REVIEW of The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig

The Other DaughterRachel Woodley is working as a nursery governess in France when the telegram comes. Her hardworking mother, the only person left to her in life, is dying of influenza. When she arrives back in England, however, Rachel finds that she is too late–the funeral has already occurred, and her only role now is to clean out her mother’s house and try to find a new position as a governess or possibly a typist. But when she finds a magazine clipping in her mother’s room, her whole world is turned upside down. Her father, whom she had always been told was dead, is not only alive but has a wife and two children and a high position in 1920s society. Instead of being an orphan, Rachel is the illegitimate by-blow of a selfish earl.

Flummoxed and enraged, Rachel falls in with handsome blueblood Simon Montfort who happens to also be a columnist for a London gossip rag. He offers to set her up as his cousin in an expensive flat with a whole new wardrobe so that she can infiltrate the earl’s family. Playing the part of Vera Merton, Rachel searches for two things: the reason why, and sweet revenge. But once again, things are not as simple as they seem. Although Rachel’s father shows no recognition of her, Rachel soon find that her half-sister Olivia is more to be pitied than envied. As she develops a sympathy for the earl’s family, she begins to call Simon’s ulterior motives into question and to question the legitimacy of her own complaint. Nothing can halt her desire for a final confrontation, however. As Rachel and Simon crash a house party at the earl’s estate, masks come off and characters are revealed, leading to a well-constructed ending where both Rachel and the reader gain their satisfaction.

I admired many aspects of Lauren Willig’s book The English Wife, but for me, this story of The Other Daughter was pitch-perfect. The excess and phoniness of the Bright Young Things and their love for all things Bohemian is displayed in glittering detail. Rachel’s outrage is wholly believable. Her transformation into Vera Merton is skillful and enjoyable as she tiptoes into an alien world and makes her mark.

My favorite part about this book definitely has to be Simon. He is a character of many layers–the consummate 1920s playboy splashing about in alcohol and fast women but with waters that run much deeper below that exterior. The literary banter between Rachel and Simon is brilliant (although possibly incomprehensible to those who don’t know their Shakespeare).

I made the mistake of beginning this book at around 10:30pm last night, planning to just read a little before falling asleep…let’s just say that it’s going to be a very long day today. Wholeheartedly recommended…one of my favorite reads from this year.

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