This is a well written story dealing with love, betrayal and second chances. The author has woven the tale of four people who come from different time periods, different socio-economic status and different moral backgrounds and yet experience some similar situations. A handful of secondary characters give us further insight into the similarities and changes in society since the 1920s.
The story starts by introducing us to Jack Coates, a fortyish and somewhat attractive man, working for Deveraux and Diplock – antiquities dealers. He has been informed by Rachel, the managing owner, that an assistant has been hired to help him catalogue and appraise Endsleigh House. Jack does not want an assistant and especially not an assistant that is the owner’s niece. Jack is determined from the onset to hold “Cate” at a distance, as he does everyone else in his life, regardless of how good Rachel claims this will be for him. Jack is a man determined to have complete control over all aspects of his life, including the possibility of romance, and is unwilling to risk his heart. Throughout the story we are provided insight through Jack’s recollections of his childhood, early manhood and marriage. We see how Jack has become the person that he is today and get to understand his emotions. He has been holding onto anger and resentment for a long time and as the story concludes we get to see how he has grown through his interactions with both Cate and Rachel.
We are introduced to Cate Albion, Rachel’s niece, when Jack picks her up in his car on his way to Endsleigh House. Cate is a painter had been living in the United States for a period of time. She has changed everything about herself and when Jack first sees Cate he is surprised by her appearance and compares her to a young socialite. Jack is also surprised to find that he considers her beautiful and sexually attractive. Cate is the character who changes the most in this story, at the beginning she is harboring a painful secret and keeping people at a distance. We discover that her time in the United States was different than what she had anticipated and that she had allowed others to demand changes in both her outward and inner self. She is unhappy and in self turmoil and has returned home as a way of running away from her decisions. Cate is surprised to discover that she is attracted to Jack and it is during one of her attempts to avoid spending time with him at Endsleigh House that she breaks into a locked bedroom and comes across a shoebox filled with memorabilia of the past. The box had belonged to the sister of the home owner and Cate becomes obsessed with discovering the story behind Lady Irene Avondale nee Irene Blythe, and her sister Diana aka Baby Blythe.
Irene and Diana Blythe were born in Ireland to middleclass parents. Their father died at a young age and their mother married Lord Warburton, a very wealthy and politically powerful man. Irene is content to live life as dictated by her parents Diana is a free spirit and wants to live life on her terms. Both girls are provided with money, clothes and introduced into society and we discover that they were famous for their beauty, charm and Diana’s exploits. We find out about Diana and Irene through letters that are interwoven throughout the story and the historical facts that Cate is able to dig up. It is while she is learning about “Baby” that Cate is forced to look at who she has become and decide if she has the strength to take herself back and be who she wants to be. Jack is going thru a similar decision at the same time and he becomes interested in the Blythe sisters as a way of connecting with Cate.
The end of the story was well done and filled with optimism for the future for both Cate and Jack both as individuals and as a future couple, the last three lines summed up the outlook “For To Love. Again. Will always be the most daring, dangerous thing of all”. I would have liked a definitive answer on what became of Diana aka “Baby” Blythe, however, Ms. Tessaro left Diana’s story in a place that gives the individual reader the option of choosing Diana’s outcome. Ms. Tessaro did an excellent job of keeping my attention riveted on the story from start to finish and I truly enjoyed reading this book. The plot moves at an excellent pace and the decision to use the letters to provide us with the history of the Blythe sisters was smart. The dialogue between the characters was in keeping with the time periods in the book and was entertaining. This is the author’s third book and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.
Endsleigh House stands, crumbling and gracious, on the south-west coast of England, its rooms shut up and dusty. But what secrets do they hold?Cate, an exile from New York, is sent to help value the contents of the once-grand Georgian house. Cataloguing its' contents with Jack - a man with his own dark past, she comes across a hidden shoebox containing an exquisite pair of dancing shoes from the 1930s, along with a mysterious collection of objects: a photograph, a dance card and a Tiffany bracelet.Returning to London, rather than face the questions lingering in her own life, Cate immerses herself in piecing together the clues contained in the box to uncover a story, that of Irene Blythe and her sister Diana - two of the most famous debutantes of their generation.The tale that unfolds is one of dark, addictive love, and leads Cate to face up to secrets of her own. Can the secrets of Baby Blythe's past change Cate's own ability to live and love again?