I’ve read quite a few of Lauren Willig’s novels, in particular her series about the French spy network beginning with the Pink Carnation. Her novels are a mix of romance and 007-esque themes based in the period of 18th Century. Willig has an excellent style of writing, in that it is simplistic and well-organized. She has done her research thoroughly of the time period that she is writing about and it’s really a pleasure to read those (highly suggest them!). The novel, herein, is not a classic Willig novel, which made me think “maybe I won’t like it as much as her others.” Well, it was unique in itself!
The Ashford Affair takes place in two eras, with three different main characters. Clementine is a modern-day lawyer living in New York City. She is the granddaughter of Addie who celebrates her 99th birthday in 1999. The other era of the novel took place in the time span of early 1900s to 1929 during Addie’s childhood to early adulthood. The third main character was Bea, Addie’s cousin. The Ashford Affair alludes to the truth behind how Addie became Clementine’s grandmother.
Willig does an excellent job of jumping from modern day Clementine to Addie growing up in the Ashford manor in England with Bea. Addie was an orphan; the only daughter of Bea’s father’s younger brother. Both of Addie’s parents were bookworms and well-educated who liked quiet places and disliked high society, things that Addie reflected in her personality. Bea, on the other hand, was raised in a large estate and loved attention. The difference between these two characters and their relationship, in my mind, is what drove the novel’s main theme of friendship, relationship (romantic or familial), and blood is thicker than water, but only some instances.
The crux of the “Ashford Affair” is Bea having an affair on her husband with Addie’s best friend, Frederick, and gets pregnant by him. They end up getting married, Bea and Frederick, and move to Kenya. In Kenya, is where the story gets very interesting. I’m not going to say what exactly happens, even though I alluded to it earlier. This is the only part of the novel that not only confused me but wasn’t well-ended. Willig is usually a gifted story-teller, who completes a story in full detail. But, in this novel, the ending is rushed and it feels as if she says “they fall in love and she goes away, the end.” It’s a bit odd, and not representative of the previous 320+ pages.
As always, Willig is a stellar novelist, and for a change of her usual novel, this story did not disappoint. It was an interesting story that kept me reading and entertained. The ending was anti-climactic, but hey, you can’t have everything you desire. Anyway, pick this read up if you’re in the mood for a historical/modern fictional story.