January 18, 2016

Book Review: The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig

Publication Date: January 19, 2016

Source: Netgalley

New York Times bestselling authors Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig present a masterful collaboration—a rich, multigenerational novel of love and loss that spans half a century....

1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion.

Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate? And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother? In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known. But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room?

The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers.

I downloaded this book during a workday – big mistake. After quickly reading the first chapter and being introduced to Kate and the wounded captain, the rest of the day was utter torture. My hands kept twitching, yearning to keep on reading.

Foolishly, I had made plans with a friend after work. I toyed with the idea of cancelling but … was a normal and polite human and resisted the overwhelming urge. You will not get me to confess that I snuck in some covert reading during our dinner by excusing myself to go to the bathroom. No sir, that was not me.

Finally, finally after a long day, I got home bone tired. Was I sensible and told myself to continue reading the next day? Of course not. My curiosity overcame my weary eyes and I kept on reading, racing through the pages and the eras spanning turn-of-the-century to World War II because I had to find out what happened to Olive and Harry, Lucy and John, and Kate and Cooper. I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning and was a zombie at work that day but it was worth it.

In other words, I could not put this book down. I was captivated by all three stories, set in different time periods, all linked by an enchanting secret room of a New York mansion and a ruby necklace handed down through generations of women in one family.

Since there are three authors, I at first tried to figure out who did what. I have read three of Lauren Willig’s books (and loved them all) so I thought I would be able to spot which style and storyline was hers. However, I quickly abandoned playing detective and simply gave myself up to the lure of the seamlessly interweaving stories, which have a theme of lost love, regret and how choices that might once have been made rationally can have an impact years, and even generations, after. 

The Forgotten Room is sumptuous, entertaining, and heartbreaking.

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