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Publisher: St. Martin's /Thomas Dunne
Publication Date: 02/09/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press/ Thomas Dunne and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Michelle Gable returns following her smashing debut, A Paris Apartment, where we met two unforgettable women, with I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS, she again blends, beautifully fact and fiction with two time periods, for an unforgettable journey!
Based on a true story, weaving together the life of Gladys Deacon, the Duchess of Marlborough with tales of two women: A young woman (Pru) who’s just lost her fiancé in the Vietnam War in the 1970s, and a recent college graduate (Annie) living in Virginia shortly after 9/11 in 2001.
Nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, after losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War. Later she meets a man and they go to Paris.
Thirty years later, (as the book opens) in Middleburg, Virginia, Laurel’s daughter Annie is engaged to Eric, and he is going off to war. Her mother is concerned about this arrangement. Annie is questioning her father, grandparents, aunts and uncles. As far as Annie knew their family tree was mostly barren, woefully branchless. She did not have siblings, and neither did her mom. What about her dad’s tree?
Mother and daughter are off to England to take care of some business, for Laurel’s retirement (an inheritance), which of course Annie knew nothing of. Her mom does not seem to be very forthcoming with answers.
Prior to leaving, Annie discovers a mysterious box of documents, and an ancient blue book. The Missing Duchess. A mysterious book and Annie’s quest to understand. Off to the Banbury Inn, Oxfordshire England. What in the heck? Did her mom have a secret past? She is so secretive and vague.
Gladys Marie Spencer-Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1881–1977), was an American socialite. She was the mistress and later the second wife of Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. Born to a wealthy Newport family, the dazzling Miss Deacon though privileged, no one would accuse her of being sheltered.
• By age ten Gladys Deacon had lived in four different countries.
• At eleven she was placed in the custody of a convicted murderer.
• She was kidnapped at twelve and in the middle of a worldwide murder scandal.
• At fourteen, she declared her love for the Duke of Marlborough, her future husband
• At sixteen she debuted in London where she met her future husband, who was already married.
• By twenty she was living independently in Paris, in an apartment she owned alone.
In 1906, at the age of twenty-five, Gladys cemented her friendship with Marcel Proust, which led to friendships with the most eminent writers of the era: Hardy, Wharton, Waugh. And of course Henry James. The men, the lovers, a pending marriage fell apart. What happened to the duchess? Did she vanish?
Her husband died, and she disappeared from her palace in the 1930s and turns up in the English countryside in the 1970s.
Back to Laurel and Annie: When they get to England, Laurel gets busy with sorting out her affairs, and leaves Annie time to read, and explore into the life of the mysterious Gladys Deacon. While reading she meets Gus, an older guy in a nearby pub. He seems to know a lot of history. She soon learns the lady in question, was a hot topic; one with spooky blue eyes who ran round Banbury helter-skelter, shooting guns and shouting obscenities. She called herself Mrs. Spencer.
“The dens of the mad often hold the greatest riches.”
The best part— Gus tells the story from Newport, a decade before Annie was born. Pru, nineteen, a bookish girl who left university after a year to get married. When she learned there would be no marriage, (Charlie died in Vietnam), she sees an ad White Collar Girl Needed in Oxfordshire, England as a personal assistant for a cultured older woman with the requirements: love literature and the English countryside—salary plus free board. She was hired. The perfect gal for the job.
Let the fun begin at the Grange. (a run-down monstrosity). The eccentric old lady had been living independently at ninety-plus years. A recluse. (love her) Tom a displaced Polish man, a handyman in the barn. Win Seton is a writer who is convinced Mrs. Spencer is Marlborough, attempting to write a story.
Flashing back and forth Annie digs deeper into the background to learn more about the fascinating Duchess of Marlborough’s past. Quite interesting and scandalous. . .
Soon Anna learns the connection ---to her own past, and the journey finally gets to magical Paris, with an adventurous side tour. From witty, mysterious, quirky, charming, and intriguing-- infused with rich history and literary sparks from the endless collection of the eccentric duchess quotes.
I love mysteries and hidden dark family secrets. I’ve always wondered what secrets my parents or grandparents have in their past. Historical fans will delight--and those intrigued by the intelligent woman who inspired this lovely tale. Gable sticks closely to the real facts and takes liberties where needed with some pleasant surprises. The author recommends further reading and references if you want to know more about the most beautiful and tempestuous woman.
Well-researched, complex and moving…A nice mother-daughter relationship. Beautiful settings, and a stunning cover-- once again. Gable’s passion shines through the pages, as the characters come alive for an engaging read! Fans of Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Beatriz Williams will enjoy. If you have not read, A Paris Apartment, highly recommend. (Still on the top bestseller list).