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. . . .
Growing up at Ashford Park in the early twentieth century, Addie has never quite belonged. When her parents passed away, she was taken into the grand English house by her aristocratic aunt and uncle, and raised side-by-side with her beautiful and outgoing cousin, Bea. Though they are as different as night and day, Addie and Bea are closer than sisters, through relationships and challenges, and a war that changes the face of Europe irrevocably. But what happens when something finally comes along that can’t be shared? When the love of sisterhood is tested by a bond that’s even stronger?
From the inner circles of 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.– Goodreads
While I have read and even listened to many Willig books, this was a change from her previous novels, which are all part of a series, The Ashford Affair is a stand alone. That being said it still highlights Willig’s strong writing, while showing two different time periods. Told in two time periods: early 20th century and then later 20th century we are taken into Clemmie’s life and family. While the name Clemmie makes me cringe, she is a solid character who has devoted her life to being a lawyer, and quickly realizes she doesn’t have much to show for it besides a job that she basically hates. Her engagement has ended (see job) and her grandmother just celebrated her 99th birthday. Her grandmother’s birthday celebration slowly changes everything for Clemmie.
Her grandmother, Addie, is the other half of the story. Addie grew up in Ashford Park, after a devistating accident that took her parents away from her. Addie’s aunt has made it clear that Addie is not meant for Ashford Park as her father married a lower class. Addie’s cousin Bea however has never treated her this way. Addie and Bea are true family, and not just because their family, but because they are the family they made for each other. Lately I’ve been very big about the family you not only have, but also the family that you chose. Although they were forced together, Addie and Bea are the family that they ended up choosing for each other. While the world around them is changing, they constantly try to be there for each other. This bond however is tested when Bea tests the bonds of their friendship by an act that most friendships can not sustain through. Addie and Bea always needed each other, but were also very jealous of each other. One more than the other, which comes out during the pivotal moment.
Back in present day, 1999, Clemmie knows nothing about Addie and Addie’s lie. This hits Addie like a lead balloon when Addie looks like she is on her death bed at her party and Clemmie worries she has no more time left. Through use of excellent parallels, Willig not only compares and contrasts the two characters but life in general with love and loss. Clemmie also has Jon, a cousin through marriage, to assist her through this, she isn’t doing this alone.
This was a quick paced story that wove together and made me hang on to every word quite well. Willig showed she will not only be known for her series, but also her stand alones. I cannot wait to see what will come from her next.