To the surprise of the world-weary, cynical Pepper, the buyer takes interest in her situation. Annabelle Dommerich, a mysterious widow of European extraction, claims to have personal experience with Pepper’s predicament, and she also knows the car intimately well. “Twenty-eight years ago, I drove from my life across the German border inside that car, and I left a piece of my heart inside her,” Annabelle tells her.
Her story, which unfolds alongside Pepper’s, is the more gripping of the two. In 1935, Annabelle de Créouville, aged nineteen, spends the summer at her father’s villa along the gorgeous Côte d’Azur. There she falls in love with Stefan Silverman, a wounded Jewish man her brother asks her to help (which she does, unquestioningly). Playing out amidst the sun-dappled islands of the French Riviera, their affair is divinely romantic, but Annabelle is kept ignorant of the intrigue surrounding Stefan’s presence. We know from the beginning about Annabelle’s eventual marriage to Johann von Kleist, a baron and high-ranking Nazi, but, in tantalizing fashion, Williams keeps us guessing about the man with whom she escaped to America.
With its multiple twists, clever dialogue, and well-balanced blend of romance and thrilling adventure, the novel is smart and sexy escapist reading. It cries out for a film treatment.
Along the Infinite Sea was published by Putnam on November 3rd ($26.95/C$32.95, hardcover, 456pp). This review first appeared in November's Historical Novels Review. If you missed the first two books in the series, they're The Secret Life of Violet Grant and Tiny Little Thing. I recommend them all, and you don't need to read them in order (although I did).