Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Ashford Affair

The Ashford Affair
By Lauren Willig
Published: April 9, 2013

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig "spins a web of lust, power and loss" (Kate Alcott) that is by turns epic and intimate, transporting and page-turning 

As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she’s been working towards—but now she’s not sure it’s enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie’s ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .

What follows is a potent story that spans generations and continents, bringing an Out of Africa feel to a Downton Abbey cast of unforgettable characters. From the inner circles of WWI-era British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.

My review:

This book has features a storytelling device that I particularly enjoy-a dual narrative that is set in the past and the present. It also revolves around family secrets, something that I love. The Ashford Affair is compared to Downton Abbey and Out of Africa but the characters didn't really remind me of Downton Abbey though Addie is a "poor relation" of an aristocratic family. The book does look at the limitations placed on women at that time as well as the slightly increasing freedoms available to them which might appeal to fans of the show. While I am not as familiar with Out of Africa, I did think that the part of the story that takes place in Africa did not have the sense of place I expected, perhaps because I had recently finished reading A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn which does a tremendous job with the setting.

While the description gives more room to Clemmie, it is Addie's story that I think is most important. I wanted to know her secrets and find out what happened in Kenya. Addie starts out as a young orphan who is taken to live at Ashford by her uncle, the Earl. Her aunt doesn't like her at all but Addie's cousin Bea takes her in and makes her feel wanted. Bea is a complicated character but Addie adores her in spite of her failings until they grow up and things change.

I started out really liking this book and its characters, especially Addie but as the story went on, that changed. Addie comes across as naive and childlike while her love interest is jaded and dealing with PTSD after WWI.  Addie did serve as a nurse so it wasn't like she was sheltered from the war. She was just living in a fairy tale world in a way. From that point on, the historical parts of the book didn't work as well for me. I didn't like her love interest and his behavior and when Addie arrived in Kenya, I felt disappointed. I wanted more detail and to feel like she was in Kenya because of the description and detail. It wasn't enough for me. I also couldn't stand Bea by that point though I did understand that she felt trapped by her circumstances.

The ending left some things unanswered regarding Addie and Bea. I wish that been explored in more detail. I also thought that things wrapped up too neatly in the modern story. There is a big secret revealed but then it ends without looking at how it impacts the characters.

My thoughts overall is that this is mostly a good book (with flaws) but it could have benefited from more detail in the historical parts. I thought the characters were interesting but flawed and the elements of mystery kept me turning the pages even when some of the characters annoyed me. I liked that The Ashford Affair is different from the author's Pink Carnation series which has more humor, romance, and mystery while The Ashford Affair was more of a family saga. I would suggest this book to fans of Lauren Willig and Sarah Jio. For those looking for more historical detail, perhaps try A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from Amazon Vine


  1. Fantastic review! I have been really curious about this book. It seems you liked it despite the flaws. I would probably want more historical detail as well. I also really like dual narratives with one in the past, one in the's usually so effective at getting me hooked! I think I may give this one a try this summer. I should probably add Spear of Summer Grass to my TBR list, too. Thanks for the great review!

  2. I think I had a similar opinion about the characters. They were fine but as the romance picked up, I became more disengaged from the characters. I preferred the lightness of the Pink Carnation series much more!


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