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The Woman Before Wallis

A Novel of Windsors, Vanderbilts, and Royal Scandal

by Bryn Turnbull

The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull X
The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull
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  • Jean L. (Omaha, NE)
    Exorbitant Extravagance
    Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull is a well researched book of historical fiction. The time period of this story occurs after World War I and through the decade of the 1930s. It's focus presents a lifestyle of the rich and famous both in the United States and in England.

    Thelma Morgan Furness is the women before Wallis. Though married to Viscount Duke Furness, she becomes involved in a four year affair with Edward, Prince of Wales. When Thelma's sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt goes to court in the United States to gain custody of her daughter, Gloria Vanderbilt, Thelma leaves England and the Prince to give her support. This opens the door for Wallis Simpson to take Thelma's place in the arms of Edward.

    The scandal reveal in the court proceedings and the power of the Crown revealed during the trial makes for interesting reading.

    I enjoyed the reading of this book. Historical fiction provides the reader with new insights to past history
  • Sharon R. (Deerfield, IL)
    Royal Scandal
    This is a marvelous depiction of the years leading up to Prince Edward's abdication of the throne. The amount of detail the author brings to her scenes is a remarkable achievement in itself. You feel you are in the drawing rooms, the Clubs, even in the forest surrounding the Fort watching the Prince cutting down trees. I also enjoyed the attention to the fashion of the times and how it changed significantly during the era.
    Throughout the book I was also struck by the prevailing sadness. Even as they enjoyed their dinner parties and soirees, their gaiety was enhanced by alcohol and cigarettes.
    When I finished the last page I couldn't help but think of our current fascination with the royals, especially Prince Harry as he has also walked away from his royal duties for the love of his life. The similarities are certainly there.
  • Mary S. (Bow, NH)
    Historical fiction at it's most fun
    Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and The Woman Before Wallis did not disappoint this reader. It is based on the adult lives of Morgan twin sisters. One sister you've probably heard of: Gloria Vanderbilt, wife of Reggie Vanderbilt and mother of Gloria Vanderbilt, the famous designer. The second and lesser known sister, Thelma, is the focus of the book as she was the lover of the Prince of Wales for many years before Wallis Simpson. In fact she introduced Wallis to the Prince.

    It is a whirlwind of a story, full people with incredible wealth - even during the Depression - and the trappings that the wealth brings. It is dialogue that kept me enthralled, however. The author does a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life. And, somehow she makes some of the most incredibly privileged people seem sympathetic - a true wordsmith!

    If you're looking for a interesting story based on true events, look no further. I know you'll enjoy this one.
  • Leah L. (Lawrence, NY)
    Lots to discuss here
    This review has several well known sayings because they are all relevant.

    First -- Truth is stranger than fiction. Bryn Turnbull's debut novel is an engrossing piece of historical fiction that proves this adage true.

    When I was growing up, my late mother talked about Edward, Prince of Wales, who chose the American divorcee Wallis Simpson. By doing so, he thereby gave up his rights to the Throne of England. Yet I had never heard of the woman before Simpson, Thelma Morgan, the sister of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt. Thelma's husband Viscount Duke Furness introduced her to Edward and an affair ensured. Thelma traveled (via ship) to New York to support her sister through her well publicized divorce and custody trial. Before she set sail, she asked her trusted friend Wallis to take care of Edward. I wondered how history would have been different had Wallis not taken such good care of Edward. The rest is history. Cherchez la femme, as the French say.

    Thelma and Gloria are the proverbial "poor little rich girls." There's glamour, fame, wealth but not much else. Both love and lose big time.

    This sliver of juicy history occurs in a time period when journalism was about newspapers, photographers and radio. Imagine today's paparazzi feasting on these characters and their stories. There'd be many more applicable adages.
  • Jeanne W. (Colorado Springs, CO)
    A Great Backstory to a Major Moment in History
    This book picked me up and set me down in the 1930s. Clothing, cars, nightclubbing all felt so authentic. I've never been a member of British high-society, but I am still appalled by how they "raised" their children. In his first 6 months, I don't think baby Tony saw his parents more than a handful of times. This is my favorite kind of historical fiction; the kind that seems so real that you have to research to find out how much is true. Answer: a lot! I do feel that the first 3/4 of the book rolled out in a leisurely manner, but the last 1/4 sped by skimming over a lot of the details. I want to know how Thelma's break-up with David happened, and how Wallis further slithered her way into his life and Thelma's reaction to it.
  • Sarah B. (Streamwood, IL)
    I enjoyed this immensely. I had never heard of Thelma Morgan, but I had heard of most of the other players. Both Gloria Vanderbilts and the case surrounding little Gloria; David and Wallis, but never that Thelma was there first and that David was so into married women.
    This is perfect for anyone that loves royals, history and the feeling of celebrity tabloid stories.
  • Marge
    More to This Story Than You Think
    I was familiar with Thelma Morgan's story before, so, I was surprised to find there was more depth to it than I had thought there would be. But she was a woman of her times.

    She was a far more caring step-mother to the two children of her second husband, Marmaduke Furness, than I would have supposed. Her only child with Lord Furness was Anthony and he was largely raised by nursery servants in the tradition of the day.

    She was fiercely loyal to her twin sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, Anderson Cooper's grandmother. It was this loyalty that contributed to her failed relationship with "David." She became the mistress to the Prince of Wales while married to Lord Furness but only after her husband had taken a mistress indiscreetly before this. He left her emotionally before she left him. The same thing happened with the Prince and this left the door open to Wallis.

    For years, I have wondered what women saw in the Prince of Wales. He often comes across as a needy, self-centered, childish immature man with too much money. His parents didn't fill the hole in his emotions that his married mistresses did. In the end, it was a good thing he did not become King. There might not have been a kingdom for anyone to inherit


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