Book Review: A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

She turns back and reaches for his hand. “I’m not going to make you choose. I’d never do that to you. You were meant to make some other girl happy, some woman, and I’ll just take off and soar into the sky, and no one will catch me.”

A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams is ultimately a tale of passion and betrayal. Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton is a smug yet surprisingly guarded socialite of a certain age who has fallen head-over-heels in an affair with a gentleman she fondly calls Boy- an accurate description as he is nearly half her age. Bound by the social standards in upper-class New York during the 1920s, the two must keep their flirtations and trysts hidden.

He stood right up against my back, pressed there by the crowd around us, so that we couldn’t help the indecent proximity, could we? I felt all shameful and electric, like a radio crackling with static.

Driven away from her husband by his not-so secret affair early in their marriage, Theresa keeps the scandal at bay by agreeing to an understanding which allows each to satisfy the needs they can’t fulfill with one another.

Let him enjoy himself while I devote myself to my baby son, I thought, and I’m positive that he did exactly that, although he kept his promise and enjoyed himself just as a gentleman should. So it went for many years, and though our marriage ebbed and flowed in a natural human rhythm- we had, to be perfectly honest, more ebbed than flowed in the past few years- we continued to honor the agreement we had made that evening, and our home was always a refuge of professional friendship  into which, by unspoken consent, no transient love could penetrate.

Enter The Boy, Capitan Octavian Rofrano, a fiercely loyal and equally gallant ace who flew airplanes in France during the First World War. Theresa preys on his innocence for her benefit, though she does grow to love him for more than just the physical comfort he provides.

“If you mind it so awfully much, why do you keep seeing me?” He sighed. “You know the answer to that.” “I don’t know the answer to anything with you. You’re a perfect mystery to me. I suppose it’s part of your charm.” “Because I can’t stop. I can’t stop seeing you.” “Why not?” “Theresa. Isn’t it enough that I’m hooked? Isn’t enough that you’ve got me revolving around you like the moon? What else do you want to drag out of me?”

Meanwhile, Theresa’s brother, an aging bachelor named Ox, is busy wooing Miss Sophie Fortescue the newly wealthy daughter of a reclusive inventor. Sophie is a sheltered, virtuous and naive young girl- or so she appears at first. She meets Ox one night out on the town with her new found friend, Julie Schuyler- a recurring character from Williams other novels. Sophie is determined to escape out from underneath her father’s thumb and she sees Ox as her ticket out.

She feels as if Europe has changed her a little, has made her impatient with her familiar twenty blocks on the eastern side of the island of Manhattan, and that was her state of mind when she met Julie Schuyler. That she hadn’t seen enough, not nearly enough. That there’s a beautiful, glimmering world from.which she’s been shielded until now, and she wants to see it. She wants to see what glories it contains.

When a proposal is offered, Sophie doesn’t hesitate to accept. Keeping with tradition, Theresa sends a cavalier to Sophie’s home to present the ring. When Octavian arrives at her door, Sophie begins to wonder if what she felt for Ox was enough and whether marriage is the true path that leads to her freedom. When word reaches Theresa that Sophie has agreed to th engagement, she can’t help but wonder who this young thing is that so easily captivated her dear brother. She asks that Octavian play cavalier just a bit longer in an attempt to unearth any hidden secrets. Little does she know that she may have lit the match that ignites a new passion. Sophie throws caution to the wind and allows Octavian into her heart, though she is unaware that his heart lies with another. When she has a quarrel with her father after she makes it known that she is unwilling to marry Ox, after all, she sets out after Octavian where she learns the truth.

Maybe, if you take a chance, if you break out of prison to track down the man you might be falling in love with and throw your vulnerable new heart into his hands, all you get is a worldly female voice on the other end of the telephone line, telling you you’re too late.

With the threat of a younger woman acknowledged, Theresa is hellbent on protecting what she feels is rightfully hers. We learn just how vile she can be when she learns what Octavian has discovered about the Fortescue family-a secret he was willing to take to the grave. What follows shakes Sophie’s family to its core. This deception ripples though every character and forces each to make devastating choices.

More than just and tale of love and passion, Williams explores what it means when those you love aren’t who they claim to be. Written in a voice that stays true to the glamour and circumstance of the Roaring Twenties, A Certain Age, is so full of drama and astonishing plot twists you will find yourself craving a gin and tonic to calm your frazzled nerves.

Read voraciously.

Thoughts?

Intrigued? Buy the book here:

A Certain Age
by Williams, BeatrizHardcover
Powells.com

A review copy was provided by William Morrow an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and Herringbone Books 

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