Growing up as the governess's daughter in the shadow of the Harding family's eccentric charm, Mary Fox can never hope to share their unshakable social confidence. Beautiful Godfrey, outrageous Nettie, and the twins, Jonathan and William, are born into a world of privilege where money, status, pleasure and love seem their birthright. Although aware of the disparity between them, Mary clings to the illusion of family that sharing a life with them brings-for her own mother, the secretive, mysterious Sybil, is most definitely not the maternal type.
When the idyll is shattered by the outbreak of war, Mary and Nettie are forced to find their own, very individual ways of making ends meet. Mary finds her formidable intelligence valued for the first time, but Nettie has a much more unusual way of helping the brave boys fighting Hitler...
In this sparkling novel, Elizabeth Palmer brings all her sharp wit and brilliant observation to bear, combining glittering lifestyles, potent sensuality and dark secrets in a poignant and compelling story of love and the art of survival.
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Elizabeth Palmer has published several previous novels with St. Martin's Press including The Golden Rule, Flowering Judas, Old Money, and Plucking the Apple. She and her husband live in Dublin, Ireland.
A long and complicated childhood becomes a complicated adulthood for two families in Palmer's entertaining sixth (The Golden Rule, 1998, etc.).The paths of the Harding family and the Fox family cross in 1928, when Sybil Fox, widow, comes on as governess at the Harding country house in England. Though as different as chalk and cheese, Nettie Harding (the one daughter among three brothers) and Mary Fox (Sybil's daughter) become best friends. As the dictates of class and melodrama would have it, Mary Fox falls in love with the eldest Harding brother, Godfrey (who has a dark secret), but she in turn is loved by his brother William. Nettie seduces the stable boy, Joshua, and, after they are caught in flagrante it seems pretty certain that Joshua will reappear at a most inconvenient time in Nettie's future. Among the grown-ups, Sybil Fox seduces father Geoffry Harding, a political bigwig who spends most of his time in London with the mysterious Rafe Bartholomew (Churchill's closest confidante) rather than at home with wife Davina. Then, just as the misguided desires of the various Hardings and Foxes threaten to erupt, all becomes subsumed into a greater issue: WWII. The Harding boys go off to battle; Nettie marries a wealthy alcoholic, changes her name to Venetia, and offers sexual favors in return for political secrets; Sybil Fox leaves behind her notebooks and her bereaved daughter, Mary, who takes a job helping to crack the German code. The search for true love, the misalignment of loyalties, and ever-ready Chaos are the true engines of Palmer's story, throughout whose second half many bombs are dropped--by war, by friends, by family--that shatter illusions and unearth astonishing numbers of secrets in the lives of all.Passion-plagued characters, an adverb for every emotion, and an addictive novel-within-a-novel come together for something akin to a satisfying mug of ale. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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