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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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  • Joan B. (Ellicott City, MD)
    Woman before Wallis
    Wallis and Prince Edward were married on my actual birth day. I remember that my mom was always impressed with a love story that prevented the prince from remaining on the throne. As a little girl, I knew the name Wallis Simpsom was connected to a romantic love story. Also, I knew very little British history. I just thought ex-kings would lead a charmed life of riches and pleasure. Those dreams called me to this book and I loved it!

    Surprisingly, it was the before Wallis story that was fascinating. The Gloria Vanderbilt name was embroidered on my first jeans. Little did I know that Gloria had a beautiful twin sister who was the woman before Wallis. Their lives were the juice of society columns as well as the meat of this book. Prince Edward was quite a dashing play boy. His adventures made quite a story that was suppressed by the British press. Thelma is the glamour girl who keeps you reading.
  • Shirley T. (Comfort, TX)
    The Woman Before Wallis
    The "Woman before Wallis" is an immensely enjoyable novel, revealing the intriguing but decadent lives of the aristocracy and the wealthy on both sides of the Atlantic during the years following World War I.

    While the United States and the United Kingdom struggled with the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s the rich were involved in multiple love affairs and other dubious relationships. The novel is well researched regarding historical facts and the author has succeeded in portraying the characters of Thelma and Gloria with such clarity that the novel is a "page turner"!

    This is a great portrayal of the other side of the Wallis Simpson story in the ebbing days of high society leading up to World War 2.
  • Carrie M. (Rahway, NJ)
    Woman Before Wallis Bryn Turnbull
    For readers of The Paris Wife or A Well Behaved Woman, a debut novel with historical accuracy and detail which enhances the enjoyment and ease of reading. Travel to early twentieth century Paris, the English countryside, and by necessity to New York and beyond to immerse yourself in the world of Lady Thelma Furness and her family and acquaintances. Discover how the daughter of an American diplomat marries the aristocratic Viscount Duke Furness and through him, meets Prince Edward (known to his inner circle as David); however, can she trust her friend Wallis to care for him while she journeys to New York to support her twin sister Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt in her notorious child custody battle? There are many intriguing and accurate subplots.

    An intriguing and thought provoking read into the societal demands of the British noble and royal families and their circle in the early twentieth century. The relationships between Thelma and Gloria, and with the younger generation, adds depth, interest, and understanding of the period. The details of the homes, estates, and more add color to the book. The only hindrance for some readers will be the interweaving of the two plots and time periods on the opposite sides of the Atlantic but these drive the plots and the family dynamics. These twin plots are needed to understand. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this book. The plot is well executed and the characters draw into their lives.

    Discussion are included in the book or your contemplation or for group discussion.
  • Debra C. (Vienna, GA)
    The Woman Before Wallis
    On the heels of reading The Queens Secret and The Splendid Vile, The Woman Before Wallis, was the perfect ending to my all things English trifecta! If you enjoy discovering new and interesting details about the royals, you will thoroughly take pleasure reading this well written piece of historical fiction. Thelma's story is intriguing and provides a straight forward easy read...never knew that she once held Prince Edwards' heart and their history and love story left me wanting to know even more. Byrn Turnbull, great work presenting such an insightful piece of history!
  • Joan V. (Miller Place, NY)
    The Rich ARE Different
    I very much enjoyed The Woman before Wallis; I would have given it more than five stars if that rating were possible. I highly recommend this book.

    I thought I knew a lot about the Duke of Windsor's abdication, but this book filled in a lot of details that were new to me. Through Thelma Morgan ( Lady Furness) there was a connection to the British Royal family and the famous custody suit for Gloria Vanderbilt, between her mother and her Vanderbilt grandmother. Lady Furness was the Duke's mistress and the twin sister of Gloria Vanderbilt's mother. Learning about all the behind the scenes was fascinating.

    This look at the lives of American and British wealthy upper classes was very revealing. It's hard to imagine anyone keeping up that standard of living today, probably very few do. It's always fun to peel behind the curtains at the private lives these people led, but it does create a feeling of distaste at the values they had. Although the author does not go into the future life of the Duke, he did not make much of a contribution to the betterment of anyone other than himself. Behind all the glitter none of these people seem to be very content or happy with their lives.
    I think it would make for a good discussion in a book club. I also think viewers of the Netflix series The Crown would enjoy it.
  • Diana C. (Boca Raton, FL)
    Entitlement at its finest
    This book tells the story of an American woman romantically invoved with Edward, The Prince of Wales prior to his much storied relationship with Wallis Simpson. I tried with every page I read to find some redeeming quality in each and every one of the characters in this novel, but I invariably came up short. For the most part, the author's prose was seamless and her inclusion of fascinating, albeit salacious, historical detail kept my interest. However, in this reviewer's opinion the story's characters were empty vessels totally immersed in their own greed and self preservation with less than a shred of human civility or propriety.
  • Virginia M. (San Antonio, TX)
    Good but not great
    This book is basically a story of the social life of two affluent American twin sisters during the 1920s and 1930s as well as also including the social escapades of their acquaintances. Further, depending upon your own personal point of view, the twins either lived exciting lives filled with romantic interludes involving a string of men with or without the benefit of marriage or else lived sordid existences with little value or meaningful contributions to the world at large.

    One of the twins was Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, the wife of Reginald Vanderbilt who lived life to the fullest but ended up losing her legal right to raise her only biological child (Little Gloria – the famous fashion designer) due to her early choices to pass that child's nurturing to a nanny. The other twin was Thelma Morgan Furness who became a member of British aristocracy and eventually was the mistress of Edward, the Prince of Wales. Of course, we all are quite familiar with the fact that the Prince eventually abdicated the position of King of England in favor of having a married life with Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, who supposedly had been a friend of Thelma's. I must confess that I was quite familiar with the controversy the Prince faced over the royal family's disapproval of his marriage, I really knew very little about Thelma or relationship to Gloria Vanderbilt. So this part of the story was new to me.

    I enjoyed the easy to read style of writing employed by the author – which made the book flow effortlessly; however, I was annoyed by the choice of the author to use the popular technique of alternating time periods skipping ahead to the trial for custody of little Gloria and then back to what was going on in the social world of Thelma and her twin sister. The switch in time periods actually was easy to follow – but I would have preferred a strictly chronological story.

    The aspect that really drove down my overall rating of my pleasure in reading the book was that the author had been described as a writer of historical fiction and so I unwittingly was anticipating that the romantic element of the book would have been enveloped by descriptions of worldly political and historical events during the time period covered by the book. In my opinion, the book described their lives as if they took place in a vacuum.

    If you enjoy scandal and a riveting social life, I think you will love this book. If you want something with more historical substance, I think you will not be satisfied.

    I received this book as part of the First Impression activity of BookBrowse in exchange for my review of the novel.
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