June 23, 2013

Book Review: Lauren Willig's The Ashford Affair

It's 1999, and after working nonstop for seven years, Clementine Evans is finally about to make partner at her New York law firm. Clemmie's been so focused on her job she hasn't spent much time with her family; at her Granny Addie's 99th birthday party, Clemmie is shocked to realize how frail her grandmother has become. She's even more confused when Addie mistakes Clemmie for a woman named Bea--a woman Clemmie has never heard of, but whose name distresses both her mother and aunt.

Lauren Willig's The Ashford Affair sends Clemmie on a voyage of discovery back to her grandmother's life as a Kenyan coffee farmer in the 1920s and 1930s, then even further back to her grandmother's childhood at Ashford Park, home of the Earls of Gillecote. The stories of Addie's upbringing, and her complicated relationship with her cousin Bea, are all new to Clemmie, who is staggered to realize that her beloved grandmother has been hiding secrets for 70 years.

Willig (author of the Pink Carnation series) skillfully intertwines three separate story lines--New York at the end of the 20th century, London during the Great War and Kenya in the 1920s--as she tells the stories of Addie, Bea and Clemmie. Clemmie's modern stresses interweave seamlessly with Addie's wartime worries to create a fascinating, yet believable, Bridget Jones meets Downton Abbey atmosphere. Fans of Willig's other books or of Kate Morton's family sagas will enjoy The Ashford Affair.

Really, The Ashford Affair is like Kate Morton lite - a great historical framework to a modern love story; without the haunting sadness of some of Morton's books. I really liked Addie's character, and I enjoyed the 1920s setting of a large part of the book; reminiscent of some scenes I love from Maisie Dobbs.

If you're looking for similar books, I just finished A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn, which is also set in 1920s Kenya, but I greatly preferred The Ashford Affair. Addie was a much more likeable heroine than Raybourn's Delilah.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure!

Have you read Willig or Raybourn?

I originally wrote the main part of this review for Shelf Awareness. This post contains affiliate links - thanks for supporting Quirky Bookworm!