Sunday Book Club: Another Woman’s Husband by Gill Paul

After tremendously enjoying the last book The Secret Wife by Gill Paul, I hunted down more books by the author and I found this one – Another Woman’s Husband. Just like The Secret Wife, Another Woman’s Husband is also a historical fiction – one that is actually fiction but blended around a true historical event. This one is largely on Wallis Warfield, who is also known as the woman whom the King gave up his crown for, and her friend Mary Kirk.

Even though I have a very limited knowledge of any history, after having lived in the UK for several years I did know about Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936. But I did not know very much about the woman who was the reason why he had to give up his crown. So as compared to the last book, I do have slightly more knowledge about how the story was going to unfold, but I don’t have the whole picture.

**This part of the review consist of Spoilers

In 1997, Rachel is on a romantic break with Alex in Paris – one that led to their engagement. On the way back to the hotel from dinner, they witness a car ahead crash and in it was Princess Diana. Alex, a TV producer, rushes nearer to the scene and picks up a small heart pendant with the Roman numeral XVII that fell out of the car.

Back in Brighton, Rachel is haunted by the accident but she doesn’t have the time to think about it; while she was away, the little antiques shop that she owns was robbed due to the carelessness of her employee and friend Nicola. She struggles to keep her shop open, with no stock and no money to pay the rent. Meanwhile, Alex becomes all obsessed with the death of Diana and wants to do a documentary on it.

In 1911, 15-year-old Mary Kirk meets Wallis Warfield at summer camp and they become fast friends and “honorary sisters”. A few years later, Wallis meets Win and he becomes her first husband. However, she soon finds out that Win is a degenerate drunk and they divorce. Meanwhile, Mary meets and marries her first husband, frenchman Jacques; she desperately wants to have a child but suffered several miscarriages. When Wallis visits Mary, she is introduced to Ernest Simpson, who later divorced his first wife, Dorothea, to marry Wallis.

Over the next few years, Jacques also starts to drink and Mary leaves him. In 1931, Wallis is introduced to Prince Edward, heir apparent to the British throne, by his then-mistress Lady Furness. Prince Edward begins to meet the Simpsons at parties, and Wallis was presented at court. Meanwhile, Ernest begins to have financial difficulties.

On 20 January 1936, King George V died and Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. He broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation of his accession with the still-married Wallis. At that time, the Church of England disapproved of remarriage if their former spouse was still alive and only recognised adultery as a legitimate ground for divorce. Edward pressures Wallis to marry him and forces Ernest to divorce her; Ernest pretends to be caught cheating with Mary and the divorce was finalized.

However, the marriage between Edward and Wallis was opposed strongly by the government. Edward consulted with the British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, and his suggestion of a morganatic marriage, where he would remain king but Wallis would not be queen, was rejected. If Edward were to marry Wallis, the Government would resign, causing a constitutional crisis. The King abdicated on 10 December 1936, saying that “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”

Over the next few years, after marrying Edward but denied of a royal title and not accepted by his family, Wallis wrote many letters to Ernest, where she talked about missing him and the old life that they had. Mary and Ernest had married by then; against all odds (given Mary’s age now), they have a baby son. However, this happiness did not last as Mary became stricken with breast cancer and died eventually.

Back in the modern day, Rachel and Alex are having problems with miscommunication and as they struggle with their jobs. Rachel is upset about Alex wanting to approach her supplier to get information about Diana for his documentary. Also, Alex seem to be seeing Nicola a lot secretly; Rachel later finds out that Alex was actually helping Nicola through some relationship problems as a good friend. The story for the modern day is really lame so I will skip to the end and say that it all ends well and Rachel and Alex have a happily ever after.

Final Thoughts

Like The Secret Wife, the story goes back and forth between the past and the present, but it is always very clear which timeline you’re reading as the writing style and tone changes slightly to match the time. The pace is also decent; I find the problem with a lot of authors using this style of writing is that they switch too fast without building enough story in a certain time period before jumping to the other – in this case I think the author did well.

While I think the story was not bad, I hated all the modern day section. I did not like how the modern day story went, and thought that the inclusion of Diana and her death as totally unnecessary and crude and distasteful. I did not think the modern day story flowed at all, and it was a big stretch to connect between the modern day and the past. I could practically see how the author was plotting to monetize over the sensation of Diana’s death.

Then there was also the half-assed secret relationship between Nicola and Alex; it was as though there was not enough body in the modern-day story that the author decided to use that to fatten it up. Rachel is also not a very likeable character; she sounds like a wimpy nice girl and Alex a jerk. When they finally made up and got back together at the end, I did not feel as though these two characters had ever loved each other before.

On the other hand, I really did like the historical part of the book. I didn’t really know how scandalous Wallis Simpson was until this book; I was so intrigued by it that I read up the actual history behind her and most of story in the historical timeline is actually true. The author has also reproduced many of Wallis’ many letters to her ex-husband after she married the Prince Edward, which was very interesting to read. I have mix feelings over Wallis – I feel as though she was a crazy social climber who did not care about anything else, and that left a bad taste, but another part of me feel sorry for her that she did not realise what she was giving up in life to get to the top socially.

I think the author does very well in making the historical story come to live, instead of being some really boring history fact, but she fails horrendously when it comes to creating a story in the modern timeline. It’s still an interesting book to read, but I would recommend skipping the whole modern day section and you wouldn’t know if anything was missing anyway because the two timelines did not really intersect at all.

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