The Ashford Affair

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.

ashford

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!

Happy Release Day, Lauren Willig!

that summer

Ok y’all, get ready, because I have been looking forward to this day for months. MONTHS, I tell you. Today, June 3rd, is release day for Lauren Willig’s latest standalone novel That Summer.

For those of you who do not know, I love and adore Lauren Willig in a way that rivals Leslie Knope’s enthusiasm for Ann Perkins.

Leslie Ann

I started reading her books about four years ago, and I own every one. She writes the Pink Carnation series, which are historical fiction and mysteries set in the early 1800s. The eleventh book in that series is coming out later this year.

Lauren announced recently that her Pink series would be coming to an end with the publication of book twelve in 2015. Although I’m sure there will be plenty of weeping and existential crisis when I’ve read the last one, I’m so glad to know that Lauren won’t be done with writing when she is done with Pink. Last year, Lauren published her first standalone novel, The Ashford Affair, which wove together the stories of a modern Manhattan girl with her grandmother who lived in Edwardian England and Kenya. It was excellent, and now I cannot wait to read her latest release.

Here is what St. Martin’s Press has to say about That Summer:

A page-turning new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig, about a woman who inherits a house in England… and the mysterious past that comes with it.

2009: When Julia Conley hears that she has inherited a house outside London from an unknown great-aunt, she assumes it’s a joke. She hasn’t been back to England since the car crash that killed her mother when she was six (and gave her nightmares that have lasted into adulthood). But when she arrives at Herne Hill to sort through the house—with the help of her cousin Natasha and sexy antiques dealer Nicholas—bits of memory start coming back. And then she discovers a pre-Raphaelite painting, hidden behind the false back of an old wardrobe, and a window onto the house’s shrouded history begins to open…

1849: Imogen Grantham has spent nearly a decade trapped in a loveless marriage to a much older man, Arthur. The one bright spot in her life is her step-daughter, Evie, a high-spirited sixteen year old who is the closest thing to a child Imogen hopes to have. But everything changes when three young painters come to see Arthur’s collection of medieval artifacts, including Gavin Thorne, a quiet man with the unsettling ability to read Imogen better than anyone ever has. When Arthur hires Gavin to paint her portrait, none of them can guess what the hands of fate have set in motion.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, Lauren has posted the first chapter on her website so you can take a peek at it.

While you are doing that, I’ll be at the book store.