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No Angel

No Angel

4.1 41
by Penny Vincenzi

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With more than 3.5 million copies sold, Penny Vincenzi is one of the world’s preeminent writers of popular fiction—and American readers no longer have to miss out on the fun.

With the publication of No Angel, a novel introducing the engaging cast of characters in the Lytton family, Overlook opens a thrilling new dimension to this author’s


With more than 3.5 million copies sold, Penny Vincenzi is one of the world’s preeminent writers of popular fiction—and American readers no longer have to miss out on the fun.

With the publication of No Angel, a novel introducing the engaging cast of characters in the Lytton family, Overlook opens a thrilling new dimension to this author’s already illustrious career. No Angel is an irresistibly sweeping saga of power, family politics, and passion-a riveting drama and a fervent love story. Celia Lytton is the beautiful and strong-willed daughter of wealthy aristocrats and she is used to getting her way. She moves through life making difficult and often dangerous decisions that affect herself and others-her husband, Oliver, and their children; the destitute Sylvia Miller, whose life is transformed by Celia’s intrusion; as well as Oliver’s daunting elder sister, who is not all she appears to be; and Sebastian Brooke, for whom Celia makes the most dangerous decision of all. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of London and New York in the First World War, No Angel is, as British Good Housekeeping wrote, “an absorbing page-turner, packed with believable characters and satisfyingly extreme villains, eccentrics, and manipulators.” Readers of Maeve Binchy, Barbara Taylor Bradford, and Anita Shreve will fall in love with this epic, un-put-downable novel.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Penny Vincenzi's No Angel is a rich bonbon of a book. Readers who devour sagas and love romance will find every page irresistible. And as for others? Well, you might feel a little undernourished, but still I'm betting that you can't help but gorge yourself on at least some of its guilty pleasures. — Caroline Leavitt
Publishers Weekly
Bestselling British author Vincenzi follows the tumultuous lives of London's Lytton family through the early 20th century in her first novel to be published in the U.S. At the story's center is Lady Celia Beckenham, a strong-willed, blue-blooded beauty who forces her parents to bless her marriage to the lower-ranking Oliver Lytton, employed in the "rough world of publishing," by getting pregnant. Taking her maternal duties in stride (her ugly baby, Giles, is initially "something of a disappointment"), Celia talks her way into an editorial position at Lyttons Publishing House, and quickly proves herself a fast learner with a head full of successful ideas. As years pass and more children arrive, Celia becomes known for her editorial skills and her familial devotion. But when Oliver returns after four years of fighting in WWI, her perfect world begins to crumble he is dismayed by the books Lyttons has published under Celia's and his sister LM's guidance, and he has lost all desire for his wife. Celia seeks comfort in the arms of a handsome new author, and as she falls into an all-consuming affair, she begins to contemplate leaving Oliver: "She would have to go; go with Sebastian. Anything else was madness. She explored the decision for a few minutes, waiting for uncertainty to return. It didn't." But as Celia struggles to make her life-altering decision, events around her cause her to see herself and her family in a new light and to ponder what her life would be like if she weren't a Lytton. Through life and death, exuberance and sorrow, honor and disgrace, Vincenzi perfectly captures the intricacies of her characters and creates plots captivating enough to keep readers eyes' glued to this long and hearty saga. (Oct.) Forecast: Vincenzi has sold more than 3.5 million copies overseas, and Overlook is giving this title a big push with a 75,000 first printing and solid ad dollars; handselling to those looking to curl up with a happier doorstopper than last year's excellent but dark Crimson Petal and the White should also help. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In the tradition of Barbara Taylor Bradford, popular British novelist Vincenzi writes a family saga starring Celia Lytton, a smart, ambitious woman working against stereotype during World War I. In the opening scene, when the reader finds out Celia has purposely gotten pregnant so that her aristocratic parents will let her marry Oliver Lytton, the reader knows that this is a woman who gets her way. Vincenzi takes us through 20 years in Celia's life, using historical moments as background and introducing us to wonderful supporting characters, such as her strong-willed sister-in-law, LM, and her outspoken mother, the Countess of Beckenham. All of the novel's characters are three-dimensional, and the story enthralls us as it takes us through not only the emotional life of the Lyttons but also the wheeling and dealing of their publishing house. This entertaining novel is recommended for most fiction collections. [BOMC and Literary Guild selections; see "Must-Reads for Fall," p. 40.-Ed.]-Marianne Fitzgerald, Charlotte Mecklenburg Sch. Dist., NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A first US appearance for British Vincenzi. (Overlook will also be publishing two of her previous novels: Something Dangerous and Into Temptation.) Celia, headstrong daughter of aristocratic Edwardian parents, makes the breakfast kippers spin in their silver chafing dish when she decides to marry . . . out of her class. The object of her affections is tall, blond, handsome Oliver Lytton, the offspring of a distinguished London publisher and a rather louche actress, long since decamped. Celia's outraged father points out that the man can't even ride a horse. Her practical mother adds that marriage is a business (but neglects to mention that she has been carrying on a clandestine affair for years with a friend of the family's). But Celia must and will have her way, and so she and Oliver marry, with only the family and a few loyal servants in attendance. Not the lavish society wedding Lady Beckenham had hoped for, but there's no time to waste-and Celia is delivered of Giles, a robust if ugly-looking infant, a mere six months after the ceremony. Yet there is trouble ahead, and ere long, a silver candlestick will be hurled at the nursery door. Celia is profoundly bored by the unchanging routine of motherhood, and she wants to work. Oliver demurs. "I want you to be in our home, taking care of our son, not out in the rough world of publishing." Then a collection of Queen Victoria's letters proves a temptation too powerful to resist, and Celia offers an utterly brilliant suggestion: Shall they publish a simultaneous biography? Lo, a dazzling career begins within the hallowed and fusty walls of Lyttons as our Celia swans it through the ensuing years of tremendous social upheaval, WWI, decorousinfidelity with a sexy author, and other proliferating subplots too numerous to count. Studiously avoiding latent snobbery, Vincenzi rounds out this baggy saga with a few working-class characters, whose hearts are in the right place even if their aitches are not. Overlong and overwrought, though not without a certain veddy British charm. First printing of 75,000; $50,000 ad/promo

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Read an Excerpt

No Angel

By Penny Vincenzi


Copyright © 2000

Penny Vincenzi
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-58567-481-8

Chapter One

Celia stood at the altar, smiling into the face of her bridegroom and
wondered if she was about to test his vow to cherish her in sickness and
in health rather sooner than he might have imagined. She really did feel
as if she was going to vomit: there and then, in front of the
congregation, the vicar, the choir. This was truly the stuff of which
nightmares were made. She closed her eyes briefly, took a very deep
breath, swallowed; heard dimly through her swimmy clammy nausea
the vicar saying, 'I now pronounce you man and wife', and somehow
the fact that she had done it, managed this marriage, managed this day,
that she was married to Oliver Lytton, whom she loved so much, and
that no one could change anything now, made her feel better. She saw
Oliver's eyes on her, tender, but slightly anxious, having observed her
faintness, and she managed to smile again before sinking gratefully on to
her knees for the blessing.

Not an ideal condition for a bride to be in, almost three months'
pregnant; but then if she hadn't been pregnant, her father would never
have allowed her to marry Oliver anyway. It had been a fairly drastic
measure; but it had worked. As she had known it would. And it had
certainly been fun: she had enjoyed becoming pregnant a lot.

The blessing was over now; they were being ushered into the vestry
to sign the register. She felt Oliver's hand taking hers, and glanced over
her shoulder at the group following them. There were her parents, her
father fiercely stem, the old hypocrite: she'd grown up seeing pretty
housemaid after pretty housemaid banished from the house, her mother,
staunchly smiling, Oliver's frail old father, leaning on his cane supported
by his sister Margaret, and just behind them, Oliver's two brothers,
Robert rather stiff and formal and slightly portly, Jack, the youngest,
absurdly handsome, with his brilliant blue eyes restlessly exploring the
congregation for any pretty faces. Beyond them were the guests,
admittedly rather few, just very close friends and family, and the people
from the village and the estate, who of course wouldn't have missed her
being married for anything. She knew that in some ways her mother
minded about that more than about anything else really, that it wasn't a
huge wedding like her sister Caroline's, with three hundred guests at St
Margaret's Westminster, but a quiet affair in the village church. Well,
she didn't mind. She didn't mind in the very least. She had married
Oliver: she had got her way.

'Of course you can't marry him,' her mother had said, 'he has no
money, no position, no house even, your father won't hear of it.'

Her father did hear about it, about her wish to marry Oliver, because
she made him listen; but he reiterated everything her mother had said.

'Ridiculous. Throwing your life away. You want to marry properly,
Celia, into your own class, someone who can keep you and support you
in a reasonable way.'

She said she did not want to marry properly, she wanted to marry
Oliver, because she loved him; that he had a brilliant future, that his
father owned a successful publishing house in London which would be
his one day.

'Successful, nonsense,' her father said, 'if it was successful he wouldn't
be living in Hampstead would he? With nowhere in the country. No,
darling,' for he adored her, his youngest, a late flower in his life, 'you
find someone suitable and you can get married straight away. That's
what you really want, I know, a home and husband and babies; it's
natural, I wouldn't dream of stopping you. But it's got to be someone
who's right for you. This fellow can't even ride a horse.'

Things had got much worse after that; she had shouted, raged, sworn
she would never marry anyone else, and they had shouted and raged
back at her, telling her she was being ridiculous, that she had no idea
what she was talking about, that she clearly had no idea what marriage
was about, that it was a serious matter, a considerable undertaking, not
some absurd notion about love.

'Very over-rated, love,' her mother said briskly, 'doesn't last, Celia,
not what you're talking about. And when it's gone, you need other
things, believe me. Like a decent home to bring up your children in.
Marriage is a business and it works best when both parties see it that

Celia was just eighteen years old when she met 0liver Lytton: she had
looked at him across the room at a luncheon party in London given by a
rather bohemian friend of her sister's and fallen helplessly in love with
him, even before they had spoken a single word. Afterwards, trying to
analyse that sensation, to explain it to herself, she could only feel she had
been invaded by an intense emotion, taken hold of, shaken by it; she felt
immediately changed, the focus of her life suddenly found. It was
primarily an emotional reaction to him, a desire to be with him, close to
him in every way, not mere physical attraction which she had
experienced to some degree before; he was quite extraordinarily
handsome, of course, tall and rather serious, indeed almost solemn-looking,
with fair hair, blue eyes, and a glorious smile that entirely
changed his face, bringing to it not just a softness, but a merriment, a
sense of great joie de vivre.

But he was more than handsome, he was charming, beautifully
mannered, clearly very intelligent, with a great deal more to talk about
than most of the young men she had met. Indeed he talked about things
she had never heard a young man speak of before, of books and
literature, of plays and art exhibitions. He asked her if she had been to
Florence and Paris and when she said she had, asked her then which
galleries she had most enjoyed and admired. He also - which she found
more engaging than any of the rest - had a way of treating her as if she
were as clever and as well-read as he. Celia, who was of a generation
and class of girls educated at home by governesses, was entirely charmed
by this. She had been brought up in the only way her parents knew and
recognised: to marry someone from her own social class, and to lead a
life exactly the same as her mother's, raising a family and running a
household; from the moment she set eyes on Oliver Lytton, she knew
this was not what she wanted.

She was the youngest daughter of a very old and socially impeccable
family. The Beckenhams dated back to the sixteenth century, as her
mother, the Countess of Beckenham, was fond of telling everyone; the
family had a glorious and quite grand seventeenth century house and
estate called Ashingham in Buckinghamshire, not far from Beaconsfield,
and a very beautiful town house in Clarges Street, Mayfair. They were
extremely rich and concerned only with running their estate, conserving
their assets, and enjoying what was mostly a country life. Lord
Beckenham ran the home farm, hunted and shot a great deal in the
winter, and fished in the summer, Lady Beckenham socialised both in
London and the country, rode, played cards, organised her staff, and - rather
more reluctantly - saw to the upkeep of her extensive wardrobe.
Books, like pictures, were things which covered the Beckenham walls
and were appreciated for their value rather more than for their content;
talk at their dinner table centred around their own lives, rather than
around abstract matters such as art, literature and philosophy.

Confronted by a daughter who professed herself - after only three
months' short acquaintance - to be in love with someone who, by their
standards, was not only a pauper, but almost as unfamiliar to them as a
Zulu warrior, they were genuinely appalled and anxious for her.

Celia could see that they were entirely serious in their opposition; she
supposed she could marry Oliver when she was twenty-one, but that
was unimaginably far off, three years away. And so, staring into the
darkness through her bedroom window late one night, her eyes sore
with weeping, wondering what on earth she could do, she had suddenly
found it: the solution. The breathtakingly, dazzlingly simple solution.
She would become pregnant and then they would have to let her marry
him. The more she thought about it, the more sensible it seemed. The
only alternative was running away; but Oliver had rejected that sweetly
but firmly.

'It would cause too much anxiety, hurt too many people, my family
as well as yours. I don't want us to build our life together on other
people's unhappiness.'

His gentleness was only one of the many things she loved about him.

Just the same, she thought that night, he would not accede to this
plan too easily. He would argue that pregnancy would also cause great
distress; he would not see that they deserved it, her blind, insensitive,
hypocritical parents: hardly models of marital virtue themselves, her
father with the housemaids, her mother with her lover of many years.
Her sister, Caroline had told her about him, the year before, at her own
coming out ball at Ashingham. Caroline had had too much champagne
and was standing with Celia between dances, looking across at their
parents talking animatedly to one another. Celia had said impulsively
how sweet it was that they were still so happy together, in spite of the
housemaids, and Caroline had said that if they were, much of the credit
should go to George Paget. George Paget and his rather plain wife,
Vera, were old family friends; pressed to explain precisely what she
meant, Caroline said that George had been her mother's lover for over
ten years. Half shocked, half fascinated, Celia begged to be told more,
but Caroline laughed at her for being so innocent and launched herelf
on to the dance floor with her husband's best friend. But next day she
had relented, remorseful at disillusioning her little sister, said she mustn't
worry about it, that it wasn't important.

'Mama will always keep the rules.'

'What rules?' Celia said.

'Society's rules,' said Caroline, patiently reassuring. 'Discretion,
manners, those sorts of things. She would never leave Papa. To them
marriage is unshakable. What they do, what all society does, is make
marriage more pleasant, more interesting. Stronger, actually, I would

'And - would - would you make your marriage more pleasant in that
way?' Celia asked and Caroline laughed and said that at the moment,
hers was fairly pleasant anyway.

'But yes, I suppose I would. If Arthur became dull, or found pleasure
of his own elsewhere. Don't look so shocked, Celia, you really are an
innocent aren't you? I heard it said the other day that Mrs Keppel, you
know, the king's mistress, has turned adultery into an art form. That
seems quite a nice achievement to me.'

Celia had still felt shocked, despite the reassurance. When she got
married, she knew it would be for love and for life.

So - Oliver must not realise the full extent of her plan. She knew
exactly how one became pregnant; her mother had instructed her with
great and unusual forthrightness on the subject when Celia had her first
menstrual period, and besides, she had grown up in the country, she had
seen sheep and even horses copulating, had been present at the birth of
lambs, and had spent all of one night in the sweet steamy stench of the
stables with her father and his groom, as her father's favourite mare
dropped her foal. She had no doubt that she would be able to persuade
Oliver into making love to her; as well as being absurdly romantic,
constantly sending her poems, flowers, love letters pages long, he was
passionately affectionate with her, his kisses far from chaste, intensely
arousing - to them both.

Celia had rather more freedom than many girls of her age. Having
raised six children, her mother had become weary of the task, and was in
any case extremely busy and inclined to leave Celia to her own affairs.
When Oliver came for the weekend at Ashingham, invited to join one
of the Beckenham house parties as Celia's guest, they were able during
the day (Oliver being quite unable to join in any sporting activities) to
roam the grounds on their own and after dinner to sit in the library on
their own talking. The roaming and talking had led to a great deal of
kissing; Celia had found she quite literally could not have enough of it,
and was yearning for more - as, quite plainly, was Oliver.

She had not experienced passion before, either in herself or any of the
young men she had met; but she found she could recognise it very easily
now. As easily as she had been able to recognise love. He had been very
respectful of her virtue, naturally, but she was absolutely confident that
she could persuade him to take their physical relationship forwards
without any difficulty whatsoever. Of course he would be anxious, not
only that they would be found out, but that she would become
pregnant. But she could reassure him about that, tell him some lie - she
wasn't sure what; she believed there were times in the month when you
were supposed not to be able to become pregnant, she had read it in
some book in her mother's room - and then when it happened - well
there would be nothing more to worry about.

She was very precise in her plans: she pretended to have acquiesced to
her parents' views, to have come to see that Oliver was not the right man
for her - although not too swiftly, lest she arouse their suspicion - and
stayed at home dutifully for several weeks, while writing to Oliver every
day. Then she went to London to stay with Caroline for a few days,
ostensibly to do some shopping, and it had all been absurdly easy. Caroline
had discovered that she was pregnant herself, and was wretchedly sick,
totally uninterested in what her younger sister was doing, and unwilling as
well as unable to chaperone her. Absences of two or three hours while
Celia was officially shopping, seeing dressmakers, having fittings for the
London Season, but actually discovering the raptures of being in bed with
her lover, went almost unnoticed.

Celia had been right, Oliver was initially resistant to the risks of making
love to her; but a mixture of emotional blackmail and a determined
onslaught on his senses worked quite quickly. She would meet him at the
big house in Hampstead, where he lived with his father, in the early
afternoon; his father still spent every day at the publishing house, and it
was easy for Oliver to pretend to be lunching with authors, or visiting
artists' studios. They would go upstairs to Oliver's room, a big, light
book-lined affair with huge windows on the first floor, overlooking the
Heath, and spend the next hour or so in the rather narrow almost lumpy
bed that swiftly became paradise for Celia. They found a physical delight
in each other almost at once; Oliver was not exactly experienced, indeed
his own knowledge had been gained at the hands of a couple of chorus
girls introduced by his best friend at Oxford, but it was sufficient to guide
him through Celia's initiation.

Excerpted from No Angel
by Penny Vincenzi
Copyright © 2000 by Penny Vincenzi.
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.

What People are Saying About This

Dominick Dunne
Penny Vincenzi writes with verve and heart, immersing the reader in a world of engrossing and unforgettable glamour and passion. No Angel is a highly entertaining family saga.

Meet the Author

Penny Vincenzi, before becoming a novelist, worked at such magazines as Vogue, Tatler, and Cosmopolitan. She is the author of The Dilemma, Almost a Crime, No Angel, Something Dangerous, Into Temptation, Sheer Abandon, An Absolute Scandal, An Outrageous Affair, Windfall, and Forbidden Places, all available from Overlook.

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No Angel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy family saga's, you should really enjoy this book. Celia, the main character is facinating. The other characters are interesting and have depth. I have not enjoyed a family saga like this in years. Yes, it is quite a large book - 600 plus pages, but it's like a good movie that is twice as long as the normal movie; you just don't realize the length because it is just so captivating. When I was not reading the book, I found myself wondering about what was going to happen next. I finished this book and am already into the second of the trilogy - Something Dangerous. I am new to this author and so glad to have found her. I highly recommend this book; especially if you like a great family saga!
DIVA1 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know what I'll do when I am finished reading all of her books! I have read at least 8 and just love the characters. They stay with me for a while .......Especially the No Angel Trilogy. Keep writing Penny !!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Glad it is a 3 book series!!!!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the decade before WW I, aristocrat Celia meets Oliver Lytton, member of a giant publishing family. Though her family objects that his status is beneath her, Celia comprehends the changing early twentieth century world; she maneuvers her weak beau into marriage. When he goes off for war, she takes over the family business taking her sister-in-law as her only ally to the top with her.

Celia and Oliver have three children. The two daughters are as spoiled and selfish as their mom while the son is a chip off the old fatherly block being as weak as Oliver is. She also adopts a daughter of an impoverished friend, but when author Sebastian Brooke enters her life, Celia must decide what she rally wants and at what price.

This family saga, reminiscent of the works of Barbara Taylor Bradford, highlights much of the first few decades of the twentieth century and fully belongs to the heroine who is NO ANGEL. The story line focuses on the impact of Celia¿s ambition and drive on anyone who lands in her ever-widening circle of influence. Though chapters seem a bit extended, fans of insightful historical dramas that center on people and families will enjoy Penny Vincenzi¿s powerful tale.

Harriet Klausner

gotham43 More than 1 year ago
I rated this five stars in retrospect; wanted to finish the whole trilogy before giving my opinion.  Five stars not because this is great literature but because it was so much fun to read.  You will not be disappointed with the story of Celia and her family.  History background was wonderful; I cannot remember the last time I lost myself in a family saga like this!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I saw the three books in this series advertised, I thought I would either love them or hate them! I LOVED them!!! The Lytton family comes up with one surprise after another! Thank you Penny Vincenzi and thank you BN for calling my attention to them in one of your ads! A great read - by the fireplace on a cold day (or many cold days)! Don't let the size of the books deter you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
No Angel is a book I s stumbled into. What a lucky stumble. I live in the Midwest and we are seriously into winter as I write. This is THE perfect book to snuggle into a comforter with and enjoy the read and the trip with the Lytton family. Or, it is a book just made for summer, heat, and the beach. Wonderfully long, you enter the world of this English family and all those who enter their lives. Why haven't I found this author before? No matter. I am going to seek out her other works. It is a page-turner in the manner of Gone With The Wind and Ladies Of The Club. Thanks so much Penny V. for this glimpse of England in the late 1890s and beyond, and the people who made up the class structures and the changes that came into English society. Get this one? Oh, yes! Read this one? Absolutely!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Penny Vincenzi's first book in this saga depicts life in a bygone England. The strong, idiosyncratic characters and well written storyline are reminiscent of Galsworthy, Delderfield and, more recently, the brilliant Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet family series. An entertaining and satisfying read that whets the appetite for the sequels.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually stick with murder mysteries, and wasn't sure that I would be able to get into this book. Once I started, I couldn' put it down. The Lytton family becomes so real. I've already read Something Dangerous, and Into Temptation. The second and third book for this trilogy, and I must say Penny Vincenzi does not disappoint.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book a couple of years ago in london... and i loved it. i actually got hooked on this one and started reading her others. i now have almost every penny vincenzi book she's written and they are all excellent. the next in this series is also very good and full of unexpected twists and turns.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this trilogy. However, it was ironic that the story was about a family in publishing and there were so many editing/grammatical mistakes thoughout the 3 books.
anonymousek More than 1 year ago
This trilogy was one of the best I have ever read--Comparing it with Adler-Archer and Bradford--I think she might come out ahead. Only one problem with this--Each book is about 800 pages--I spent one week reading all of them. I almost could not stop and do anything else until the last word was read. Don't miss this. I am now going on to some of her other works. I hope they are equal--certainly couldnt be better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good. I really enjoyed it. Looking forward to her other books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a hard time connecting with the book in the beginning. I stuck with it, and I am glad I did. The novel was not perfect, but had some very good characters. I enjoyed reading about the publishing industry. I wasn't sure if I hated the main character or accepted her despite her flaws. Some of the lesser characters were terrific, including Celia's mother and LM. This is my first Vincenzi book, but not the last. I look forward to reading the others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
See above.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this theaudio version or an actual ebook?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like historical fiction, this first book in a trilogy leads you through the lives of a powerful British family before WWI. Absolutely fascinating. I read all three books in a row, unable to put them down,not wanting them to end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you must read this book. I couldn't put it down. It was riveting!