Cover Image: The London House

The London House

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Member Reviews

This was my first Katherine Reay book that I've read in quite some time and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I quickly became engrossed in both story-lines. While I loved the modern day Caroline and Mat's story, the WWII letters were my favorite. I loved getting to know the two older aunts by reading the letters Caro wrote to Margo back in the 40's. It was easy to feel for these twins who loved each other so much and yet loved the same man. I know it seems like we're being inundated with WWII books these past couple years, but I heartily recommend this one.

Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Published 2 November 2021.

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The London House by Katherine Reay is a split-time novel starting first with letters then with diaries.

Caroline Payne is seeking the truth about her grandmother and her twin sister. After being approached by Mat Hammond, she travels to the London House looking for the truth about her great aunt before Mat can publish his article. As she pours over the letters and diaries she realizes how similar her life is to her great aunt.

This book is about a life based on secrets and a lie, and the heartache and darkness it can produce. About the bond between twin sisters and how life and the war changed them. Although there was a great deal of detail, the story is about the complexity of family and the bond of love. I did love how the mystery climaxed in the end.

This historical novel would not be considered Christian fiction, but one that reflected family, forgiveness and hope.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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I am always looking for a story of the courageous women of WWII and this one didn't disappoint. A family believes for generations that one of them was a traitor and supported the Germans but only the tenacity of a young woman to find the truth can soothe the family wound as they discover the truth. Written in a dual timeline through the use of diaries and letters is a wonderful twist on the normal approach. So many mysteries still exist of women of that time, this will have you wanting to learn more.

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I love World War Two stories and this one doesn't disappoint. Katherine Reay is one of my favourite authors, so I am glad that she decided to set part of this novel in the war. As always, she tells a moving and poignant tale, but it is quite different from her previous books.

When Caroline's old friend Matt, a historian, turns up with a project, he tells her a dark secret about her aunt. Caroline was named after her aunt, and she is really quite shocked about this secret but when she thinks back about her rather lonely and miserable upbringing, she is not surprised. She goes to her family's house in London to investigate. Was her aunt really a traitor or not?

The beginning annoyed me a bit because Matt seemed a bit pushy about wanting to investigate another family's secret, although he wrote a good letter to Caroline with a compelling argument, and he grew more likeable. Another slight flaw was that 'the Mitford sisters' were mentioned at least twice as favouring Hitler, when it was only Diana and Unity. The rest of the sisters were certainly very firmly on the Allied side!

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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"The London House" follows Caroline Payne in present-day Boston as she unravels the mystery behind the disappearance of her grandmother’s twin sister in 1941. Was she a traitor like the family believed? Or could something else have caused her disappearance?

Reay cleverly connects the past to the present giving the story emotional resonance and strength. It’s intriguing to think of how our ancestors can affect our current lives – and that’s the thread that holds this novel together.

While the book read a bit slow at first, as the novel grew closer to solving the mystery of what happened in 1941, it became more and more enticing.

Besides the mystery, romance is also essential (in the present and the past), but the familial relationships stand out. As an identical twin myself, I was most drawn into the past and the letters exchanged between twin sisters, Margaret and Caro.

Overall, readers who enjoy dual stories like "Possession" and World War II fiction should like "The London House."

Adaptation Recommendation: "The London House" would make a splendid film!

Content Note: Reads PG-like for non-graphic descriptions of violence and war.

Overall Rating: 4
Romance Rating: 3

(Review to be posted to silverpetticoatreview.com soon.)

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The London House is WWII historical fiction and quite different from the other books I’ve read by Katherine Reay.

Caroline Payne discovers a secret that’s haunted her family for decades. Determined to learn more and try to mend her fractured family, she sets off to learn more about the mysterious aunt she’s named after.

If you love (like I do!) authors Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah, I think you’ll enjoy The London House.

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The London House is a well crafted book that will draw on heart strings and leave readers thinking about it long after the final page is turned. This was not my first Katherine Reay novel, and I was well aware of her talent going in. Even so, my expectations were exceeded. This is a dual time story, with the past written in an epistolary format (which is classic Katherine Reay). If you are new to epistolary, do not fear, as you will not find yourself bored. Rather, you will find yourself connecting with these characters well and become engrossed in their story long the way. I know I did. There are two aspects to this novel I must comment on. First, this was a very well planned out storyline. I have high doubts this was written without a preplanned plot, and a detailed one at that. There were far too many connections and clues along the way for readers to pull together. This must have had a careful outline in order to craft, and seeing how well this story comes together is evidence of this. The London House is a real page turner, as I could not stop until I knew exactly how it all worked out. Second, I challenge readers to identify the similarities of the WWII era described in this book to our current culture. It is strikingly similar and worth noting. I believe this was intentional by the author and commend her for this. My list of compliments could continue, but I will simply end by saying this is a novel that deserves awards. I highly recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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While researching another family's history, Mat Hammond uncovers a letter stating that the great aunt of Caroline Payne, a college friend, was a traitor during World War II. Caroline has always believed that this aunt died in childhood, but when she confronts her father, he confirms that the information from Mat is correct and that Caroline has always known as she was the one who discovered the lie. The memory of that moment comes back, and against her father's wishes, Caroline heads to England, to the London house where her mother now lives and where her aunt's letters are stored. Realising that she will need help to piece it all together, Caroline asks Mat to come to England.

The 'Waite Sisters', Caroline and Margaret, are the twin daughters of an earl, growing up in the inter-war years. Margaret is rebellious and keen on adventure, while Caroline is the obedient one who prefers an ordered and quiet life. All that changes when Margaret becomes ill and Caroline is sent away to school in Europe. After finishing and despite her father's demands that she return home due to the unrest as the world heads towards war, Caroline remains, securing a position in the Parisian fashion house of Elsa Schiaparelli as well as a taste for independence and excitement. Her rare visits home always end in an argument with the earl as in his eyes the company she keeps and the life that she leads is a disgrace to the family.

The bond between the sisters, however, is never broken. They never stop corresponding, although there is a shift over time in the tone of their letters to one another. Gradually, through these letters and the diaries that Margaret keeps, Mat and Caroline, in the present, uncover the truth behind that damning letter that expunged great aunt Caroline's name from the family history.

I am not a fan of epistolary novels as the letters sometimes can be overly long and the relevant information hard to extract, but I enjoyed this one. In The London House, the letters and Margaret's diary entries are short, blend well with the contemporary plotline, and move the story along at a rapid pace.

Cleverly hidden in great aunt Caroline's letters and the paper trail left behind is the truth of her wartime activities. Margaret's diaries corroborate and help put into perspective the events mentioned but also reveal a secret never shared with her sister. The clues lead Mat and Caroline to an amazing story of love and courage. And the revelation of a selfless act that will bring reunification to a family torn apart by their past.

The London House is a great read, balancing a wartime scenario with a complex family drama that shows the damage secrets and lies from the past can do. Caroline Waite's story will make you angry and sad in equal measure, but the ending is both uplifting and satisfying.

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Caroline Payne was always told she was named for her great-aunt who died of polio at the age of seven. But an unexpected visit from her college crush, historian Mat Hammond, says that was a lie. He says Caroline Waite left England for France in 1941 and disappeared with Paul Arnim, her Nazi lover. Caroline wants to prove him wrong.

So starts a fast-paced story that takes Caroline from her home in Boston to the ancestral family home in London, the titular London House. Here she rediscovers her grandmother’s diaries from the war years, and the letters Caro sent her sister.

The story flips between present and past, unravelling a compelling story. The present story is all written in first person from Caroline’s point of view. I know first person annoys some readers, but it works in this instance. Using first person keeps us in Caroline’s mind as she tries to unravel a decades-old family mystery, and the single point of view adds to the tension.

We then have the two historic points of view, from twins Margaret and Caroline, which we’re shown through Margaret’s journals, Caroline’s letters, and a handful of historic documents Mat has dug out of various archives (it never ceases to amaze me what kind of information governments have seen fit to record and store).

Caroline soon realises that her namesake didn’t die of polio as a small child, but that raises bigger questions: what did happen to Caroline? Why did the family never speak of her? Most importantly, how has this impacted on Caroline’s own life?

As with any good fiction, there is more than one story going on. Underneath Caroline’s attempts to find the story of the previous Caro, she is also finding similarities with her own story and this depth strengthened the overall story.

There were a couple of errors that bugged me: Winston Churchill was not knighted until after the war, so should not have been referred to as Sir (and when he was, it should have been Sir Winston, not Sir Churchill). On a related note, if Margo and Caro were the daughters of an earl, they would have held the courtesy title of Lady and would have been unlikely to inherit the family estate and the London House, as one or both would have gone to the closest male relative.

Apart from that, the writing and underlying research were excellent. The characters were compelling, and the way the story weaved between past and present made it even more compelling. It was a hard book to put down, as I wanted to know what came next and discover what actually happened to Caro. What made it even better was that the story went off in directions I hadn’t anticipated.

Katherine Reay’s previous books have been published in the Christian fiction market. The London House is published by Harper Muse, a general market imprint. While the story doesn’t have any overt or covert faith references, it doesn’t have any language or content that would be out of place in the Christian market.

Recommended for historical fiction fans.

Thanks to Harper Muse and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve read a HF novel about WWII which is what I like anyways; gives me a fresh look at the story that has been told hundreds of times before. Even with the horrors that we all know, I’m still impressed by authors who find a fresh spin or fresh spotlight on how individual families were affected. With every voice, I think it’s a clearer picture on how some women have little credit for how much they were doing on the sidelines hidden from German eyes.

This book has the backdrop about the war but the parts I was most pulled in by was the connection between Margo & Caro. Twin sisters kept apart and the misunderstanding and secrets between them.

I was pulled by Margaret. She broke my heart. I won’t give it away except to say that the bond between them was something special even if there was years of heartache and misunderstanding.

The story flips between present day (and Margo’s granddaughter) and letters/diary entries from war time. Both stories interesting to follow. And I have a soft spot for letters sharing the past. It feels like that is the most honest accounts of the every day living.

HF readers will enjoy this one ☝🏻 thank you to the publisher in return for an honest review

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Great book! Loved the family history draw in and the story line. I would love to read an entire book written from Caro’s point of view like the epilogue. I was so sad at the end but understand that most people didn’t make it out after being captured so it was fair of the author to do this.

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The London House by Katherine Reay is an incredible story of how lies can affect generation after generation. In this fascinating time-slip novel, the past is mostly told through letters and journal entries which will capture your heart. The present has a perfect mix of heartache, romance, regret, and hope.

Caroline Payne is named after her great-aunt Caro, who she's told died in childhood from polio. When Caroline's college friend, Mat Hammond calls her out of the blue one day, she discovers everything she thought she knew about her family's history may be false. Mat is writing a story about how we can pick up after tragedy and move on, but Caroline wants to know the truth about her great-aunt and Caro's twin sister Margo, Caroline's grandmother.

I found this story to be absolutely enrapturing! I couldn't get through it fast enough to see what the truth of the Payne family history was. I highly recommend this one!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.

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In a few words

A scandalous secret kept buried since WW11 is uncovered when Caroline Payne receives a call from Matt Hammond, an old college friend and historian. He discovered that Caroline’s great-aunt betrayed not only her family but also her country by running away with her German lover. Was she a traitor and a Nazi collaborator or is the truth more complex. Together they fly to Caroline’s ancestral home in London where they will spend hours reading diaries, letters and correspondence that will eventually reveal the true secret.....

My thoughts

The timeline jumps from Britain’s World War11, the glamorous 1930’s Paris and the present day. Several narrative threads compete for pace and each is a complicated story in its own. We have Caroline, her great-aunt, her grandmother, her father with all their struggles. The plot is a search for answers and has it moves along it becomes increasingly complex with many unknowns. Each letter brings more questions, is there some truth buries in the past? Eventually, this fast-paced foray into the past cleverly reveals a story of spies, love and heartbreak and what happened one fateful evening in 1941 that shaped future generations. Katherine Reay paints a vivid picture that slowly pulls you in, desperate to know what would happen next. This book is both engrossing and frustrating. The style is deferent, the connections to the past is through old letters and diary entries which in some ways is an interesting concept although with a documentation not in chronicle order of dates and moving back and forth in time and with different views I found reading this book to be quite challenging. Having said this, no doubt this family saga is eloquently said and is written with finesse.

On a side note

I enjoyed seeing that “The London House” dabbled somewhat into the iconic fashion produced by avant-garde Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. Houses of Haute Couture around the world continue to this day to look at Paris for stylistic inspiration.

I closed this book with mixed feelings not totally enjoying it then again not hating it either. Up to you to read and see for yourself.

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The London House is such a good book. It's a split time novel set in the present and in the 1930s. Deep family secrets have haunted Caroline's family for decades. When her old boyfriend Mat calls her up with some news, she is determined to find answers. I also enjoyed the way the story unfolded through a combination of letters and in person. I really liked Caroline and Mat. I enjoyed getting to know them both. I loved learning about the sisters, Caro and Margo. Both had such different personalities. I knew very little about the House of Schiaparelli and the fashion industry before reading this book. Some of the outfits mentioned were so unique.
There was a lot of depth to this story. I had a hard time putting it down. I liked how Katherine Reay weaved the past and the present together. She did a great job bringing the past to life for me.
I highly recommend this book to my family and friends.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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It’s true what the Bible says, that one’s actions can affect the future “even unto the third generation.” (There is much I could say here, but I do not want to spoil the story.) This book is quite different from the author’s earlier work - all of which I have absolutely loved - I found it a little difficult to get into, but that may well be because of reading it in e-book form where it is not so easy to flip back (checking dates, names, etc.) I found that it grew on me, & the further in I read the less I wanted to stop for the day. It is a novel of parallels, between sisters, & between generations. As the story progressed, I came to care more & more for the main characters – two girls of the same name, separated by so many years. Whilst for me this book was a ‘slow burner’, it was so well worth the read - & I didn’t want it to come to a close.

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This was definitely one of the best books I have read this year... I did managed to finish this book within a few hours. It was captivating and difficult to put down.
HIGHLY RECOMMEND

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Family history may not always be what you expected.

Caroline is approached by her college friend, Mat, who believes that her great-aunt was a Nazi collaborator during WWII. He discovered some information while researching another person from that time and stumbled across some potentially damaging information. Determined to get to the truth, Caroline takes off for London to read through letters and diaries left by her grandmother. What they find is something altogether different and sheds new light on what they thought they knew as the truth.

I enjoy stories that go back and forth in time because it gives us a broader picture of what might have happened to cause certain events to occur. While the past is primarily told through letters and diary entries, the words transported me and I could envision the Waite sisters, Caro and Margo (short for Caroline and Margaret), and the situations they found themselves in as young girls, teenagers, and young women. There is also the mystery of who Caroline was and what did she do during WWII? Was she in bed with the Germans or was there something more to the story?

I haven't read anything else from this author, but I found the story to be well written and the pacing just right. There is family drama when it comes to Caroline's parents and family and perhaps this truth will set things right. But you'll have to read the book to find out the ending!

We give this book 5 paws up.

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“Oh the tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Walter Scott. It’s quoted in this book and it certainly rings through the entire story.

We travel back in time to find the story of twin sisters in the late 1930’s and mid 1940’s. It’s also about their granddaughter/grandniece. This story spans generations of the Waite and Payne families. So many secrets, so much pain, so much loss. Is it worth learning from the past to heal in the present? This story may hold some of those answers.

Katherine Reay has written a beautiful story of a family that has suffered more than their share though decades of misunderstandings and mistrust. The way she weaves through generations and how much one effects the other is always front and center. Beautifully written and completely captivating with scenery and people and places. This is a story that will hold your attention and won’t let go until the end.

Thank you to #netgalley #harpermuse for affording me the opportunity to read this book.

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The London House is an amazing story of truth and healing! I find Katherine Reay’s stories impress me more with every new one. This novel reads in a voice uniquely hers, with an accessible contemporary setting and a near split-time feel because of the historical letters and diaries throughout (meaning it has an epistolary element like her beloved debut, Dear Mr. Knightley!). Reay’s love of literature and its application as a source of timeless wisdom is still evident, although this story is less lit-centric than her previous titles and more focused on family legacy and influence.

Caroline is a likable and complex heroine whose depth and history parallels that of her mysterious great-aunt, Caro, in many ways. Her story is one of heart-wrenching emotion, healing, and discovery as she faces old wounds — both from her past and those which have been kept secret for generations. Caroline’s journey is encouraged by the endearing hero, Mat, who is also a catalyst for her growth in many ways. He matches her in strength and vulnerability, and watching their relationship unfold is a delight.

My favorite aspect of this story is how it is a study in history’s power to shape humanity’s perception of the past or current perspectives. While perception might be hazy and (honestly) incorrect, truth is an absolute and ultimately comes to light. The stories of Margo and Caro, and Caroline and Mat’s search in the present, all demonstrate how to trust in truth to have the final say, no matter how comforting or uncomfortable, is enough.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

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I just closed the cover of Katherine Reay‘s latest novel, The London House, and all I can manage to say is WOW! Okay, that is not going to suffice for a review, so bear with me as I try to put into words all the feelings and emotions and ruminations that accompanied my reading experience. First, let me say that The London House is an exceptionally well-written novel. It is told from the first person POV of Caroline Payne, a young woman who has been dealing with emotional turmoil, grief, and perceived rejection for most of her life. She is our modern-day connection to the history of her family, and specifically her grandmother, Margaret and her great-aunt Caro. Their two stories are told in a series of letters and diary entries that Reay masterfully wove into a tale of betrayal and unforgiveness, courage and triumph. Caroline is determined to set the story straight about just what happened to her great-aunt during WWII and the examine the impact her choices made on the whole family from that point on to the present. Helping her is Mat, a long lost friend who shatters Caroline’s equilibrium. All of the characters within The London House are flawed and real and highly relatable. Their past sins and past failures resonated with this reader. All have a long way to grow, and Reay does a great job of exposing and exploring their personalities. The main story is full of mystery. What-ifs of the spy rings of the early days of the war kept me turning the pages. I have to admit that I did have a hard time with the beginning of the book — there seemed to be a lot of chaos surrounding the characters and their stories. But I think that was the point. The book takes all those loose ends and weaves a story full of hope and redemption. There is an overarching theme of perception vs truth. We often think that a thing is true because we perceive it to be. But as the character’s discover reality or history based on perceptions alone is flawed from the beginning. I loved how Reay inserted C. S. Lewis’ radio broadcasts that were part of the time period and used them to assert that there are absolute truths, whether we care to believe that or not. I found this message in The London House pertinent for today — not only in the world in which we live, but in my own personal life. This book made me think! And isn’t that a great bonus to a riveting story?! The historical details are fascinating, and I loved vicariously visiting modern day London and Paris.

The London House is perfect for those who like time-slip novels, WWII tales, and family relationship dramas. It is also for those who love an excellently told story. It is also perfect for a book club. You will want to talk about this book. As an additional bonus, one of the characters cooks. I found a new favorite recipe inspired by my reading — Lemon Olive Oil Cake. Google it and then make it, You will love it too! 😉

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: Adults.

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