2016 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction · timeslip

Book Review: The Wife’s Tale by Christine Wells

wife's tale

Book blurb:

An unforgettable novel that transports the reader from modern-day Australia to the windswept Isle of Wight and the courtrooms of London in the 1780s.

With her marriage on the rocks, workaholic lawyer Liz Jones agrees to visit Seagrove, a stately home on the Isle of Wight, while she quietly investigates its provenance on behalf of a client. When she discovers Seagrove is linked to a notorious eighteenth-century court case, Liz becomes fascinated – not only by the house and its history, but also by its current owners.

In the winter of 1789, the infamous Delany Nash scandalised London when details of her alleged affair with her husband’s brother were aired in a public courtroom. Yet her journals reveal an extraordinary woman’s tale of passion, betrayal and heartbreak.

Captivated by Delany’s story, Liz delves into her research but the more she uncovers, the more she risks jeopardising the future of everyone at Seagrove. For there are dark secrets that surround the house, and when the truth emerges the repercussions will echo down through the centuries.

The Wife’s Tale is a mesmerising story of love, loyalty and sacrifice.

4.5 stars

I always appreciate a dual timeline novel and The Wife’s Tale by Christine Wells is beautifully crafted double narrative novel, that had me captivated from the opening to the ending of the book.

The Wife’s Tale begins with the story of Australian corporate lawyer Liz Jones, who is about to embark on a much needed break from her job. At the last hour, Liz’s boss Nick propositions her with a case she cannot resist. Liz is ambitious and the fascinating case her boss presents her with is enough to break her holiday plans with her estranged husband. Liz jets off to the quaint seaside locale of the Isle of Wight, where she investigates the current ownership of a stately home named ‘Seagrove’. Liz’s boss Nick be wants to claim ownership of the grand estate. Liz effectively has to go undercover, not letting onto the current owners, Lord Theo Nash and her fiancée Valerie, of her boss’ intentions. Liz’s investigations into the history of ownership of Seagrove lead her to the fascinating case of Lady Delany Nash, an occupant of the house back in the 18th century. The novel then shifts back and forth between Liz’s contemporary mystery solving narrative, to Lady Delany Nash’s notorious tenure at Seagrove. What follows is an intriguing mix of court room drama, love, lust, obsession and secrets.

The Wife’s Tale is one of those novels that is able to transport you from the present, back to the past seamlessly. Liz’s story in the present, connects well to the historical thread involving Lady Delany Nash. Both women are strong and interesting characters in their own standing but are also presented as vastly different by Wells. Each storyline is equally compelling and I was impressed by the level of research, particularly in reference to the Lady Delany case and the 18th century period detail that comes across in the novel. Wells clearly knows a thing or two about pace and structure, as the mystery side of the novel was built on a style of slow reveal, with added twists and turns. This kept my eyes glued to the pages of The Wife’s Tale. Romance, obsession and family secrets are themes that emerge from The Wife’s Tale when I reflect on my reading of the novel. These are bound together to ensure that The Wife’s Tale is a spellbinding read. My final word on this novel is the delightful setting, what a fantastic and original choice to place the bulk of the action of the novel at the Isle of Wight. I lapped up the descriptions of the location and the estate of Seagrove, with its stunning surrounds.

The Wife’s Tale is a well crafted novel that transcends time and place, through its captivating double storyline. It takes two different women and seamlessly connects them to one important place. The Wife’s Tale is a stunning debut, by an author who I know I will be looking forward to reading more from in the future.

The Wife’s Tale by Christine Wells was published in 2016 by Penguin Books Australia

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