Review: The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig
Source: Digital galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Expected publication: July 21, 2015 by St. Martin’s Press
Raised in a poor yet genteel household, Rachel Woodley is working in France as a governess when she receives news that her mother has died, suddenly. Grief-stricken, she returns to the small town in England where she was raised to clear out the cottage…and finds a cutting from a London society magazine, with a photograph of her supposedly deceased father dated all of three month before. He’s an earl, respected and influential, and he is standing with another daughter-his legitimate daughter. Which makes Rachel…not legitimate. Everything she thought she knew about herself and her past-even her very name-is a lie.
Still reeling from the death of her mother, and furious at this betrayal, Rachel sets herself up in London under a new identity. There she insinuates herself into the party-going crowd of Bright Young Things, with a steely determination to unveil her father’s perfidy and bring his-and her half-sister’s-charmed world crashing down. Very soon, however, Rachel faces two unexpected snags: she finds she genuinely likes her half-sister, Olivia, whose situation isn’t as simple it appears; and she might just be falling for her sister’s fiancé…
From Lauren Willig, author of the New York Times bestselling novel The Ashford Affair, comes The Other Daughter, a page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge.
With the set-up of 1920s London, the world of the Bright Young Things and deception in high society, The Other Daughter gets the reader primed for flapper-era intrigue and machinations. And while the novel does certainly deliver its weight in delicious fashion, entertainment and witty repartee, I found it to be, as a whole, lighter than expected.
I think part of problem was that I anticipated something different in terms of story and focus. This is due, in part, to the book’s description which, I think, is a tad misleading. The major focus of the novel ends up being the relationship (and sometimes try-hard banter) that develops between Rachel and a handsome gossip columnist/man-about-town charmer named Simon. The storyline regarding Rachel’s half-sister Olivia and fiancé is there, of course, but that is not given as much depth or intensity as it could been given. By the time we even get to learn more about Rachel’s half-sister, their shared father and the possibilities of Rachel finding redemption through revenge, chunks of the novel have gone by, focusing on parties, functions, and broader supporting characters who later all but disappear.
The Other Daughter is definitely entertaining and charming- and with great attention paid to period detail in fashion, etiquette and costume- but I think it reads better as a diverting romance than as an intense historical fiction title. The novel is, for my personal tastes, a little soft with building secondary characters and tension and a little late with plot development. Overall, as much fun as I had reading this novel, it ultimately doesn’t quite deliver on its promise of being a ‘page-turner full of deceit, passion, and revenge’. I think I expected something more along the lines of Kate Morton or Anna Lee Huber in terms of deeper plot twists, slow-burning yet impassioned romance, and explosive revelations; this novel read more as a flirty Harlequin-type romance– which isn’t a bad thing, it just wasn’t what I was anticipating based on the description! I think readers and fans of Beatriz Williams, Anna Godbersen or writers such as Deanna Rayburn, Stephanie Laurens or Mary Balogh might be particularly interested in reading this novel.
I received this book as a digital galley from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.