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The Golden Hour

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She expanded my vocabulary with mountebank, devoirs, burgher, soporific (been a while since I had heard this one), and obbroprium. Manuel struggles with PTSD after a shooting at his school, but it happened after hours so his classmates don't know that he was the only witness. 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. As others have mentioned, the Duke and Duchess only appear peripherally, but I was so enthralled with what would happen to Elfriede and Lulu that I didn't even care. When he serves Lulu a gin and tonic with "fresh ice, fresh lime, fresh gin, fresh tonic" it was a delightful moment, a thirst-quencher, that tempted me (and I don't like gin) to indulge.

Beatriz Williams, the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives, is back with another hot summer read; a dazzling epic of World War II in which a beautiful young “society reporter” is sent to the Bahamas, a haven of spies, traitors, and the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Williams alternates Lulu’s story with that of German baroness Elfriede von Kleist and her love affair with Wilfred Thorpe in the early 1900s, linking the generations together.Lulu came to the Bahamas as a journalist for an American magazine, all of 25 years old, to primarily report on the goings on of the extremely popular Duke and Duchess of Windsor, recently “banished” to the islands, still a British colony, to serve as its Governor, after he abdicated the throne as King of England. A second narrative set 40 years earlier focuses on Elfriede von Kleist, a new mother from rural Westphalia with postpartum depression so severe she has attempted suicide, causing her husband, the Baron, to dispatch her to a clinic in Switzerland. 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. She also meets people who will ultimately be connected to the murder but that is NOT a big part of the central plot.

Williams ( The Summer Wives) illuminates the story with exotic locales and bygone ambience, and seduces with the irresistible Windsors.Although I enjoyed Williams's diligence in bringing Nassau's history to the page, I felt a bit shortchanged at times. I knew the Duke and Duchess were thought to be Nazi sympathizers, but other realities, such as the murder of Harry Oakes, gold mine owner, actually took place. As Manuel aides his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love. The Golden Hour is a tale of wartime courage, espionage, dashed dreams, renewed hopes, and the tightest bonds of love. I read a biography on her not that long ago and they are both fascinating people although not so much in a good way.

The Windsors are integral to the plot of the book, such as it is, but they’re only there to provide skimpy context for the very silly story of Lulu and her Thorpe. There are spies, Nazis, illegitimate siblings, mental illness, and dysfunctional family relationships. You can even visit Beatriz Williams' home page to get the Schuyler family tree and the books they each appear in.Manuel is perfectly distracted by his burgeoning interest in photography and other natural abilities his shy personality reveals in this story. That's where you really find the heart and soul of the story as there are some good emotional moments. Centering and finding oneself in the aftermath of trauma is a difficult thing to do, and undoubtedly exponentially more challenging when you are of an age still trying to figure out who you are under normal circumstances. This novel contains all the ingredients for a fascinating work of historical fiction, and it’s penned by a gifted wordsmith. Even the ends was a surprise, something I wasn’t expecting and it made the book all the more enjoyable.

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