Cover Image: The Woman Before Wallis

The Woman Before Wallis

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Member Reviews

A special thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin MIRA for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you also to Harlequin for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour.

Set in two different time periods, The Woman Before Wallis takes place in Paris in 1925, which provides Thelma's backstory, and alternates with the 1934 storyline where Thelma goes to New York City to help her twin sister, Gloria. My only criticism is that I think the narrative should've been linear, in chronological order, versus alternating timelines. 

Although it is a love story, it is not a royal romance per se. It is an intimate look at the love between sisters: Thelma supported her sister in an age when being gay was seen as unacceptable except, as Gloria points out, in high society. And there is also less of the scandal that was advertised—perhaps because we all know what happened with Wallis, and this wasn't her focus. Instead, Turnbull focuses on the trial of Gloria Vanderbilt, and even then the detail was rather sparse.

And can we just appreciate the cover for a moment?

This book starts off slow, but be patient, it is meticulously crafted and worthy of your time. Given that it is historical fiction, Turnbull has taken some liberties, but she strikes the right balance between fact and fiction. If you binge watched The Crown, than I highly recommend this book!
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The Woman Before Wallis by Bryn Turnbull 

A couple of days ago, I was chatting (via text) with a friend, and I told her that I was reading a book about “the woman before Wallis”. 

My friend said, “Freda Dudley Ward?” 

I said, “No, she’s in this book, but this one is about the other “Other Woman”. 

Like my friend, I was also not aware of Thelma Furness’ involvement with David, the Prince of Wales, but having read this book, I am much more aware—not only of Thelma's story, but of the Gloria Vanderbilt custody battle. 

That’s right: Thelma Furness was the identical twin sister of Gloria Vanderbilt, whose daughter Little Gloria, was the focus of a divisive custody battle in the 1930s, and while one can only speculate, Thelma’s return to the United States to support her sister may have been the inciting incident that brought David and Wallis together. The rest, as they say, is history. 

I should point out that this is a novel, so while some minor liberties may have been taken, everything is based on real people and real events. The narrative follows Thelma from meeting her second husband “Duke” Furness, which placed her amongst the upper echelons of English society and in close proximity to the Prince of Wales. There’s no grand passion; David is charming and charismatic and an affair just sort of happened.    

The timeline jumps between the events which begin with Thelma’s marriage and the 1934 custody trial. This serves as an interesting juxtaposition with the scenes in the main timeline and a reminder of how things take a disastrous turn. 

I would absolutely recommend The Woman Before Wallis to anybody who likes the royal family and/or costume dramas like Downton Abbey. Turnbull is a talented author and the book kept me engaged the entire time, even though I already knew how things were going to turn out. She brought the world of 1920s society to life with vivid descriptions and enough hints of scandal to pique my interest. This book was a stunning debut, and I am looking forward to reading more of her books in the future. 

I received a copy of this book from Harlequin MIRA/NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I could not put this book down. When it was over, I wished I was back at the beginning so I could read it fresh again. 

Fans of "The Crown", "Downton Abbey" and historical fiction novels will love this book. It's always tricky to tell a fictionalized story of real people and real events but I think Turnbull did a really great job with Thelma's story. I got drawn into the story from the first few pages and even though I knew how it would end, I loved the journey to get there.
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There are times when I really wonder about my judgment. Why did I think this would be a good choice for me. Am I surprised that the rich and famous lead terrible lives? Would I change places with them? No and No. I am surprised how well they live on no money. Bankrupt and inept with money and yet living a good life. I don't know how they do they do it.

  This is the story of the famous Morgan sisters and their many loves and marriages throughout the upper echelon of people in America and England. They marry, have affairs and muck up their lives with apparent glee. One of them was involved with the Prince of Wales before he gave up his throne for the woman he loved, famous divorcee  Wallis Simpson. It is really for the betterment of all us considering his Nazi ties and general stupidity. His brother made an excellent King.

  The other sister was in a constant custody battle for her daughter with the paternal family, Vanderbilt. It was ugly and messy and the child is the one who suffered.

  For those that love royal gossip, this could be quite entertaining. Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
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It was an ok read.  Lots of name dropping and hard to remember who is who.  It seemed to support the conniving ways of good old Wallis and the shallowness of poor David.  I don’t understand why someone would want him so badly.  The trial of the century was a scandal for sure.  I got bored with the haughty rich people and off the society “politeness”

Received an ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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Before television, scandal and intrigue, especially among the wealthy set, could often be hidden. But when it couldn't, the newspapers blasted the seedy details across the globe. While much is known about Wallis Simpson, the British royal family, and the Vanderbilts, not everyone knows how these names were once all inextricably linked. This historical novel sheds some light on some of the gritty details. 

This book has that typical feel of a good historical novel that uses a good amount of real detail to make a compelling story jump off the page. Although it's about people who really existed, it's root in history doesn't take away from a bit of creative license that takes the story to the next level. If you are interested in that between-the-war time period of the twentieth century, this is a great place to start.
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If you love the show "The Crown" or keep up with any royalty news, this book is for you! I knew bits and pieces about Edward's abdication & Gloria Vanderbilt's ordeal, but this book brought it all to life. Bryn Turnbull hit it out of the park for her debut book!

**Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for sharing this ARC in exchange my honest review.
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Before Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales married Wallis Simpson, there was another woman—Thelma Furness. Lady Furness. This intimate look at the volatile lives of Thelma and her famous twin sister, Gloria Vanderbilt, is detailed, in-depth, and remarkably intriguing.

Everyone knows the infamous abdication of Edward. What may not be as widely known is his relationship with Lady Thelma Furness. Married to aristocrat Duke (Marmaduke) Furness, Thelma begins an extra-marital affair with David (Edward), the Prince of Wales. Eventually divorcing, Thelma and David are free to go public with their relationship. It lasts for 4 years.

Weaved throughout the years of Thelma’s life, losses and love interests are her close connection with her widowed sister Gloria, and the explosive custody battle for her daughter, little Gloria. Learning how the society elite can easily destroy lives and wipe friends out, must have been a hard lesson to learn for the twins.

Thelma was kind, intelligent, level-headed. She defended those she loved and always tried to do right by them. This is evident in her devotion to her sister and the friendship and respect she kept for her ex-husband, Duke. Not to mention how she seemed to not harbor hard feelings against one-time friend Wallis Simpson, who eventually captured the heart of the Prince of Wales. 

I found this account of the lives of the famous Morgan twins and the high-society company they kept, fascinating. Bryn Turnbull’s eye for detail, commitment to recount the truth and sheer interest in her characters, is way beyond impressive. 

I was thoroughly captivated and enthusiastically recommend The Woman Before Wallis.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin—Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada) MIRA for Bryn Turnbull’s read of, The Woman Before Wallis.

Opinions expressed in my reviews are my own.
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As a hopeless lover of the British royal family, I had always heard of Thelma, Lady Furness--Prince Edward's mistress before Wallis, but never realized that she was  "little"Gloria Vanderbilt's aunt, which adds a whole new dimension to the story.  Thelm'a's story was interedsting and as a character, while absolutely not perfect still showed a lot of nobility in how she lived her life--espectially her relationship with her second husband and his chidren.  The two stories--Thelma's and her twin Gloria's while always intermingled were quite similar in many ways and the author does  a good job of showing that.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or British aristocracy.
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The Woman Before Wallis tells the real life story of Thelma Furness, one half of the notorious Morgan twins (the other being Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt).  We follow Thelma through her second marriage to a wealthy British nobleman and subsequent affair with Edward VIII, Prince of Wales.  Her royal romance unfolds at the same time that her family becomes embroiled in the famous Gloria Vanderbilt Custody Trial, in which her beloved sister fights for custody of her daughter, Little Gloria.
The first half of the book lacked description and the characters seemed a bit one dimensional.  The second half of the story picked up steam.  The writing became more descriptive, sometimes beautifully so, and the characters were humanized and seemed more multidimensional.

This book is great for those who already have an interest in the lives of the American and British aristocracy of the first half of the 20th century.  But if the reader isn’t already somewhat familiar with the relationship between Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson and the Vanderbilt Trial they may struggle to keep track of the timeline and list of characters.  Overall I enjoyed seeing these historical events unfold through the eyes of a woman who is often overlooked.
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Most of us know about Anderson Cooper and his famous mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, who as a child was the subject of a bitter custody battle.  But did we know that Gloria Sr. had a twin sister named Thelma who was married to a British Viscount, had a four year long affair with the Prince of Wales (before his abdication and marriage to Thelma’s friend, American Wallis Simpson) as well as a fling with Pakistani Prince Aly (before his marriage to Rita Hayward).  

This is one of those “a look behind the curtain of wealth and respectability” books that reveals the ongoing hypocrisy of the rich and famous during an era when divorced American’s were look down on by members of the British upper class whose own solution to unhappy and unfulfilling marriages was to turn a blind eye to their spouses numerous affairs – whether they be with members of the same or opposite sex.

Thelma’s story is one that sheds additional light on a story that some of us are familiar with as well as new light on the relationship between the sisters.   The only problem I had with the book was the way is jumped back and forth in time between Thelma’s marriage and her affair with the future King of England and her widowed sister Gloria’s attempt to retain custody of her young daughter in a no holds barred battle against her very rich sister-in-law  Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.

In this “dishing of the dirt”, Gloria and Thelma’s mother Laura Morgan comes across as a complete villain.  She’s greedy, controlling, self-absorbed, manipulative and just a little crazy. 

Overall, this is the perfect read for those interested in an intimate look at some of the famous and infamous characters of the past and stands as potential proof that perhaps F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels were based more on scenes from real life rather than the author’s active imagination.
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A truly enjoyable, well researched look at a part of history I have always been intrigued with.  
This book looks deeply into the lives, friendships and loves of Thelma and Gloria, showing both the good and the hard parts of their lives.
A good read.
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Years ago I had read a book by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart called Consuelo & Alva Vanderbilt and found it to be fascinating how this period in society was all about making the perfect match.  So much is known about Edward & Wallis that when I saw this title I was very interested in reading but to my pleasant surprise this wasn't the main crux of the book; the majority of this book was about the relationship of the sisters (Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt & Thelma) and how they supported one another.  The author did a wonderful job in all of the characters, the society outings, and who's who of the world that if you are interested in a historical novel taking place in the 1920/30 all throughout Europe this would be a good read for you.
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Try as I might, I could not get into this title. I have an interest inhistorical fiction, especially where I have heard of some of the characters. No idea why I couldn't get past page 43. May try again when the book is published. 
Thank you for the opportunity to have early access to this book.
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A moment in history that is steeped in mystery and nuance to this day.  Much has been written about Edward and his loves, fiction and non-fiction.  This was a decent entry into the scene without much being added.  Not horrible, not spectacular either.
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I really enjoyed stepping into this world. The Woman Before Wallis tells the story of the Prince of Whales’ flame before his eventual marriage to Wallis Simpson. I had never heard of Thelma Morgan and I loved learning her fascinating story. Turnbull also covers the OJ Trial of the day, the custody dispute of Little Gloria Vanderbilt, who is Thelma’s niece. This book has twists and turns galore! I loved the descriptions of locations and clothes, I felt like I was really experiencing this unique period of history!
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Book: The Woman Before Wallis 
Author: Bryn Turnbull 
Rating: 1 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Mira Books, for providing me with an ARC. 

I get why people enjoy this book, but I didn’t. I really do think that I’m just the wrong person for this. I just honestly could not get into it and it’s not the book’s fault. Those of you who read a lot know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you come across a book that you don’t like and it’s nobody’s fault. 

Alright, so with that being said, let’s get into this….

While the characters and the world did interest me, it just wasn’t enough for me to keep reading. I wanted to be a little bit more invested in them than I was, but I just couldn’t really connect with them. I felt that they were all cookie cutter and that I had read these characters before. There was so much casual name dropping and characters that it was just hard to keep everyone straight. Right away, this was kind of a red flag to me. This shows me that there was a major lack of character development. Now, I know that with a large cast that it can be hard to remember so and so, but for as many characters as it happened to me for, it just shows me a lack of development. I know that a of them are real people, but you can still develop them properly and give them a chance to make their own mark on the story. 

The world should have also pulled me in a little more than it did. There was a lot of info dumps. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction and, for that matter, historical fiction that revolves around real historical figures. Most of these books did not have info dumps; there are a few. I just read another book by this publisher, The Black Swan of Paris, and it was a lot more put together than this one-in my humble opinion. While The Black Swan of Paris does not feature a lot of (if any) real historical figures, we do get a better presentation of what is going on in the world. I honestly felt like that in The Woman Before Wallis, the author did not know what to do with her information nor did she know how to apply it. It was like she didn’t know how to take what she had learned and form it into a entertaining read. Instead, we got something that reads like a beach read, when it really shouldn’t. If that is the vibe we were going for, then forget about what I just said. 

Another issue I had was that this was supposed be a book about scandal. It could have been presented a little bit better than it was. If you are going to put the word “scandal” in your subtitle, then it probably should be a little bit more of a focus of the book than it was. Instead, we get a lot of fluff and a beach read, which I guess that is what beach reads are. Again, I just don’t know if it’s because the author was unsure of how to handle her information or what. 
I see why people like this book, but it just wasn’t for me. If you think you might like this book, it comes out on July 21, 2020.
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A fascinating look into the life of Thelma Morgan, mistress to a prince, sister to a socialite, and Aunt to a Vanderbilt. I had to stop periodically and Google some of the characters because the book couldn't delve into every detail. Very interesting read.
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In this novel style biography, Turnbull paints a vivid picture of the life of Thelma Morgan, the wife of  Viscount Duke Furness, who later becomes engaged in a passionate affair with Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor. The intimate details that Turnbull gracefully provides into the lives of Thelma, the Prince Edward, who they called David, and Gloria, Thelma’s twin sister, make readers feel like they are part of the British aristocracy. 
Covering the time between 1926-1936, we see Thelma through her marriage and divorce to Duke Furness and her emotional ups and downs while playing mistress to David.  In the background, her twin sister, Gloria, begins a never ending battle to gain custody of her one and only child, Little Gloria.  It is Thelma’s return to America to support her sister that sparks the break of her and David’s relationship, which makes room for Wallis Simpson to step in and eventually marry David, which, in turn, makes Thelma “The woman before Wallis.”
As I was reading this book, I was curious about the royal family genealogy and how Queen Elizabeth II was related to the royal figures in this book. 
To gain insight, I consulted a familiar resource: Google.
My findings: Edward VIII, Prince Edward, Duke of Wales and Windsor (real name: Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David), who went by David, was briefly King of England after his father, George V, passed away in 1936. Edward was the eldest son, so it was customary for him to take the throne upon the King’s death. Later in December of 1936, he abdicated the throne claiming it was too much for him to handle.  This opened the door for his brother, Prince Albert, duke of York (real name: George Frederick Ernest Albert), who they called Bertie, to take the throne.  As king, he went by King George VI and ruled until his death in 1952.  He had two daughters, Elizabeth (who they called Lilibet) and Margaret. And guess who took the throne when George VI died… guessed it! Queen Elizabeth II, who currently reigns as Queen of England. 
So my findings are conclusive: Edward VIII was Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle.

If you enjoy English royal history, you will enjoy this book!
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I love royal plotlines and historical fiction so I’ve been super excited about this book for a while now.  The beginning was a little bit hard to get into. It was overwhelming as I found my bearings (I really needed a family tree) as to who is who, but then the story found it’s footing and I enjoyed reading the story of Thelma and her twin sister, Gloria and their entangled social lives attached to two of the most powerful families of the 20th century and how ir later shows how the decisions each of them made had direct consequences to the other. Lovers of the Crown will enjoy this book. I found it to be an interesting mix of American Duchess and the Queen’s Secret. 3.5/5 stars rounded up. 🌟🌟🌟💫Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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