Working-class Rachel Woodley is currently employed as a governess in France, but she must return to England in a hurry when she learns that her mother is ill. By the time she gets back to her native village, her mother has died. As a grieving Rachel sorts through her mother’s possessions, she discovers a shocking secret: her father, whom she believed had died many years ago, is actually alive and well. Moreover, he’s an earl with a wife and daughter — his legitimate family. Shocked and angry, Rachel decides she must confront her father somehow. With the help of Simon Montfort, a young gentleman who is part of the earl’s social circle, Rachel assumes a new identity in order to get closer to her father. As she infiltrates the crowd of Bright Young Things in 1920s London, she manages to meet her half-sister and even obtain an invitation to the earl’s home. But the more she gets to know this side of her family, the more Rachel wavers in her desire for revenge.
While I adore Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series, her standalone novels have been a bit less successful, in my opinion. They usually lack the humor that makes the Pink Carnation books so much fun, and Willig’s trademark dual narratives (one historical, one contemporary) would split my focus in a way that I found very distracting. Happily, in this book, there is no contemporary framework narrative; the entire book follows Rachel’s journey in the 1920s. Perhaps for this reason, I ended up really liking the novel! I found Rachel’s motivations and feelings very believable, as she tries to deal with the fact that her entire identity has shifted. I also like that her feelings slowly change as she realizes that neither her father nor her half-sister is the pure villain she imagined at first. Of course, there’s a romance in the book as well, which I enjoyed very much — Simon is a delicious hero with a very interesting backstory. Overall, I liked this book a lot and would definitely recommend it to fans of historical fiction!