Continuing the theme this week of my joy over Lauren Willig’s newest release, That Summer, I decided to post a review that I wrote for her first standalone novel, The Ashford Affair. This book was released in April of last year, and it’s now available in paperback. Lauren calls this book “a little Downton Abbey and a little Out of Africa.” If you’ve read it and felt like the ending was just a bit abrupt or left too many questions unanswered (I’m looking at you, Mom!), you may enjoy this entry on Lauren’s blog. She posted an entire final chapter of the book that was, to use her own words, “left on the cutting room floor.” I enjoyed the extra peak into what was going on with these characters. Below is my review of The Ashford Affair, written after my first reading in January 2013.
I won an advanced copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway listed by St. Martin’s Press. I could not have been more excited. I am a big fan of Lauren Willig’s “Pink Carnation” series, and I have been looking forward to seeing how Lauren would write on a topic that wasn’t Napoleonic spies.
I was hugely impressed. Lauren’s story spans about a hundred years of one family’s history, with settings in post-WWI England, 1920s Kenya, and modern day NYC. The modern-day heroine, Clementine Evans, is an associate in a law firm and trying desperately to become a partner. She has put the majority of her life on hold for her job, and all she has to show for it is a broken engagement and the realization that her beloved Granny Addie is 99 years old and looking it. When Granny Addie mistakenly refers to Clemmie as “Bea,” Clemmie realizes there are a lot of things she doesn’t know about her own family’s history, and she decides to do some digging.
Lauren’s flashbacks to England and Kenya are great. I loved the way she described the feel of England entering the jazz age – one generation trying hard to pretend nothing has changed while a younger generation pushes fearlessly into new music, fashions and entertainments. I enjoyed reading about the challenges of trying to start a coffee farm in Kenya. Lauren describes this book as more of a “Kate Morton” style of story than her previous books, and I agree with that. Along the way, as we slip back and forth between time periods, there are hints dropped and discoveries made that add to up a surprising, very satisfying conclusion.
I thought this book was great for several reasons. First, my grandmother passed away six months ago, so I identified strongly with Clemmie’s realization that time has slipped away, and there are countless things she wants to know about Granny Addie that she never thought to ask. Also, I have always liked the style of story where a family secret stretches over generations and enough clues remain for one person to piece the truth together. Lauren did a great job with this. Fans of Lauren’s earlier work will enjoy a hat-tip to her “Pink” readers – one of characters we meet in Kenya is a descendant of Lord Vaughn and Mary Alsworthy from the “Pink” series.
I have really enjoyed all of Lauren’s books, and it’s nice to know she won’t be riding off into the sunset when she brings the “Pink” series to a close. I look forward to seeing what she will do next!