A Southern ingénue turned English viscountess and her daughters weather court intrigue, political unrest, illicit romance and the perils of two world wars in Dean’s breathlessly plotted debut.
Delia, a debutante from Virginia, marries much older Lord Ivor Conisborough despite suspicions that his chief agenda for their union is producing an heir. Once installed as the chatelaine of Ivor’s London townhouse and country estates, she has more disillusionment in store: Ivor’s heart belongs to his longtime mistress, Sylvia. Sylvia’s husband Jerome steps into the breach, and he and Delia embark on a lifelong love affair. After Jerome survives World War I, Delia enjoys a heady whirl of parties with Edward, Prince of Wales, and his sybaritic entourage—when she’s not sojourning at Jerome’s Swiss villa. Then status-hungry Sylvia throws Jerome and Ivor over to marry a duke, and Ivor accepts a posting to Egypt. Ensconced in a mansion fronting the Nile, Delia and daughters Petra and Davina adapt well to upper-crust life. Delia brings Petra back to London for the debutante season. There the young woman falls in with a fast set of aristocrats. Meanwhile, Delia is mightily occupied defending her friend and countrywoman Wallis Simpson against malicious insinuations that the American divorcée is a royal pain. Petra falls hard for Jerome’s son Jack, and Delia is compelled to warn her that Jerome might also be Petra’s father. (The secret of Petra’s parentage in this pre–DNA testing era is largely sustained by withholding readily accessible information until the bitter end.) Back in Egypt, Davina, the only Conisborough with a social conscience, is troubled by rumors that beloved Egyptian playboy Marius may be spying for Hitler.
Cataclysmic world and family crises entertainingly refracted through a prism of privilege.