“Books, after all, were expensive, and it was better to eat than read. So the little shelf in Sophie’s bedroom contained a selection of volumes amassed lovingly over successive birthdays and Christmases, and the idea of an entire gilded library, old and venerable, covered with the fingerprints of one’s ancestors, never needing to be returned to it’s rightful owner-why, it stole her will!”
—Beatriz Williams, A Certain Age
Theresa Marshall, of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and Southampton, Long Island, has a problem. As a rich socialite, she knows her husband fools around on her and she’s learned to live with it, if she wants to enjoy her social status and his money. But that’s not her problem: she’s gone and fallen in love with her boy-toy. Octavian Ronfrano, a handsome pilot and a hero-pilot in the Great War.
He also believes himself to be in love with her. He’s honorable, and he wants to marry her, despite the difference in their ages. But Theresa is unwilling to divorce her philandering husband, Sylvio; in the 1920s divorce is unheard of, especially for a woman, and especially for a woman of her status.
When Theresa’s bachelor brother, Ox, decides it’s time to marry, he sets his sights on the beautiful daughter of a newly rich inventor. Because it’s what their family does, Theresa asks Octavian to act as Ox’s cavalier: he will present her with an engagement ring (a family diamond ring in a rose pattern), and do some research into the family’s background.
But when Octavian presents Sophie Fortesecue with the ring, he’s captivated by her youth and beauty as well as her quick mind and her complete innocence. As he delves into her family history, he uncovers a family secret that was meant to stay buried.
The love connect brings about divided loyalties for all. As secrets are reveled, those involved are caught up in a mystery that will put them all in danger.
Like a bowl of vanilla ice cream, A Certain Age is enjoyable and comfortable.
And that’s okay.
A Certain Age is based on an opera written by Richard Strauss, “Der Rosenkavalier”. The names and basic story are similar, although Williams added in a murder mystery (from what I can tell, I’ve never seen Strauss’s opera), and it’s set in 1920’s Manhattan vs. 1740’s Vienna. (The Author’s Note is very interesting, so don’t skip them!)
I’ve read Beatriz Williams’s books before, and I’m always entertained by her storytelling. Her characters are believable, likable, and interesting. Her bad guys are bad, although they seem to believe their bad acts are justified. I’ve read a few of her books, and enjoyed them all. She does quite a bit of research, and her historical fiction seems spot on.
I did like this story; she creates a vivid impression of New York in the 1920’s. The high society of Manhattan seems legitimate (I haven’t studied 1920’s Manhattan and I’m not THAT old, but it sounds right to me!), and the characters stay true to the time and their individual personalities.
Williams writes great characters and wonderful interactions for the characters. The book started off a little slow, but it hooked me about a third of the way through. Both female characters are wonderful; strong women at different points of their lives, both trying to do the right thing even when emotion gets in the way. Theresa is caught between a rock and a hard place, but still seems to find a way to come out with her integrity and dignity intact. Sophie is young and headstrong, but still tries to find a way to be sincere and fair.
I find myself in a conundrum when it comes to endings that tie neatly together. Something in my heart smiles when I read a neat, tidy ending (probably the same part that loves a slightly predictable rom-com). But my mind, that part that overthinks just about everything, doesn’t like that neatly tied knot. Life doesn’t come together so nicely.
The ending of A Certain Age thrills my rom-com heart, but messes with my mind. So many strings are pulled together and tied into a tidy bow. It’s wonderful, if just a little too perfect.
But the ending fits the book — it’s the kind of book that calls for a nice, neat ending.
As I said–an enjoyable read. 3.5 stars.