close to Bay, implies there is also more to know about Bay. And how did the architect fit into the story?Back in 1894 London we learn how Annabelle, then called Georgie, got together with Bay. In addition we get insight into the gender politics of the time, both in London and in New York.We also learn, along with Janie, that the lives of the rest of the Van Duyvil family were part of a carefully constructed web of lies. A great deal of suspense leads to a very unexpected denouement.Evaluation: This is a good page-turner, and the different aspects of romance drawn by the author were quite well done.
  • (5/5)
    Janie Van Duyvil is at a costume ball celebrating the opening of her brother's new home on the Hudson River when she finds her brother Bay with a jeweled dagger through his heart and his wife Annabelle missing with her shoe on the bank of the river. She wants to find the truth of what happened to Bay and Annabelle, the mysterious English woman he brought back from his Grand Tour of Europe. The story is told back and forth from Janie's point-of-view, then Annabelle, or Georgie as she is also known. Janie enlists the help of a newspaperman, James Burke, to find how what happened despite being a scion of New York Gilded Age society. Her mother is a grande dame of society who keeps Janie on a tight leash. There is Anne, Janie's cousin and Bay's confidant, defiant but also under the control of the older Mrs. Van Duyvil. Viola and Sebastian are Bay and Annabelle's twins, named for twins in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and the heirs to the Van Duyvil fortune. Georgie's story is about how she met Bay at a theater in London and their subsequent life together. They both have secrets which gradually come out as the story progresses.The mystery of the murder(s) is the core of the story here, and it's very well told. First, the murderer seems to be one person, then another, with all sorts of different motives abounding as Janie and Burke try to solve Bay's killing. There are many Shakespearean references, especially to Twelfth Night which I enjoyed. I've read all Ms. Willig's Pink Carnation series and most of her historical fiction books. I think she just gets better and better. She captures the Gilded Age and New York society well here. The descriptions are excellent, and the pacing of the story makes you want to keep reading. I very much enjoyed The English Wife.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 starsTHE ENGLISH WIFE has a lot going for it. Ms. Willig adeptly captures the era and its societal mores and strictures well.The characters are relatable enough that readers can easily become vested in them and their situations. An engaging story with plenty of twists that flows seamlessly into the mystery, who killed Bay and where is Annabelle? Is she dead too? Now, I'm not sure if this was intentional but there's a pervasive sadness, from beginning to end. This sadness can also be used to describe the characters lives. It's as much a character as Amanda, Bay, Anne, Mr. Van Duyvil, or Janie. I've thought about it and the book wouldn't be the same, nor as good, without this sadness. For me, the sadness makes the book.THE ENGLISH WIFE is a good solid read all around. Reviewed for Miss Ivy's Book Nook
  • (4/5)
    In case you haven't noticed, I love a good murder mystery. I don't even mind if I figure out the murderer as long as the journey had some nice twists and turns. This one, was hands-down the easiest Book of the Month pick for me. Something about the cover, the description, and the few reviews it had made me want it more than any of the other selections for December 2017.

    I hadn't even planned to read it. I had a few other books that I wanted to read next, but when I went to my shelf, like usual, I just picked up whatever grabbed my attention, which was this one.


    There were a lot of layers to this story. It bounced back and forth from the past to the present and there were a couple of times I got confused because I skimmed over the date at the beginning of the chapter, but everything fell wonderfully into place as the story evolved.

    I think my favorite part of this, aside from the believable characters, was the historical element. It felt real and even though I have never lived in 1800s, nothing about the historical details felt fake or forced. Everything from the description of the homes to the characters' attire was perfect for this Gilded Age and brought everything to life for me.

    There was also particular attention given to how society was in this time and it sort of read like a soap opera, with things that happen behind closed doors being far more scandalous than the rumors that plague parties, and I was hooked. It was a guilty pleasure in a way to be reading something dripping with so much gossip, but I couldn't look away.

    I also really liked the back and forth in the timeline. I noticed other readers found this aspect confusing, but I felt that the chapters that took place in the past were placed in just the right moments. Some of them worked as a push to keep reading because at the end of one chapter there would be a bit of a cliffhanger, then it would bounce to the past. It forced me to keep reading (not that it takes much force) because I had to go back to where the previous chapter had left off.

    I also loved the characters. There was more than meets the eye to all of them. Even those that seemed really cut and dry had more layers than onions (yes, Shrek reference). In the end, it was this feature that had me a blindsided by the murderer. I really thought I had it figured out, but then motives would change and along with it, my suspect. I really did not imagine the murderer being who it was and that is always a big plus in my book when I'm caught off guard in a murder mystery.

    I was definitely not disappointed in this Book of the Month pick, but so far they have yet to let me down with their selections.

  • (4/5)
    This historical story opens with the deaths of Bayard and Annabelle Van Duyvil. The following chapters then switch between past and “present,” revealing both the events that lead to that night and Bay’s sister’s search to uncover the truth after the fact. It’s an intriguing mystery, full of secrets, scandal, and romance, and I really enjoyed it.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book set in late 19 century New York - the Gilded Age. This book is about family secrets, greed, lust, pride, deception, and even murder. I found the characters to be believable and realistic. To all outside appearances Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvell seem to be a golden couple. They have beautiful three year old twin children, Viola and Sebastian. They have a gorgeous mansion that Bayard has just built for his wife. The world doesn't see the secrets and deceptions that they each hide from the world as well as each other. And then one night, during their housewarming 12th night ball, the family is ripped apart. Annabelle disappears and Bayard is found with a dagger in his chest lying on the floor of their folly. Bayard's sister Janie wants to find out the truth and asks for help from an earnest young reporter. Together they piece together the shocking events of January 6, and the fallout ripples throughout the whole of society. I really enjoyed the book. It moved quickly and the tension remained throughout. I felt like I really got to know Janie Van Duyvell, and rooted for her throughout.
  • (4/5)
    A murder in an aristocratic household? Unheard of and especially during a ball with hundreds of guests in attendance.Bay, Annabelle's husband and Janie's brother, could not have killed his wife and then killed himself. Janie was determined to find out who the real killer was.We follow the family as the book goes back and forth in time making the connections for us about who was who and what the circumstances were. And what marvelous connections and secrets this family has.The biggest bomb shell came right after Bay and Annabelle were killed.A family member of Annabelle arrived at the house to give his condolences, but also gave some unsettling information about Annabelle.THE ENGLISH WIFE was very proper, and the characters were portrayed as very proper as was expected in the 1800's, but were some who they said they were?THE ENGLISH WIFE was difficult to connect with at first, but then the book became difficult to put down.The ending revelations will be "burning" in your thoughts and have you wanting to talk about the book with everyone.If you enjoy the 1800's, drama of privileged families, mystery, and secrets, THE ENGLISH WIFE will be a late-into-the-night read. 4/5This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
  • (5/5)
    It is most fitting that much of the action of Lauren Willig's new novel, The English Wife, takes place on a cold, snowy winter evening in February 1899 at a home along the Hudson River. It's been so cold here in the Northeast, this just fits right in.There are two settings for this crackling good mystery- 1895 England and 1899 Cold Springs, New York. The book opens at the Twelfth Night Ball that American heir Bay Van Duyvil and his English wife Annabelle are hosting at their new home on the Hudson River, a replica of her English home.Amid gossip that Annabelle was having an affair with the architect of the home, Bay is found stabbed and Annabelle is missing. Bay's sister Janie swears she saw Annabelle's body floating in the Hudson River, but no body is ever found.The action moves back to 1895 England, where Bay meets and falls in love with Georgie, a dance hall performer. They marry and Georgie assumes the name of her cousin Annabelle, a wealthy heiress herself who is nowhere to be found.Bay's sister Janie teams up with Burke, a reporter from a New York paper, to discover what happened to her brother and sister-in-law. Janie feels she owes it to Bay and Annabelle's toddler twins, now orphaned.Janie's mother Alva was not thrilled with Bay's choice of wife, and she is the very epitome of an overbearing mother-in-law. Alva rules her household with an iron fist, and believes it her duty to keep the name Van Duyvil untarnished.Anne is Janie and Bay's cousin, they all grew up together, but Bay and Anne were especially close, even after Anne stole Janie's fiance and married him herself. Anne's marriage has collapsed, much to the disgust of Aunt Alva.The scenes between Alva and Anne, and then Alva, Anne and Janie crackled with tension and fantastic passive/aggressive dialogue. If Andy Cohen were around in 1895, he would have signed these ladies up as the original Housewives of New York.The timelines of 1895 and 1899 eventually dovetail, and we find out more information about Georgie, and her cousin Annabelle (does she even exist?), what is really going on in Bay and Annabelle's marriage, and what happened the night of the Twelfth Ball.The characters are fascinating, especially Georgie, and I liked watching Janie blossom from a mousy young lady into a force to be reckoned with. Burke the reporter was an intriguing character with his own secrets as well.There are a lot of secrets in The English Wife, some you can guess and others that took me completely by surprise, which I love in a good story. I also enjoyed the attention to period detail, it is clear that Willig did a great deal of research to get everything just right.I highly recommend The English Wife, for anyone who loves a good historical mystery, mixed with a little romance. (And the book cover is just stunning!)
  • (5/5)
    This stunning novel opens up in 1899 with a murder. Janie Van Duyvil and her cousin Anne Newton have just discovered Janie's brother Bay with a knife sticking out of his chest inside the folly at his house during the Twelfth Night party he and his wife Annabelle were having. Janie sees Annabelle in the river. When help is brought back, Annabelle has disappeared into the river and the police doubt that Janie saw her to begin with.The book travels back in time to when Annabelle and Bay met in London in 1894 when Annabelle was Georgina Evans, an actress at a cheap theater. Sir Hugo, a notorious rakehell, invites Kitty and Annabelle to dinner with his friend Bay, Georgina balks and Bay takes her outside and puts her in a cab. He later comes back to the theater to apologize and thus begins a friendship that turns into something more.Janie is the quiet daughter of a formidable towering matron of society, whose mother is obsessed with the family name and its place in society. Anne "stole" the man she was to marry, not that Janie minded all that much. She works at the Girls Club doing charity work helping young women to her mother's consternation. The papers are saying that Bay killed Annabelle and then himself because she was carrying on with the architect of the house they had just had built.Janie becomes determined to find out the truth and when a reporter, James Burke, finds his way into the house and she has words with him, she decides to go to him and make a bargain with Burke for them to be honest with each other and share information and he could print anything he found as long as it was the truth. Of course, the two of them are attracted to each other.The characters are interesting such as Anne who deals in triple entendre and does daily battle with Mrs. Van Duyvil, her aunt who took her in and never let her forget it and Georgina who is scrappy and takes nothing from no one. This book has more twists and turns than a mountain road and it opens up on an exciting note that catches you right away and never lets you go. The pages fly so fast your fingers will have scorch marks.
  • (4/5)
    There are two romances in this, but it's not a romance novel. There is a murder, and an investigation of sorts, and a reveal of the killer, but it's not a mystery novel. It's set in Gilded Age high society, but it's not a society novel.
  • (5/5)
    The story starts right in the middle of the action: On frigid Twelfth Night, 1899, in the middle of a Shakespeare themed ball, Janie Van Duyvil and her cousin Anne find Janie’s brother Bay dying of a stab wound and his wife, Annabelle, missing, presumably fallen into the river below the folly. As part of high society, the couple’s murder is front page material. The press descends in droves, speculating on the deaths. Did Annabelle kill her husband, then flee? Was it a love triangle, as there were rumors that Annabelle was having an affair with the architect of their new house? Did Bay kill Annabelle and then himself? From there out, the story alternates time lines: the 1899 present, as Janie seeks to find the truth behind the murders, and the past, when Bay and Annabelle first met and courted. Janie finds herself pairing up with James Burke, a newsman working for a paper with a bad rep who wants to write real news. Annabelle and Bay have secrets, lots of them. To tell here would ruin the book for readers; suffice it to say that neither is who they appear on the surface. But it’s not just their story. It is also the story of Janie. At the start, Janie is the person who melts away into the background. Her mother is a verbally abusive control freak, and Janie is her favorite target. She’s spent a life time learning to disappear. Her cousin Ann even stole her fiancé. Her growth and flowering through the story is wonderful to watch. There is a lot of description of all the trappings of wealth; the clothing, the jewels, the house décor. And while it might seem a bit excessive, it really belongs there: the wealth, the society it embodies, is, if not a character, is certainly a force in the story that exerts itself mightily on the characters. I enjoyed this book a lot, especially the characters of Janie and Annabelle. The identity of the killer actually took me by surprise. Five stars.
  • (5/5)
    THE ENGLISH WIFE was an amazing story. It begins at a party. Annabelle and Bay Van Duyvil are debuting their new home, designed to duplicate the home where Annabelle grew up in England, for the upper class society of New York. Things immediately go wrong when Janie Van Duyvil discovers the body of her brother who was stabbed with the knife that was part of his costume. His wife is missing and presumed dead. Janie needs to know what happened to the brother that she admired but didn't know very well.The story has flashbacks to five years earlier when Annabelle and Bay met in London and fell in love which gives us information about the two of them that Janie doesn't have. Janie has always existed under the thumb of her overbearing and autocratic mother. Nothing she does seems to satisfy her. Janie also shares the house with her cousin Anne who is back home because her husband is threatening to divorce her. Anne is the opposite of Janie. She is flamboyant and willing to defy her Aunt. Nonetheless, she is under her aunt's thumb as much as Janie is. Anne and Bay were closer in age growing up and they always seemed to form a team that left Janie out. Because she feels that all of them - herself, her mother, her cousin - are being kept out of the investigation, she goes to a newspaper reporter who she had met when he visited her family kitchen saying he was visiting a cousin for some help. She asks James Burke to help her find out the truth about what happened to Bay and Annabelle. As they investigate, they fall in love but their vastly different social classes is only one of the impediments to a relationship. This story brimmed over with the social mores of the most upper of upper classes in 1899 New York. It also brimmed over with family secrets, affairs, hidden identities, and murder. It was such an engaging story that I couldn't put it down and read late into the night and when I should have been doing other things. Fans of historical mysteries won't want to miss this wonderful story.
  • (3/5)
    The English Wife is a tantalizing historical mystery set on Fifth Avenue in New York City during the tempestuous Gilded Age. Bay Van Duyvil is found dead. Did his adulterous wife, Annabelle, her dead body found floating under the icy river, murder him? We read the scandal, shiver in the bitter cold, see the fashions, and smell tobacco smoke in the first two pages of Lauren Willig’s book.Headlines shout “Double Murder” and “Suicide” as vivid descriptions promise a thrilling read. Investigative reporters who follow her famous brother’s death plague Janie. When the book jumps to the back-story, it meanders. Characters flow in and out without sufficient presence. The initial premise of the story becomes lost in sub plots. Although an effective portrayal of the Gilded Age’s extravagances and culture, the book lost momentum for this reader.I thank NetGalley for the pre-publication copy for my unbiased review.
  • (3/5)
    With 'The English Wife', Lauren Willig does a superb job of capturing the era and setting. The characters' plights and their interactions feel real. I especially loved the dialogue, which I could almost hear being spoken. So, yes, there are some great things about this book, but I didn't love it. I'll explain:The story is told in alternating timelines, giving us distinctly different side-by-side stories rather than one as a whole. We have the "present" timeline, taking place in 1899, with Janie as the standout main character. In the second timeline, we go back to 1894, with Bay and Georgie as the main characters. Within these two separate stories, we have several subplots and a lot of characters moving in and out. All the activity and shifting timelines takes away from the main focus of the story. To me, it all felt scattered.While there are a lot of separate issues taking place, the pace is actually quite slow. The two stories converge about 3/4 of the way through the book, and this is when the pace picks up. I found the last quarter of the book much more enjoyable, as the focus narrowed and we stayed within the present timeline. If you're looking for a historical family drama, and you don't mind alternating timelines, then give this one a try. My complaints are specific to me, and it truly is well written.*I received an advance ebook copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.*
  • (5/5)
    My Review of “The English Wife” by Lauren WilligIt is just so amazing that Lauren Willig , Author of “The English Wife” is able to weave a tale with different genres and a colorful cast of characters. The genres of “The “English Wife” are Historical Fiction, Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Mystery and Suspense.There are some surprising twists and turns. This is a captivating and intriguing novel.Lauren Willig describes her characters as complex and complicated. There are secrets, lies and betrayals. There are strange identities. Is everybody who they say they are? What is the truth? Does it take a murder or disappearance to set the truth free? There is a divide among the haves and have nots, and the rich and poor. There also is a division of American Royalty and British Royalty. What a combination. There are rumors of infidelity and adultery. There is a replica of a house in America that is also in London.The press is known for fabricating tales, but is also sometimes regarded as the gospel of truth. Why is it that people love to gossip and look into the flaws of other people?Can knowing the truth be better than living with a lie? Kudos to Lauren Willig for masterminding this story with so much detail. I would highly recommend this mysterious and suspenseful novel for those readers that appreciate all the above genres. I received An Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review.
  • (3/5)
    Bayard is from a knickerbocker family but this doesn't stop him from marrying an actress with a past. These two live a charmed life until Bayard is murdered and Annabelle's past reveals itself.
I enjoyed the time setting of the rich and powerful during the Knickerbocker years. A perfect setting for this murder mystery. I also liked Annabelle. She is no nonsense and could care less about what most people think. She does not fall into the norm of the rich and powerful. Her spunk leads her to be an endearing character. Then there is Bayard. Bayard has a large secret as well. You need to read the book to find this out! "What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." This is the quote which comes to mind when thinking about Bayard.
The story is drawn out and way too long. That being said, I still enjoyed it, for the most part. I kept trying to figure out "who dunnit". I really like being stumped and the author did a fabulous job keeping me stumped till the very end.
With mansions, secrets and family drama, I felt very much like I was reading a gothic mystery. A nice change from plain historical fiction.
I received this novel from the publisher via Netgalley.
  • (2/5)
    The English Wife is a new novel by Lauren Willig that takes us back in time to 1899. Annabelle Van Duyuil and her husband, Bayard (Bay) are holding a Twelfth Night Ball at their newly finished home Illyria. Later that evening, Bay is found stabbed to death in the folly and his sister, Janie catches a glimpse of Annabelle in the river. It is believed that Bay pushed Annabelle into the river and then killed himself. Annabelle’s body, though, is not found. There had been rumors swirling around society that Annabelle had been having an affair with the architect of Illyria. Janie does not believe the rumors and wants to discover what really happened that night at the ball. She knows that her mother would never hire a detective, so Janie seeks out assistance from reporter, James Burke. The pair delve into Annabelle and Bay’s lives seeking answers. The more Janie learns, the more she realizes how little she knew about her brother and his wife. Did one of their secrets get them killed? And why did Bay die with saying the name George?The English Wife sounded like such a great book. A Gilded Age story with scandals, secrets and murder. The final product, though, was like being stuck in rush hour traffic. You move forward very, very slowly. The pace was slow, and the dialogue was awkward. There were a couple of good sections, but they were few (and did not make up for the rest of the book). There are numerous characters (with very similar names) and background stories on each of them. The book is written with one chapter in present time and the next chapter takes you back when Bay met Georgie. There are detailed descriptions of homes (inside and out), clothing, art, and plays (many discussions on Shakespeare plays). The author did capture the lifestyle of the rich living in 1899. The only likeable character is the reporter, James Burke. I quickly tired of Janie (whiny) and her overbearing, dominating mother. The author should have given Janie a strong backbone and a curious nature. Instead, she retreats into the wallpaper (very much the wallflower). There is a lot of repetition in the book. The mystery plays out slowly over the course of the novel and the reveal is anticlimactic. The identity of the killer was no surprise. The ending was disappointing with many threads left dangling. The author was attempting to capture the era with the writing style, but it comes across as contrived. The connections to the play Twelfth Night are apparent (for those who have read or seen Shakespeare’s play). The English Wife had potential, but it was not achieved. I found it a tedious book to read and I want the hours I spent reading it back.
  • (1/5)
    "Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: 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?"I may be the only one who thinks this, but I could not get through this book. I found it to be a total snooze fest. The story was very uninteresting and the author's writing style was very difficult to follow the story line. I try to finish every book I pick up but this one I just couldn't finish. I bailed ?
  • (1/5)
    "Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: 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?"I may be the only one who thinks this, but I could not get through this book. I found it to be a total snooze fest. The story was very uninteresting and the author's writing style was very difficult to follow the story line. I try to finish every book I pick up but this one I just couldn't finish. I bailed ?