The English Wife Giveaway

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This Giveaway has been EXTENDED! Click here for more information. 

Is this a dagger I see before me?…

Macbeth may have uttered those words on that fated night in Inverness, but Janie Van Duyvil assuredly had those words cross through her mind that Twelfth Night in 1899 when she found her brother, Bayard, with a very real dagger plunged into his chest and the name George on his last breath. From there the mystery twines and tangles before beginning its long multi-layered unraveling in Lauren Willig’s new release, The English Wife.


And today, dear readers, is all about The English Wife. In fact, remember how I promised you some news in Friday’s post? Well, here is it.

Whiskers On Kittens is running her first giveaway of 2018. Throughout this week, you will be able to enter for a chance to win a copy of Lauren Willig’s The English Wife. An added boon, she was gracious enough to sign the giveaway copy. (Details at the end of the post.)

It seemed appropriate to begin today’s post with an allusion to Shakespeare- not only because that’s what we talked about in Friday’s post (Lines to Love: The Lauren Willig Edition), but because Ms. Willig has a spectacular scene in her latest that is full to the brim with Shakespearean allusion- particularly the bawdy bits. (For a teaser about this scene, check out this post by Willig.) That Scottish quote also happened to fit perfectly as an introduction to the plot of The English Wife.

The English Wife begins in the winter of 1899, during the deepest freeze that the United States had ever seen. In fact, while the northeast was swamped with blizzard conditions, the Port of New Orleans actually had ice flows in it. Now, dear reader, isn’t it something when life imitates art? I’m not saying Ms. Willig is a prognosticator or prophet of any sort, but those sort of conditions seem to be echoing this winter throughout the continental 48. In fact, I had to brave a bevy of wintry elements in order to assure I could get to the FoxTale Book Shoppe in Atlanta this weekend to have Lauren sign my (and our lucky winner’s) copy of The English Wife. While I did not embark upon sleuthing to solve the mystery of who murdered my brother like Janie Van Duyvil, as I slipped across the icy streets of my town to get to the highway, I felt I’d set out on some grand adventure of my own. But, have no fear, neither rain nor sleet nor snow could stop me, and, believe me, I encountered all three on my Saturday roadtrip. 

I had hoped to be further along in the reading of it before I had to write up this post, but life and multiple projects (and weather and two particularly arduous Muay Thai classes) conspired against me. Therefore, I’m only a third of the way through the book, although it has fallen asleep in my arms the last several nights, or was it the other way around? Regardless, I have enjoyed the unfolding of the intricate plot immensely. As always, the characters are well fleshed out and their identities are so relatable, I feel like I know them (which is a good thing in this case, as I’ve slept with them for the last few nights). That strength of identity is one of my favorite things about Lauren Willig’s books; her characters come to life so much that I become invested in their future, which always makes the end of the book a bittersweet affair. 

Lauren and I at the Foxtale Book Shoppe.

Lauren and I at the Foxtale Book Shoppe.

At the book signing on Saturday, Lauren remarked upon that very thing. The inception of The English Wife was a bit of a trial by fire. Lauren’s editor at the time didn’t want her to write it. Her editor had another notion about something set in Palm Beach, which begs the question- has this editor ever read ANYTHING by Lauren? Palm Beach, while wonderful, is not the sort of setting customary to Lauren’s books. 

Being the accommodating sort, Lauren negotiated Palm Beach to Paris and hammered out a plot line. Three months of research and three months of trying to write later, and Lauren knew the Paris piece was a no go. As she said herself, the characters didn’t feel real, and if they didn’t feel real to her, then that two-dimensionality would translate to the readers, too. 

So, Lauren returned to the image that was haunting her. That image was of a dark haired woman on a parapet overlooking the Hudson River. This woman then falls into the river. Lauren knew a few things about her, too. She knew this woman was English and that she was married to a wealthy American man. But, she didn’t know why she was on that parapet and she didn’t know why she fell into the river and what happened to her after that. By revisiting her time and again in such a mysterious manner, this woman was begging Lauren to write her story. And that’s how The English Wife begins. 

The wealthy American man is Bayard Van Duyvil and the English woman with dark hair is Annabelle Van Duyvil, his wife. They are the toast of the town, the most highly refined of New York’s Gilded Age ton. After a whirlwind romance in London, Bayard brought Annabelle back to New York and re-created her childhood home on the banks of the Hudson, naming it Illyria. (Notice another allusion: Illyria is, no doubt, homage to Shakespeare’s Illyria from his play A Twelfth Night where nothing is as it seems, and it seems, life- at least in the Van Duyvils’ case- is a true imitation of art. In fact, there’s a line about it in the book: But then in Illyria, nothing was as it was, was it?) Everything is fairy tale perfect until Bayard is found murdered at Illyria’s folly during the Twelfth Night Ball he and his wife are hosting. Worse, Annabelle has disappeared. And, just to compound the mystery further, his last utterance was the name of someone Janie had never heard of: George

After discovering her brother’s body, Janie is left with so many unanswered questions. She has a shy nature, but there more to it than that. I feel like years of disappointment, coupled with her overbearing matriarch of a mother, have left Janie a bit demoralized. So when her mother forbids any further inquiry into the death of her only son, Janie waits a long hot minute or two before making an intrepid decision. With or without Madam Van Duyvil’s permission, she’s going to get answers. As she says, Surely, there must be some comfort in knowing the truth?

Teaming up with her unlikely partner, journalist James Burke (a man with whom Janie has immediate chemistry, if only of a negative kind, but chemistry is chemistry, loves. Let’s see what comes of it), Janie begins her quest to discover the events that led to her brother’s murder and his wife’s disappearance. And they start with the first unknown: Who is George? (Truth be told, I thought George was a wholly different person than who George is turning out to be. I like surprises like that, particularly as these surprises include Shakespearean allusions of the first rate.)

The English Wife is a mystery, a journey of self-discovery, a romance, a tragedy, and so much more. Although I have not finished it, I know that Lauren Willig always guarantees me something in every one of her novels: a satisfactory ending. She herself said that she loves happy endings and every ending of hers I’ve ever encountered has been just that. 

If The English Wife, with its suspense, familial secrets, and exquisitely rendered settings sounds like the sort of read you’d like to start 2018 out with, then follow these guidelines.

To qualify for your chance to win an autographed copy of The English Wife by Lauren Willig, you must:

  1. Be a resident in the United States (Unfortunately, at present, all contests held at Whiskers On Kittens are restricted to the United States. For my foreign readers, know that I’m working on changing this.)
  2. Be a subscriber to Whiskers On Kittens
  3. Leave a comment at the end of this post about one of your favorite allusions. It can be an allusion in a film, a song, or a book. (e.g. The character of Mr. Keating in the film Dead Poet’s Society does a spectacular rendition of Is this a dagger I see before me invoking John Wayne. It’s a brilliant allusion to the Shakespearean play MacBeth as well as a cultural allusion to the iconic movie star John Wayne. A double whammy of allusions if you will.) Furthermore, it does not have to be a Shakespearean allusion. If there is a particular allusion to Harry Potter that just does it for you, by all means, tell us about it. 

This contest is open to current as well as new subscribers. To subscribe, scroll to the bottom of the post and fill out the form. When you click subscribe, you will be sent an email requesting that you verify your email address. Once you do so, you will receive a Welcome email in your inbox. Please add Whiskers On Kittens to your address book so that you can be kept abreast of all the latest- be it posts or upcoming giveaways- here at Whiskers. 

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The contest will be open from the posting of this article, 12 A.M. January 15, 2018, until January 21, 2018 at 11:59 P.M. Central Time. The winner will be notified by email and announced on January 22nd here at Whiskers On Kittens as well as on Facebook and Instagram (links to follow both are at the bottom of the page).

Good luck, dear readers. Let the games begin.