From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig comes The Ashford Affair, a page-turning novel about two women in different eras, and on different continents, who are connected by one deeply buried secret.
As a lawyer in a large Manhattan firm, just shy of making partner, Clementine Evans has finally achieved almost everything she's been working towards—but now she's not sure it's enough. Her long hours have led to a broken engagement and, suddenly single at thirty-four, she feels her messy life crumbling around her. But when the family gathers for her grandmother Addie's ninety-ninth birthday, a relative lets slip hints about a long-buried family secret, leading Clemmie on a journey into the past that could change everything. . . .
Growing up at Ashford Park in the early twentieth century, Addie has never quite belonged. When her parents passed away, she was taken into the grand English house by her aristocratic aunt and uncle, and raised side-by-side with her beautiful and outgoing cousin, Bea. Though they are as different as night and day, Addie and Bea are closer than sisters, through relationships and challenges, and a war that changes the face of Europe irrevocably. But what happens when something finally comes along that can't be shared? When the love of sisterhood is tested by a bond that's even stronger?
From the inner circles of British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.
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New York, 1999
Clemmie hurried beneath the awning of her grandmother's building, panting a quick hello in response to the doorman's greeting.
He started to say something, but she kept on going, heels click-click-clacking on the marble floor. She tossed a "hello" over her shoulder, flapping her hand in a wave.
It was Granny Addie's ninety-ninth birthday party and Clemmie was late.
She steamed through the foyer, loosening her coat and scarf as she went. Despite the November cold, she felt sweaty straight through, clammy with perspiration beneath the layers of bra, blouse, suit jacket, and coat. She'd meant to change into a dress, but there hadn't been time, so here she was, disheveled and blistered, hair any which way and lipstick a distant memory. Her mother would be appalled, but she wouldn't say anything. She would just telegraph her distress with tightened lips and raised brows. She was good at that. Clemmie's mother's brows were better than sign language, complicated concepts conveyed with a minimum of movement.
Clemmie jabbed at the elevator button and made the mistake of glancing at her watch. Eight fifteen. Cocktails had started forty-five minutes ago. They might, in fact, already be sitting down to dinner. No wonder the doorman had looked at her like that. Her mother had probably been calling down every ten minutes to ask if she had been spotted yet. She was past the realm of acceptably late and well into the kingdom of unpardonably tardy.
Shifting her large Longchamp bag from one shoulder to the other, she mentally mustered her arsenal of excuses, none entirely a lie, but none entirely true either: a meeting at the last minute, the BlackBerry in her bag that wouldn't stop buzzing, that damn deposition in Dallas that needed to be prepped before she flew off on Thursday. Then there were all the standard-issue disclaimers: no cabs, delayed subways, the impossibility of getting directly from her office, all the way west on 49th and 8th, to Granny Addie's, safe in the fastness of the Upper East Side, on 85th and 5th. That, at least, was pure, unvarnished truth. Clemmie had wound up walking most of the way, half-speedwalking, half-running, slipping and sliding in her high-heeled pumps as she scanned for cabs, all of which seemed to be full, their occupants smug silhouettes in the backseats, inside while she was out.
Clemmie shifted feet, discreetly easing her left foot out of her black pump. Matte black leather, now slightly scuffed, with a three-inch heel. These shoes looked very nice under a conference table, but they had not been made for walking.
Her stocking clung stickily to her heel. Lovely. Not just a blister, but a burst blister. It was going to hurt like hell tomorrow when she limped into work.
The elevator pinged, the doors opening.
Clemmie jammed her foot back into her shoe and hobbled inside. The elevator was lined in rosewood, the buttons set in polished brass. It hadn't changed much over the past thirty years. She hit the 8, her finger finding the number by rote, and the elevator began its ascent. As she always did, she glanced at the shield-shaped security mirror in the corner. As a child, she used to entertain herself by moving her head this way, then that, watching as her features moved in and out of focus, like a Barbie head when you took the rubbery features between your fingers and squeezed.
Now she checked for obvious signs of wear and tear, applying a hasty coat of lip gloss from the blunted stick in her bag. Mascara? There was still more over her eyes than under them. Good enough. The wind had taken the part of blush, pounding her pale cheeks into color. Unfortunately,...
The Ashford Affair
By: Lauren Willig