As Vivian digs into her shadowy relative’s life, with the hopes of writing a dishy story that will be her big break, Violet’s tale of her disastrous marriage and risky affair with her husband’s former student unfolds in parallel. Brilliant but inexperienced with men, Violet is flattered by the attention of her older mentor, Dr. Walter Grant, whom she weds. Her dismay and fear are palpable when she discovers his controlling nature and infidelity.
Williams confidently re-creates both New York in the freewheeling ‘60s and the growing tension of prewar Europe, and she amps up the suspense as Violet’s situation gets desperate. Vivian’s commendable loyalty to her uber-rich friend Gogo adds interest, but the novel’s best part is simply watching the fabulous and always fashionably dressed Vivs in action. By the time she daringly acknowledges the plot’s big coincidence, she already has readers eating out of her hand. It satisfies on many levels, and it’s also immense fun.
The Secret Life of Violet Grant was published in June by Putnam in hardcover (436pp, $26.95 / Can$31.00). This review first appeared in August's Historical Novels Review. I loved the author's first book, Overseas, and thought this one was great as well, though the style is somewhat different.