Thursday, August 15, 2019
Books: Beatriz Williams' New Novel "The Golden Hour"
The Golden Hour
By Beatriz Williams
William Morrow; hardcover, $26.99; E-Book, $12.99
Beatriz Williams is the bestselling author of ten novels, including The Summer Wives, A Hundred Summers, The Secret Life of Violet Grant, and A Certain Age.
Williams' new novel, The Golden Hour, brings World War II-era Nassau, Bahamas to life in a brilliantly original saga, set inside the court of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Newly-widowed Lulu Randolph arrives in Nassau to investigate the new Governor and his wife for a New York society magazine. American readers have an insatiable appetite for news of the Duke and Duchess, the infamous couple posted to this colonial backwater during World War II after their marriage nearly brought the British monarchy to its knees.
As Lulu infiltrates their social circle, and the powerful cabal that controls the islands' political and financial affairs, she uncovers evidence that beneath the glister of Wallis and Edward's marriage lies a complex, and even treacherous, reality.
Williams writes of Lulu at one of their many social functions, "Before the collection party passed, I slipped between guests and up the path toward the governor's residence. A breath of air, that's what I murmured as I sidled my way through the crowd, and this was true enough. Certainly I wanted air, and once free of the smokiness and perspiration of the party, I found air in abundance. I also saw a pair of French doors standing open to the evening air, allowing a glimpse of a hallway, and not a footman in sight.
"Now, it wasn't as if I meant any harm. I had just sipped champagne with the duchess, I even felt a stir of liking for her, a warmth I hadn't expected. When somebody pays you compliments, pays you the favor of her attention and interest, you can't help but think she must be a person of great taste and discernment. I meant no disrespect toward either of them, duke or duchess; or their privacy. There was only curiosity, and the desire to escape, and a certain surge of audacity that visits me from time to time, and also the possibility - duchesses could be fickle, after all - that I might never again have the opportunity to enter this building and see its rooms for myself. Which, in retrospect, is just the sort of logic that lands a girl in trouble, in love affairs as in houses that doesn't belong to her.
"Thus the inevitable. Instead of soothing my lungs and returning to the party or else to my own little room at the Prince George, snug and sound, I continued down that hall, the entire width of Government House, until I arrived at the door on the opposite side. I made no hesitation whatsoever. Hesitation's fatal, my father always told me, when he could be bothered to speak to me at all; deliberate all you like upon a course of action, but once you've made your decision, don't for God's sake waver. I laid my hand on the doorknob and opened it to find some sort of library. The duke's own study, perhaps. There was a desk and a fireplace, hissing the last remains of a good solid fire. The furniture was up-to-date, the upholstery fresh. I felt the duchess's taste hanging in the air, coating every surface, every detail, every Union Jack pillow, every club chair. Even in her absence, she possessed a magnificent presence."
Windsor-era Nassau roils with spies, financial swindles, and racial tension, and in the middle stands Benedict Thorpe, a scientist of magnetic 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 cover-up reeks of royal privilege. Benedict disappears without a trace, and Lulu embarks on a journey to London to go through his complicated family history, which included a faithful love affair, a wartime tragedy, and a German mother, the baroness Elfriede von Kleist, from whom all joy is stolen.
Lulu and Elfriede's stories thread together in this remarkable tour de force of espionage, sacrifice, human love, and courage, set against a shocking true crime...and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple.