It’s book launch day for Lauren Willig and The Other Daughter!
Huge thanks to St. Martin’s Press and to NetGalley for letting me get my hands on an early copy. If you’re picking up your copy today, you are in for such a treat! I’m going to include my review below – I am *almost* positive that there’s nothing in it you may consider a spoiler, but if you like to dive into a book knowing only what you’ve read on the jacket, maybe give the rest of this post a miss until you’ve finished the book. Happy reading to one and all!
When I received an email from NetGalley letting me know that an ARC of Lauren Willig’s The Other Daughter was available for me to download, I did a serious happy dance. But I made myself wait a few weeks to begin it. A new book from Lauren is a thing to be savored, and I knew that when I started it, it would be over all too quickly. True to form, once I did sit down with my Nook, I gulped this book down in two sittings. Once again, and as always, Lauren has delivered an excellent story.
When Rachel Woodley receives a telegram in Normandy informing her that her mother is sick with influenza, she immediately packs her bags for her home in Netherwell, England. But by the time Rachel sets foot on home soil, her mother is already gone. Rachel can’t imagine that her grief could be any worse, but then she finds a newspaper clipping among her mother’s bedclothes. In that clipping is a picture of Rachel’s father – her father who died when she was only four – escorting his daughter, Lady Olivia Standish, to a society function. Suddenly, Rachel’s past is a lie. She isn’t the daughter of a respectable, hard-working widow. She is the other daughter – the illegitimate daughter – of an earl. With no idea how to move forward and no clue how to fill in the gaps in her history, Rachel joins forces with Simon Montfort, a gossip columnist with a past as murky as her own, to find a way to insinuate herself into her father’s set. She makes a daring entrance into London society, masquerading as Vera Merton, and quickly becomes the toast of the Bright Young Things. Her goal: get herself invited to her half-brother’s twenty-first birthday at the family seat and seize the opportunity to confront her father. But as Rachel pushes deeper into Lady Olivia’s social circle, she realizes that she is woefully ignorant of the shared history in this set. And although Simon Montfort has promised to help her, Rachel begins to suspect that his reasons for interfering in her family affairs may not be as straightforward as she thought.
The idea at the heart of this story is a familiar one – what would you do if you found out that your past was not what you’d always thought? But even though this premise is one I’ve read before, Lauren’s variation on the theme is fresh. Rachel is an excellent narrator. I was indignant and angry right along with her when she learned that her father had abandoned her. I celebrated with her when she launched herself into London society without a single person questioning her backstory. I turned up my nose with her at the empty lives of the Bright Young Things with their “too, too sick-making” rounds of parties and entertainments. But then, when Rachel starts losing herself in the façade of Vera Merton, I worried for her. Is she becoming so single-minded that she is willing to hurt the people who are, even though they don’t know it, her family? And if she does manage to get close enough to her father to force a confrontation, what will she do if his reaction isn’t what she’s been hoping for? I started to feel less “in Rachel’s corner” and more disappointed in the person she was becoming, and I was holding my breath to see if Lauren would redeem her in the end.
I loved the relationship between Simon and Rachel. They fling Much Ado about Nothing quotes at each other fast enough to make your head swim. They bicker, but they find genuine comfort in each other’s company. And at heart, they are very similar – two people who are unsure where they belong but brave enough to make a fresh start somewhere new. Watching Lauren peel back the layers to show Rachel the real Simon was like watching a picture resolve into focus. You think you see him clearly, but shift a few things around and see how he’s brought into sharper relief. The revelations are not always good ones, but Simon is a better, more interesting character in the end for the twists that Lauren puts him through.
On a more technical note, this is the first of Lauren’s stand-alone books that does not shift perspective between a modern and historical storyline. I didn’t even realize until halfway through the book that she had made this departure from form, but it didn’t bother me a bit. I loved all the setting detail that she included – the brief glimpse of Rachel’s life as a governess in France, the fancy-dress parties and beautiful flat in London, and the imposing estate at Carrisford Court. The supporting cast she created for Rachel’s story is incredible.
To sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Thanks to Downton Abbey, I shouldn’t be surprised at the lengths that the British aristocracy would go to in order to keep a title and an estate intact, but Lauren kept me on my toes. I can’t wait to see what she’s planning for her next book.