Set in England, the US and Africa, The Ashford Affair spans the years from the early 1900's until present day. Clemmie Evans is a woman on the move. A devoted senior associate at a large New York law firm, she is on the partner track. Her personal life is a mess, having just been jilted by her fiance, but she is sure of her career. Jon, her cousin, has returned to New York after his divorce to accept a professorship at a NY university. They have always had a love/hate relationship.
They meet up at a birthday celebration for their Grandmother, Addie. Addie is in her nineties and dying, but she has some family secrets that need to be told. Clemmie's mother and her aunt Anna know some of the secret but not all of it. The secrets have driven a wedge between the sisters.
Addie, the daughter of a "younger son" was orphaned when she was 6 years old. A poor relation, she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle after he parents died. She was raised with her cousins and was especially close to Bea. Bea was the darling of the family. Her mother had great aspirations for the "debutante of the year" and indeed, Bea married well only to have it end in divorce. Addie, meanwhile was mostly left to fend for herself. Bea marries Frederick Desborough and they move to Africa to run a coffee plantation. Addie comes to visit and the threesome has a difficult time.
In the present time, Clemmie is dealing with ever more work pressures and the loss of her fiance. When she discovers that Addie might not be the person Clemmie's thought she was, Clemmie feels that her world has been turned upside down. Add to this the fact that John is a historian researching the time period of Addie and Bea's young adulthood and Clemmie is thoroughly confused.
I liked this book. I liked the characters (Clemmie is driven but human, Jon just confused and Addie is the real surprise of the group) and the story line. The settings are interesting: a very upper class British household before and during World War 1 and a coffee plantation in Africa in the 1920's. The story line moves back and forth between the present day and the early part of the 20th century, but it doesn't distract from the flow of the story. This book is simply a nice relaxing read with enough plausible twists to keep things interesting.
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