I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

The author of the fabulous Pink Carnation Napoleonic War spy series has once more written a stand alone book.  This one is set in the 1920s and features Rachel Woodley whose beloved father, a botanist, died abroad when she was four.  She and her mother moved to a cottage in a small English town and her mother supported them by teaching piano.  Once Rachel was old enough, she took jobs as a governess in France.  She's now twenty-seven and one night finally receives the telegram from home that has been lying around for days that says her mother has the Spanish Influenza.  Rachel's best friend's husband is the town doctor, and she knows he will do what he can for her, but she knows he probably has lots of other patients and her mother is all she has left in this world.  She asks her boss, Madame, if she can take a week off to see to her mother and when she says no, Rachel quits.

When she arrives home, Alice tells her that not only has her mother died, but they buried her yesterday.  She was never able to say goodbye to her.  To top it off, the man who rented the cottage to her mother is kicking her out.  While grieving her mother in her room, she discovers a gossip magazine picture of Edward, Earl of Ardlemore, escorting his affianced daughter out on the town.  The man is the spitting image of her father, right down to the tiny scar on the chin.  She compares the picture to the ones her mother had of him and the resemblance is remarkable.  She knows it could not have been him because her mother would never have had an affair with a man without being married to him.

Rachel goes to see her cousin David, a scholar in Oxford, who has looked after the two of them over the years.  She shows him the picture and demands an explanation.  David is forced to tell her that the man is indeed her father.  He did not die.  It seems to her that he left them to marry an heiress and go on to have two children, Olivia and then Jicksy, and that she is a bastard.  Rachel is furious and wants revenge and an explanation and what else she is not really sure of.  As she is leaving David's office, a man comes in.  It is Simon Montfort, who is related to her father's family in a very distant way.  The family tree is rather huge and goes back to the Norman invasion.  He is on the outs with the family now, and his father has refused to have anything to do with him after his rather wild mother ran off with an Italian.  His mother is in America with a daughter she had with husband number four.  Simon works as a "gossip columnist" for a local rag.

He hatches a plan for Rachel to get her revenge and for him to get one over on the "Bright Young Things" and the family by introducing a "distant cousin" from France, who is fashionable, but not so fast that she won't be able to get an invitation to visit with Olivia and get an invitation to the country home where Jicksy's twenty-first birthday will be held and she can confront her father.  Vera Merton is now born, with a short, cute haircut and clothes borrowed from his sister, she moves into his mother's place in town.  Slowly he begins to introduce her to the fringes of society, where she charms many by mainly just saying what she thinks, which they find incredibly witty and she becomes wildly popular, especially with Simon's cousin, Cece, and Olivia's fiancé, who is a representative in the government, and on the rise.

Rachel discovers that she cannot hate Olivia, as much as she wants to, especially when she sees how badly Olivia life is in reality.  Simon warns Rachel that there are rules and mores in society and that she cannot afford to mess up.  She tells him she knows which fork to use, but finds out later, that what he meant was something much deeper.  These people have known each other all their lives and know their intimate secrets.  Things that Rachel does not know, such as a secret Simon has been keeping from her that she believes is the reason he really wanted to embark on this scheme.

Rachel finds herself shocked at how easily she is slipping into the decadent life and shedding her "bourgeois" self and fitting in with these people.  After glimpsing at her father, she's not sure what she wants from him: to sweep her up in his arms and welcome her to the family, give her the truth about what happened, apologize, or pay for what he did.

Simon is extremely witty, which hides a tortured soul that he wants no one to know about.  He and Rachel banter back and forth like two people from an Oscar Wilde play.  The dialogue in this book is fabulous and the story is very original and captivating.  There are many secrets and you will have to get to the end of the book before you find out about all of them.  Willig, as usual, keeps you on the edge of your seat, as Rachel as Vera, whirls through society, nearly losing herself in the process and learning more about life than she expected to ever learn.

History did strange things when one played with it.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 13)
There was something about dawn, about the right sort of dawn, that made all the frights of the night seem so much nonsense.
---Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 14)
If I waited to be invited, I would never go anywhere at all.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 47)
Life is a cheap trick.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 59)
No sin is original, no matter what the Bright Young Things may hope.  We’re all merely playing to a theme.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 72)
‘Let me guess’ said Rachel, a little too loudly. ‘You’re writing a novel.’
Simon glanced down at her. ‘And stain these precious fingers with ink?  I don’t like getting my hands dirty.’
‘Fine words from a gossip columnist.’ Rachel taunted.
‘Ah, but there’s the difference.  I expose the weakness of others.  Not my own…One can’t write a novel without stripping one’s soul.  Really when you think of it, the entire endeavor is quite indecent.’
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 82)
Oh, we’re all complicit…The whole rotten lot of us.  But if Roman is burning, why not light a cigarette in the flames.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 83)
I’m no madder than anyone else I know, which isn’t saying terribly much.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 83)
Why should one chronicle life when one can live it?
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 92)
We’re all liars, my sweet.  Some of us are simply better at it than others.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 93)
‘For centuries, we have grappled with the baser parts of our nature.’
‘Maybe you do…I like to cosset mine and take it out for tea.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 110)
War is a gutter game, not a gentleman’s sport.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 111)
An opinion is a dangerous thing to have.
--Lauren Willig (The Other Daughter p 116)

Link to Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Other-Daughter-Novel-Lauren-Willig/dp/125005642X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484833978&sr=1-1&keywords=the+other+daughter+lauren+willig

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