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All booksMysteryThe English Wife
The English Wife by Lauren Willig
Mystery

The English Wife

Early Release
This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait 'til next month to read it.

by Lauren Willig

Quick take

It’s a bonbon of a book in the best way; every page feels like a secret indulgence, best read alone, curled up while wearing your most luxurious pajamas.

Why I love it

Dana Schwartz
Writer

A dazzling journey through the New York high society of the Gilded Age, where dresses and rumors are more important than politics, The English Wife drips with both Shakespeare references and near-pornographic descriptions of flapper-era fashion and well-appointed townhomes. It’s tempting to call this novel a mystery, but its scope is far wider than a whodunit: It’s a broad examination of culture and class at the turn of the twentieth century.

Brayard Van Duyvil is the impressively-named prodigal son of a prominent New York family and heir to its massive fortune. After his scandalous death and the disappearance of his new young bride, Brayard’s sister, Janie, tries to uncover the truth. Was it a murder/suicide? A stranger who killed them both and ran off into the night? Or neither? Janie aligns herself with a young reporter and discovers secrets about her family that she never would have expected. Janie’s story alternates with another, five years earlier and told from the perspective of an actress who had befriended Brayard on a trip long ago. As the reader jumps back and forth between the stories, we become privy to a gradual drip of information that unfurls the central mystery.

What makes this book truly unputdownable is Willig’s prose: clean and sharp, as if every sentence has been carved from a block of ice. Willig conjures a mood of candlelight and cobblestones, of heavy velvet dresses and newspapers with smeared print. It’s a bonbon of a book in the best way; in which every page feels like a secret indulgence, best read alone, curled up while wearing your most luxurious pajamas, or else while traveling by train to somewhere very far away.

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Synopsis

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he's the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he's recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she's having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay's sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

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Preview

Member thoughts

All (2639)
All (2639)
Love (1088)
Like (1295)
Dislike (256)
2803 ratings
  • 39% Love
  • 46% Like
  • 9% Dislike
  • Old Bridge , NJ

    I didn’t know what to expect with The English Wife, but quickly got swept away in its plotline. Mystery, historical fiction, and a dash of romance— this is everything I’ve been looking for in a novel!

  • chicago, IL

    I love historical fiction and this book is now one of my top favorites in that genre. There is SO much packed in this story - by the last page my heart was racing and I was exhausted!Highly recommend

  • Franklin Square , NY

    Ah the Gilded Age, a time when everything glittered gold but underneath that thin layer of gold,corruption and deception ran supreme. Everything seemed all perfect but then a murder changes everything

  • Miramar Beach, FL

    The stories of past and the present are carefully interwoven until they are merged at last chapter. With more than a few suspects for murder, my appetite for suspense was satisfied by Willig's skill

  • Newington, CT

    This is normally not a book I would have picked up, but I am glad I did. It had me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what was going to happen next. I could not put it down, I highly recommend it!

  • Greenville, NC

    This is the first whodunit that I really had a hard time figuring out what actually happened! It's a slow book but the way each character unravels as the story unfolds is remarkable. Exceptional read.

  • Lisbon, CT

    Much more of a mystery than I thought it'd be. I really enjoyed how some many genres seemed to be represented, and I really came to love Georgie and Janie. I wish all the loose ends were tied up thoug

  • Los Angeles, CA

    Lauren Willig is one of my favorite authors, and I loved this book! This book both evokes the Gilded Age atmosphere while having two awesome ladies at the story's center. Wish it didn't have to end <3

  • Sachse, TX

    What a great story!Bay and Annabelle Van Duyvil are a modern couple in the late 1800s.There are secrets discovered, and secrets hidden from family.Who can tell truth from illusion? And theres murder!

  • Los Angeles, CA

    I INHALED this book. I could not stop reading it and cancelled all my plans and finished it in 1 day. This book had everything. Delectable, decadent Gilded Age glamour, family drama, friendships, love

  • Atlanta, GA

    Janie is a firecracker trapped inside of a society sculpted reserved rich girl. Misjudged, misused, and underestimated, Janie makes me proud! The problems of yesterday are still the problems of today.

  • Oklahoma City, OK

    The English Wife has all the traits of a good mystery novel while the historical vibe keeps you glued to the pages. So many twists & turns, you’ll be guessing who the culprit is until the very end!

  • Barnesville, OH

    Lauren Willig is my favorite author and I love her books! After reading this...she's done it, again! This book was amazing! It kept me reading until I was done and I could read it all over! Brilliant!

  • Winchester, NH

    Definitely keps you hooked! One thing I wasn't crazy about was jumping back and forth between past and present. In some places it got confusing(for me) all around a great book! Couldn't put it down!!!

  • Salisbury, NC

    Love the twists that kept me guessing. Enjoyed the way the past & present were told leading up to the revealing of what happened. Liked all the romance. Plus it had me looking up words I'd never heard

  • Alpena, MI

    This historical book has a lot of unexpected twists. I felt awful for Georgie because she really got the short-end of the stick throughout her life. Janie's strength surprised me. Ending was shocking.

  • Purchase, NY

    A scintillating, warm read. The time hops made total sense and added a fullness to the storyline. Relatable, multifaceted characters shown brightly in this heart wrenching mystery about love and loss.

  • Fayetteville, AR

    I would usually never read historical fiction so I went out on a limb here & so glad I did. The multiple narrators gave different perspectives creating suspense & a realistic look on everything 5/5

  • Missouri City, TX

    Loved the mystery and intrigue. You are swept into the past to help solve the mystery. While the protagonist finds things out so do you so it's a surprise until the end to figure the whole story out.

  • Dracut, MA

    I think this was the most unpredictable story I have ever read. The ending was right there in front of us the whole time, but written so well that I really didn't see it coming. Loved the characters!

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