It seems like forever since I’ve written a review, hasn’t it? I am doing my best to get better with that. This year has been rough reading wise for me, which sucks. But I will get there. I’m doing my best for now. Anyway! Onto the good stuff. 🙂
The Bahamas, 1941: Newly-widowed Lulu Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the new 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 infamous couple posted to this colonial backwater during World War II after their marriage nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees. What more compelling setting for a magazine feature than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a 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 glitter of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies a complex—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau roils with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of magnetic 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 cover-up reeks of royal privilege. Benedict disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London to unpick his complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a German mother, the baroness Elfriede von Kleist, from whom all joy is stolen.
Thread by thread, the stories of Lulu and Elfriede weave together in this remarkable tour de force of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and courage, set against a shocking true crime… and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.
Beatriz Williams is one of those authors to whom I’m late to the party in reading. I’ve heard many good things, even own two of her other books, but I hadn’t yet read them, given that I found myself busy reading other things. But as I’ve been in the midst of this dreadful book rut, I picked this one up through Book of the Month club. What a delight! It’s so rare that when I’m in a book rut, that anything grabs my attention. Now, I admit…I found the beginning slow and I did find Lulu’s way of speaking a tad…frustrating. I just couldn’t click with it, if that makes sense. I found myself more drawn to Elfriede’s story rather than Lulu’s. Elfriede is in a sanitarium because she feels absolutely nothing towards her new baby. It’s what we know today as postpartum depression. Her timeline is WWI, whilst Lulu is in WWII. It was amusing to see a mention of Pearl Harbor–nowadays, everyone would know within a second. But as Lulu was in the Bahamas, the news took a bit to reach there.
I also enjoyed learning about the unsolved murder and reading about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. If you thought they were the main focus, I am sorry to disappoint. This isn’t to say they’re not part of it–they’re just more secondary figures. (And yet…still feel larger than life.) They’re amongst some of my favorite figures in history; so very maligned and so fascinating. They were controversial and remain so, but perhaps that is what makes them intriguing.
I’m not the biggest fan of split storylines, but Lulu and Elfriede’s stories came together quite nicely. I wasn’t entirely sure how that would work, but when it clicks, it clicks. I haven’t read Ms. Williams ‘Schyuler Sisters’ novels (no, not the ones from Hamilton), but apparently, there’s a surprise tie in? A fun tidbit for the hardcore followers. (Thanks to my pals for pointing that out to me! <3)
Regardless, I’d give this a solid three stars. I may reread it when I’m out of this rut, but for now, I am simply grateful it held my attention to get me back to doing what I love most.
PS: Isn’t that cover beautiful?