New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig "spins a web of lust, power and loss" (Kate Alcott) that is by turns epic and intimate, transporting and page-turning
As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .
What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.
Excerpt from the author's site:
Addie’s gloves were streaked with sweat and red dust.
It wasn’t just her gloves. Looking down, she winced at the sight of her once pearl-colored suit, now turned gray and rust with smoke and dust. Even in the little light that managed to filter through the thick mosquito netting on the windows, the fabric was clearly beyond repair. The traveling outfit that had looked so smart in London had proved to a poor choice for the trip from Mombassa.
She felt such a fool. What had she been thinking? It had cost more than her earnings for the month, that dress, an unpardonable extravagance in these days when her wardrobe ran more to the sensible than the chic. It had taken a full afternoon of scouring Oxford Street, going into one shop, then the next, this dress too common, that too expensive, nothing just right, until she finally found it, just a little more than she could afford, looking almost, if one looked at it in just the right way, as though it might be couture, rather than a poor first cousin to it.
She had peacocked in her tiny little flat, posing in front of the mirror with the strange ripple down the middle, twisting this way and that to try to get the full effect, her imagination presenting her with a hundred tempting images. Bea coming to the train to meet her, an older more matronly Bea, her silver-gilt hair burned straw by the equatorial sun, her figure softened by childbearing. She would see Addie, stepping off the train in her smart new frock with her smart new haircut and exclaim in surprise. She would turn Addie this way and that, marveling at her, her new city sophistication, her sleek hair, her newly plucked brows.
“You’ve grown up,” Bea would say. And Addie would smile, just a wry little hint of a smile, the sort of smile you saw over cocktails at the Ritz, and say, “It does happen.”
And, then, from somewhere behind her, Frederick would say, “Addie?” and she would turn, and see surprise and admiration chasing one another across his face as he realized, for the first time, just what he had left behind in London.
Sweat dripped between her breasts, damping her dress. She didn’t need to look down to know that she was hopelessly splotched, with the sort of sweat stains that would turn yellow with washing.
Addie permitted herself a twisted smile. She had so hoped—such an ignoble hope!—that just once, she might look the better by comparison, that even a poor first cousin to couture might come off first in comparison to the efforts of Nairobi’s dressmakers. Instead, here she was again, an utter mess, a month and a week away from all that was familiar and comfortable, chugging across the plains of Africa—and why?
David had asked her that before she left. Why?
He had asked it so sensibly, so logically. Her first impulse had been to bristle, to tell him it was no business of his. But it was, she knew that. The ring he had given her hung on a chain around her neck, a pre-engagement rather than an engagement. Put it on when I come back, she had told him. We can make the announcements then.
But why wait? he had asked. Why go?
Because… she had begun, and faltered. How could she answer him when she didn’t quite know why herself? She had mumbled something about her favorite cousin, about Bea needing her, about old affections and old debts.
All the way to Africa? he had asked, with that quirk of the brow that his students so dreaded, as they sputtered their way through their explications of Plato’s Republic or Aristotle’s Politics.
Perhaps I want to go because I want to go, she had said sharply. Hadn’t he thought of that? That she might want to travel beyond the borders of the country, just once in her life? That she might want to live a little before donning an apron and cooking his dinners? More here.