Rachel Woodley is a governess in France when she gets a belated message that her adored mother is dying. She arrives back home, too late, and is left only with the remnants of her mother’s life. As Rachel sorts through pictures and magazine clippings, she comes to realize that her mother had kept a life-altering secret from her, namely that her father did not die when Rachel was 4 years old. Instead, he assumed an Oxfordshire lordship, married an heiress, and had two more children, all while Rachel and her mother lived out their simple lives in obscurity. Shocked at her mother’s betrayal and her father’s abandonment, Rachel joins forces with a gossip columnist to assume a new identity, ingratiate herself with the aristocracy, and reestablish contact with the father she thought long dead. But all this comes with an enormous costs – how will she return to her quiet life after she’s glimpsed all the comes with the upper class life? How will she approach her father, who does not recognize her? How can she hurt a half-sister who has depths Rachel has come to appreciate?
This 2015 novel by Ms. Willig really lacked the punch of her other works I’ve enjoyed: “Forgotten Room” and “That Summer“. Rachel seems too clueless in her real life and almost maniacal when she transforms into Vera to insert herself into the upper crust of society. The romance (I won’t give it away here) feels terribly forced – the hero is given redeeming virtues rather late to make him likable – and only Lady Olivia (Rachel’s half-sister) seems to ring true. The premise of the separation (Rachel’s mother telling Rachel her father died and starting a new life elsewhere) doesn’t feel authentic. Overall, it’s an interesting premise if a bit forced with no real plot surprises. For a heroine with more pluck and a more engaging plot, I’d recommend Ms. Willig’s “That Summer”.
Amazon link is here.