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Gone with the Windsors
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Gone with the Windsors

4.1 7
by Laurie Graham
 

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The scandalous divorcée who led the besotted Prince of Wales to abdicate his throne first appears in the fictional diary of Maybell Brumby as her schoolmate Bessie, a charity girl with pretensions and good cheekbones. "I'm Wallis," she snarls, "and if you call me anything else you're going to be sorry."

One social climber swiftly recognizes another. When

Overview

The scandalous divorcée who led the besotted Prince of Wales to abdicate his throne first appears in the fictional diary of Maybell Brumby as her schoolmate Bessie, a charity girl with pretensions and good cheekbones. "I'm Wallis," she snarls, "and if you call me anything else you're going to be sorry."

One social climber swiftly recognizes another. When life's whimsical currents toss these two gilt-edged gold diggers together again as adults, history will change its course.

Maybell is the wealthy, friskily young widow of a Baltimore bore, eager to break into London society. Wallis has jettisoned husband number one and is looking for the escape hatch from husband number two; impoverished as ever, she's armed only with that terrific bone structure, a few erotic tricks she's picked up in the Far East, and the determination to land the most eligible bachelor in the world. And now, to help her on her quest, she has her old chum Maybell, along with her inexhaustible trust fund and her useful inability to recognize the deft touch of a born con artist.

Trailing a cloud of Worth perfume and an ermine stole, missing the point of every conversation, the deliciously dim Maybell witnesses the courtship of the twentieth century and the scandal that rocked a monarchy - recording all in her diary.

As light as a meringue, as fizzy as a freshly popped bottle of champagne, Gone with the Windsors is a supremely clever entertainment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The diary entries of shallow and oblivious Baltimore socialite Maybell Brumby comprise Graham's fourth novel, which explores the fictional lives of intimates involved in the 1936 abdication of King Edward VIII. Maybell, widowed by her older husband, leaves for London in 1932 to join her sister Violet and falls in with her school friend Bessie Wallis "Wally" Simpson, the married woman (twice, in fact) who has set her sights on the then Prince of Wales. Through Maybell's American patricianism, Graham (The Future Homemakers of America) skewers the tedious royal family and their aristocratic hangers-on. Maybell's self-absorption and dim-wittedness make her endearing at odd moments (as when she learns that her other sister, "Doopie," is deaf rather than mentally handicapped); her chatty tone is grating when the action-primarily Wally's plotting, conquest and royal assumption-slows. Graham depicts the abdication as a kind of bedroom farce and uses Maybell's ignorance to add ambiguity to the controversial relationship of the duke (as he is known after abdication) and Wally to the Nazi regime. As WWII becomes imminent, the leisured friends must make a run for it, and the partings are not all amicable. This light romp through sordid territory is sly, gossipy fun. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wealthy (and young) Baltimore widow Maybell Brumby travels to London in 1932 with plans to make her mark in society. Let her sister Violet socialize with the Bertie Yorks-Maybell can do better. Old friend Wallis Simpson is in town, and as always, Wally has plans. And with Maybell to pick up the tab for her old schoolmate, the ambitious Mrs. Simpson is assured of the clothes and jewels she'll need for weekends in the country with her new friend, Thelma, Prince Edward's mistress. Taking the form of a diary written by the observant yet completely clueless Maybell, Gone is a real treat for anglophiles. Graham (The Future Homemakers of America) has written a witty and insightful historical novel and even manages to make the brainless and superficial Maybell likable. Familiarity with the story of the abdication of Edward VIII and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor will certainly help the reader get all the inside references and humor, though the novel can be enjoyed without it. Recommended for popular fiction collections in public libraries.-Elizabeth Mellett, Brookline P.L., MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A satirical recounting of the romance between Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales, as narrated by a fictional witness to the affair. Because Maybell Brumby is not quite a sympathetic cross between Lady Bricknell and Auntie Mame-in fact, her one redeeming trait is her genuine affection for her niece and nephew-she is the perfect foil for the conniving Mrs. Simpson. A silly and frivolous widow of means who consistently misinterprets the words and actions of those around her, Maybell arrives in London in 1932 to visit her sisters, attracted in part by news that her childhood playmate "Wally" has shown up with a new husband. Maybell lends money, jewelry and furs as the money-strapped but ambitious Wally Simpson makes her way into society despite a dubious past. Maybell's diary of the next decade follows Wally's manipulations as she rises from nobody to hanger-on to prince's mistress to Duchess of Windsor. The purposely inane diary goes on too long with who wore what where, but it is studded with moments of genuinely funny idiocy: Maybell calls Harrods "Harrold's" throughout; mistakes Cole Porter for a coal porter; gets comically seasick on the Guinness yacht. More seriously, she does not realize that her younger sister is deaf, not retarded. And Hitler seems quite the fellow to Maybell until actual war breaks out. No judge of character, Maybell abets Wally as she pursues the prince, who everybody but Maybell recognizes is a simpleton unsuited to the throne. While Maybell is foolish but endearing, Wally is conniving, vicious, money-grubbing and power-hungry-also a slut and gambler. According to Graham (Future Homemakers of America, 2002), Wally is out-maneuvered by the Royals whenher lover is forced off the throne and out of a large portion of his inheritance. In the end, Wally uses up even Maybell's patience. Best read in spurts, since the overabundance of entries diffuses the addictively catty fun.
USA Today
“Delightful...If you like P.G. Wodehouse - or if British royalty is your cup of ... tea - go with the Windsors

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060872717
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/01/2006
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Gone with the Windsors


By Laurie Graham

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Laurie Graham
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060872713

Chapter One

10th March 1932, Sweet Air, Baltimore

Six months since Danforth Brumby surrendered to the first hint of kidney failure and left me a widow. It always was the risk in marrying an older man. Yesterday his headstone was raised, so now it's time to look to the future. I still have my youth and my looks. Men are already flocking to my side and women are pursuing me as always for my advice and my vivacious presence at their dinner tables. Le tout Baltimore is impatient for my return to society, so tomorrow I shall drive into town, place my chinchilla in cold storage, and order a selection of spring outfits from Madame Lucille. A new chapter opens.

13th March 1932

A letter from sister Violet. Why not come to London, Maybell? she begs. It will lift you out of yourself. It's impossible to remain sad for long in a house full of children.

Well, that is a matter of opinion.

Pips Waldo is here, she writes. You always liked Pips. And Judson Erlanger. Remember him? He's married to one of the Chandos girls.

I'll say I remember him! Judson Erlanger took me to the Princeton Ball.

It's getting to be a real Little Baltimore over here, she concludes. And who knows, we may even find you another husband. Melhuish knows quite everyone.

I havealready endured thirteen years of Violet's condescension, brought on by her marriage to Donald Melhuish--Lord Melhuish as she reminds me with tedious regularity. The truth is, I could have snagged Melhuish for myself, had my tastes run to cold castles and men in skirts, but I allowed Violet to have him and I've said nothing since to disturb her smug satisfaction in her title and her connections and her lumpen Melhuish offspring. To some, it is given to tread the wilder track, to risk the ravine in order to conquer more majestic peaks, and I have always had a head for heights.

PS, she adds. You might think of spending some time with Doopie. She has missed you dreadfully.

So there we have it. Violet doesn't want me in London for the zest I would undoubtedly bring to her life, nor does she particularly intend to find me a lord to marry. Tired of playing the angel of mercy, she hopes simply to saddle me with the retard.

What a trial Doopie has been to us all, a regrettable afterthought in a family already perfectly adorned by myself and Violet. If people must have children, two is certainly enough. But our misguided parents would have her, and they would allow her to arrive on my birthday, too.

"Maybell," Father said, "you have the best birthday gift a girl could ask for."

I had hoped for a new donkey cart, not an attention-seeking brat of a sister.

They named her Eveline and doted on every smile she smiled and every mew she mewed, but Sister Eveline didn't impress me. Over and over, she'd allow a person to take away her pacifier, then look injured and start her sobbing. She never learned to say "No." Then, after she caught inflammation of the brain, there could be no doubt about it. The child was a vegetable.

"Slow" was the word Mother used. "Slow, but special."

The fact is, Eveline is stupid. Always was, always will be. I renamed her Stupid, but she's so dumb she can't even say it. "Doopie" is the best she has ever managed.

They tried her at Elementary School, but she was an embarrassment to us all, and it was soon decided that she would do just as well at home. She's handy with a needle, I suppose. She can knit and crochet. And she's quite the green-thumb, which used to endear her to Father.

"I had given up that Ficus for lost," he'd say, "but Eveline has raised it from the dead."

He claimed she knew every plant in the conservatory and talked to them like friends. Well, that says it all about Doopie's powers of communication.

"Bayba," she used to call me. And "Vite" was the best she ever managed for Violet.

"She does love you so," Mother used to tell me. "Her eyes don't leave you for an instant when you come into the room."

There has never been any question of Doopie marrying, though I believe I am the only one who ever took the trouble to inform her of this. In 1914, when Violet was coming out, it was decided that because of the threat of war I had better come out, too. Just as well, because the Prussians quite ruined the 1915 season. Doopie helped with the trimming of our gowns.

"We're invited to the Bachelor's Club Cotillion," I explained to her, "which is something that will never happen to you."

She just smiled. How much of what one says penetrates her brain one never can tell, but she always seems contented enough. The only question was what would become of her. Father seemed to think that two sisters and a Trust Fund answered the case, but I was never consulted. And when Danforth Brumby asked for my hand, nobody asked him if he'd mind having a half-wit in the attic someday.

Violet thought she'd made her escape, I guess, settling overseas. I suppose she thought an idiot couldn't be sent on a sea voyage. But when the time came, after Father passed over and Mother had to be placed in the care of a full-time nurse, it so happened that Brumby and I were much burdened with the renovations at Sweet Air. It would have been most unsuitable for Doopie to move in with us. She might have bumped into a marble pillar awaiting installation and brought it tumbling on top of her, or wandered into the path of some falling beam. It was safer by far to send her to Violet. We provided her with a chaperone, and they traveled . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham Copyright © 2006 by Laurie Graham. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Laurie Graham's nine novels include The Future Homemakers of America and Gone with the Windsors. She lives in Venice, Italy.

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Gone with the Windsors 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bought the book last year on the day it was published in London -- glad to see the American edition is now out. Wonderfully entertaining and endlessly fascinating, my copy has been read and reread by those closest to me with consistant pleasure and surprise. On the downside, it must be a terrible read for anyone without a sense of humor.
Dianne Levtchenko More than 1 year ago
This is a very humorous fun read. At the same time it gives you a pretty good glimpse into what life among England's royalty might have been like. I've recommended this book to many friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a charming book! Very imaginative and intertaining. You can actually imagine all these grand events, the people and the places as Laurie Graham so deftly describes them. She creatively places the reader at Wallis's dinner table and you watch as she watches the poor Duke of Windsor reach his fullest potential - as the life long love slave of the unlikely Wallis Simpson. You can't make this stuff up - oh wait - yes you can! Great fun!
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