This novel is the fictionalised story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson.
Title: The Woman Before Wallis
Author: Bryn Turnbull
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC from Netgalley
Pub date: July 21, 2020
In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she’s immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and privilege. For Thelma, the daughter of an American diplomat, her new life as a member of the British aristocracy is like a fairy tale—even more so when her husband introduces her to Edward, Prince of Wales.
In a twist of fate, her marriage to Duke leads her to fall headlong into a love affair with Edward. But happiness is fleeting, and their love is threatened when Thelma’s sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, becomes embroiled in a scandal with far-reaching implications. As Thelma sails to New York to support Gloria, she leaves Edward in the hands of her trusted friend Wallis, never imagining the consequences that will follow.
The Woman Before Wallis was a beautiful story about life, love, and heartbreak. I will start this by saying I enjoy a good historical fiction. I really respect the author for writing such a fantastic story and for making such a grand effort to have all the details from the actual story correct.
Thelma, is the main character of this story. She is a wonderful woman. Truly special. For her time she is independent, motivated, and just wanted something different for herself than what was the expectation. Her character took me on this whirlwind of an adventure that at times filled me with happiness and at other times filled me with sorrow. I would say I am a sucker for a love story and if you think this is going to be a love story – you are mistaken. There are relationships and yes, some love, but this is far from a love story. It is rather heartbreaking actually, but in a beautiful way.
Thelma is a divorcee, which during this time, is not well received. She then gets lucky and marries a new man (Duke Furness) and becomes part of the “high society” in England. Lucky lady, indeed. Throughout the rest of the story, Thelma is constantly fighting for happiness. While she marries a lovely man, she cannot stay happy. The instability of marriages during this time was unbelievable. Having affairs was more accepted than getting divorced. This part especially hurts Thelma. This leads to her meeting and ultimately, to her relationship with the Prince of Wales. Again, lucky lady! Again, she struggles with this relationship and many events occur throughout the rest of the book that are full of love and happiness and as well, full of sadness.
To be honest, I didn’t know whether or not I was even enjoying this book until I got about half way through. I was getting confused trying to keep up with the characters and the names. I had a hard time remembering the family names and keeping track of this “social map” of people. I can only imagine how stressful this would be in real life. It was exhausting keeping up. I found at the half way point it became easier and I started to feel very attached to some of the characters.
I was so drawn into the story. I read this book in 2 days. It sucked me in. I loved the fancy life of English royalty and upper class. It made me want that life. However, as scandals came up throughout, it made me realize that is NOT the life I want. I really did enjoy that part though. It was so fun to read about the fancy parties and events that these people had on a regular basis. I loved reading about the extravagant dresses and outfits as well. It was so dream like.
When it came to the end of the book I felt so mixed! I truly loved this story. Thelma has a special place in a heart. She was so strong and while at times did not make the best decisions, she sure stuck to her heart and that is very respectable. I wish it would have ended differently for her. It was a sad ending in my opinion, but not everyone gets a fairy tale ending. The only reason I did not rate this as 5 stars was simply because the ending left me asking questions and wanting to know exactly what happened. Of course, I understand that filling in the gaps would probably be an entire other book, but I felt almost cheated not know exactly the events that led to Wallis and David. I’m actually not too sure my heart could take it now that I’m thinking more about it!!
Overall, this was a fabulous book. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction in its truest form. It was a beautifully written story.
Do you like historical fiction?
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