‘The Other Daughter’ by Lauren Willig: Lovely historical fiction

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Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Lauren Willig writes lovely historical fiction, and “The Other Daughter” is perhaps her best book yet. It’s the story of Rachel, a governess who grew up with her mother after her father, a botanist, died overseas. While caring for children in France, she learns that her mother is very ill, but by the time she returns to England, her mother has died.

While going through her mother’s belongings, she finds a newspaper clipping with a picture of her father, who appears to be healthy and — shaking up Rachel’s world — not a botanist but an Earl, with a daughter of his own. Rachel searches out the truth, and when she realizes that her father abandoned Rachel and her mother, she decides to have her revenge.

The story is beautifully told about Rachel then pretending that she is one of the idle rich peerage. While practicing her charade, she meets her half-sister and discovers that all is not as it might appear. There are twists and turns aplenty, and Rachel must decide who she can trust and who deserves her love. Did her father really abandon them?

The final twist is beautifully done and — at least for this reader — totally unexpected. The book is fascinating in the glimpse it offers of the lives of the British upper class and how their closed society and snobbishness worked (and probably works to this day). From the start to the last page, the reader will be hooked. Willig writes wonderful historical fiction and this particular character, with her combination of feisty personality and moral compunction, is an especially wonderful protagonist.

Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by St. Martin’s Press for review purposes.