Title: The Woman Before Wallis: A Novel of Windsors, Vanderbilts, and Royal Scandal
Author: Bryn Turnbull
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: July 21, 2020
This novel is the fictionalised story of the American divorcée who captured Prince Edward’s heart before he abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson.
In the summer of 1926, when Thelma Morgan marries Viscount Duke Furness after a whirlwind romance, she’s immersed in a gilded world of extraordinary wealth and privilege. For Thelma, the daughter of an American diplomat, her new life as a member of the British aristocracy is like a fairy tale—even more so when her husband introduces her to Edward, Prince of Wales.
In a twist of fate, her marriage to Duke leads her to fall headlong into a love affair with Edward. But happiness is fleeting, and their love is threatened when Thelma’s sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, becomes embroiled in a scandal with far-reaching implications. As Thelma sails to New York to support Gloria, she leaves Edward in the hands of her trusted friend Wallis, never imagining the consequences that will follow.
In 1926, American divorcée, Thelma Morgan, married Lord Furness in England. Throughout their marriage, Thelma split her time between her husband and her sister Gloria Vanderbilt, who has her own struggles with the death of her husband and her custody battle over her daughter. After Lord Furness begins having an affair, Thelma sets her sights on another man, the Prince of Wales. When Thelma has to travel to help her sister, she leaves her friend Wallis Simpson to look after the Prince, which leads to a romance she never expected.
I love stories about British royalty. This one was about two infamous families in both America and England: the Vanderbilts and the Windsors. The Vanderbilts fought to have custody of Gloria’s daughter, Little Gloria. Gloria’s mother also fought alongside the Vanderbilts to get her granddaughter away from her own daughter. Meanwhile, Thelma had an affair with Prince Edward. Ironically, the title mentions Wallis by name, yet she doesn’t come into the story until halfway through. Since she is named in the title, it’s assumed that the reader will know that Wallis Simpson eventually marries Prince Edward, leading him to abdicate the throne. Though I knew who the Vanderbilts were, I wasn’t familiar with the custody case of Little Gloria, so I learned a lot in this story.
Motherhood was a major theme of the story. Gloria Vanderbilt’s custody case was one of the main plots. Gloria wasn’t considered a suitable mother because of her wild lifestyle. At the same time, her own mother fought against Gloria by trying to get custody of Little Gloria. Thelma had a child, but she spent significant time away from him to stay in London and stay with the Prince. Even though Gloria fought for her daughter and loved her, she faced the threat of losing custody, whereas Thelma and Gloria’s own mother were not judged as harshly or forced to face the same consequences.
This was a fabulous debut novel!
Thank you HarperCollins for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Another Woman’s Husband by Gill Paul
The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper
About the author:
Bryn Turnbull is a writer of historical fiction with a penchant for fountain pens and antique furniture. Equipped with a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews, a Master of Professional Communication from Ryerson University, and a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from McGill University, Bryn focuses on finding the stories of women found within the cracks of the historical record. When she’s not writing, Bryn can be found exploring new coffee shops, spending time with her family in cottage country, or traveling. She lives in Toronto, and can generally be found with a book in hand.
Have you read The Woman Before Wallis? What did you think of it?