The Ashford Affair. Lauren Willig. St. Martin’s Press. April 2013. 368 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9781250014498
Addie Gillicote’s life has evolved into a series of dramatic changes, some of which fall upon her and some of which she inadvertently causes. Her granddaughter, Clementine (Clemmie), seems to be following the same journey. It all begins with the sudden, accidental death of Addie’s parents when she is sent to live with her cousin, Bea’s family. Addie is really unwanted, the daughter of “bohemian” parents who really doesn’t fit into the aristocratic family she is now expected to call her own. WWI looms almost immediately upon her arrival, but Bea and Addie promise from the very first day to be like “sisters.” What is to follow is far from sisterly behavior!
The story goes back and forth between the late 1920’s in England to New York in the year 2000. Addie is old and frail but we are treated to the story of her life, which includes falling in love with what she believes is the wrong man; Bea marries the wrong man, divorces, and then is forced to marry another man, Frederick; they quickly tire of each other and even come to loathe each other. Bea believes she saved Addie from the likes of Frederick but the story shows otherwise with a shocking series of events that doesn’t come to light until Clemmie, years later finds out the truth that is really about lie after lie after lie.
Frederick is a stereotypical character marred by the awful memories he carries from his time of service in WWI. He is so shocked and marred that he is incapable of following his heart instead of reasoning what could possibly destroy the woman he truly loves! He will change but not until he is so in love with a daughter that he fears to choose a lifestyle that might mean losing her and later his wife, Bea.
In a time when couples married for social standing, love arrangements seem to be satirized, especially when they are reached through rebellion and from selfish interests. Clemmie, after losing a senior associate lawyer’s position in which she hoped to become partner after seven grueling years of work and sacrifice, is circumspect about the possibility of love and finding where to fit in for one’s own worth, a position contrary to everything she was raised to believe would guarantee happiness. Changing times often leave behind personalities who either refuse to change or who choose the most contrary opposite of lifestyles. It’s all about finding one’s identity as one loses the old ways; for some it works, for others it’s tragic!
The Ashford Affair is a gripping story of love and hate gone awry and reaching out for a satisfactory union that will heal a mass of wounds almost worse than war itself! Lauren Willig has crafted a stunning read that is quite reflective of the eighty year span of history that shaped and jettisoned generations into the twenty-first century. Great Read!