Book Title and Author: The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams
Publication Date and Publisher: July 9, 2019 by William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 480 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: June 27, 2019 (e-arc)
The New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives and A Certain Age creates a dazzling epic of World War II-era Nassau—a hotbed of spies, traitors, and the most infamous couple of the age, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The Bahamas, 1941. Newly-widowed Leonora “Lulu” Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. After all, American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that glamorous couple whose love affair nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees five years earlier. What more intriguing backdrop for their romance than a wartime Caribbean paradise, a colonial playground for kingpins of ill-gotten empires?
Or so Lulu imagines. But as she infiltrates the Duke and Duchess’s social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands’ political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glitter of Wallis and Edward’s marriage lies an ugly—and even treasonous—reality. In fact, Windsor-era Nassau seethes with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle of it all stands Benedict Thorpe: a scientist of tremendous charm and murky national loyalties. Inevitably, the willful and wounded Lulu falls in love.
Then Nassau’s wealthiest man is murdered in one of the most notorious cases of the century, and the resulting coverup reeks of royal privilege. Benedict Thorpe disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London and beyond to unpick Thorpe’s complicated family history: a fateful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a mother from whom all joy is stolen.
The stories of two unforgettable women thread together in this extraordinary epic of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and human courage, set against a shocking true crime . . . and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.
The Golden Hour is the first book I’ve read that’s written just by Beatriz Williams although I’ve read her books co-authored with Karen White and Lauren Willig and loved them, which is one of the reasons I really wanted to read this one. The other reason is because I’m fascinated with anything to do with the very intriguing Duchess of Windsor, less so the Duke, and they are minor characters in the novel, with one of the main narratives of the story weaving around their lives.
Williams is an incredible storyteller and I was so delighted to discover what an excellent historical fiction novelist she is as I fell under her spell. There are two fascinating narratives at play. One beginning in 1900 tells the story of Elfriede von Kleist, a young wife and mother who has been sent to a mental clinic in Switzerland because of severe postpartum depression. The other storyline is set in 1941 tells of Lulu Randolph Thorpe, a journalist for an American magazine sent to the Bahamas to gather as much gossip as she can on Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor (avoiding all talks of politics in her column, that is).
What Elfriede and Lulu have in common are two different men named Thorpe, but it is how they are connected that intertwines the story together, and Williams seamlessly goes back and forth in time to tell the stories of these two very different women. Both women are unique; I could vividly picture each of them in my mind while reading the book. As someone who suffered from postpartum depression three times, I appreciated that element of the story since I think it’s not touched on often enough, and I related to Elfriede. All the characters are compelling and unforgettable, which is something that I love when reading a book.
The Golden Hour is a wonderful work of historical fiction; it blends many historical events with fiction to create a lovely read. It’s about family, war, courage, ruthlessness, hope, and love. I love unique WWII story since so many retell the same story and that, to me anyway is just an oversaturation in the subgenre, so I was delighted to read a fresh story. I’m looking forward to reading my next book by Williams and definitely recommend this one to historical fiction lovers.
**Thank you, Edelweiss and William Morrow for the ARC copy. All opinions are my own.**