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The London House

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Caroline Waite, carries a burden and it has effected every part of her life. When an old friend, wants expose what happened in her family back in the 1940's, Caroline, has no idea, that her life is about to change. In searching old letters and diaries, Caroline tries to piece together what happened so long ago. The stories that her family believed, had created a chasm of hurt and old secrets. To find out what happened in the past, is what Caroline hopes, will mend her future. Well written, and set in two time periods. I got caught up in the story, it was so good.

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I have enjoyed all of Katherine Reay’s books, but I was not expecting to love The London House as much as I did! I was drawn into the characters and the story from the first page. Caroline’s discovery of her family history is a profound story of love, loyalty, betrayal, and courage. There is a suspenseful twist too, as we discover alongside Caroline the truth about the role her great aunt played during World War II. Ms. Reay’s thoughtful, insightful writing style gives her characters such depth and gives the reader insight into their hearts and the depth of the generational pain their choices caused. Rich with historical detail, intrigue, and compelling characters, this book will appeal to readers of historical fiction, especially fans of authors like Sarah Sundin and Patti Callahan.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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The story took off for me right away. I found the subject matter intriguing, and completely plausible. With that said, I liked most of the characters, and could empathize with the older relatives. I don't repeat synopses or give spoilers. The intertwining time periods were sometimes awkward. But, I wanted to be around the table during the current period.

Please, the current timeline, teen-like romance angst between adults is incredibly insulting. The subject matter deserved better.

I was ready to close my Kindle at about 80%. The author had to tie up the romance, do the obligatory mind changes and group hugs. . All-in-all about a 3.25 for me. There was a lot of potential. (And, I do not recall any profanity. That earned the .25 star. I appreciate good writing )

Thank you NetGalley and Harper Muse for accepting my request to read and review The London House.

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The London House by Katherine Reay is three stories in one novel. It is a family sage, a spy story and a love story. Caroline Payne has always felt a cloud hanging over her family. During World War II, her great aunt, Caro, was accused of being a spy for the Germans. Caroline’s grandmother and the family have perpetuated the lie that her great aunt died as a child. Into Caroline Payne’s life comes Mat Hammond, her old college friend. The meeting between Mat and Caroline begins the journey towards discovering what really happened to her great aunt. They soon discover that there is much to learn about great aunt Caro. The novel is a celebration of perseverance, love of family, and the healing of hurts. While I am not a fan of epistolary novels, the letters from Caro to her twin sister leave a trail to what really happen. This novel is the story of the close ties of twins, the importance of the truth and the acceptance of the past. Once Caroline and her family accept the truth about Caro, the are happier for it and can look forward to the future.

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I'm definitely a Katherine Reay fan and have loved the 5 other books by her that I have read. She writes beautifully about the struggles and triumphs of life and this one is no different. I really enjoyed this novel set in one of my favorite cities in the world, written in dual timelines and centered around a fantastic cast of complex characters.

A well developed dual timeline is one of my favorite ways to tell a story. I love getting details from both time periods and piecing together how it all fits together. This novel does this so well! We have the present day with Caroline's search for truth and the years leading up to WWII with Caro and Margo's childhood and experiences in that war. I felt that the transitions between time periods were smooth and easy to follow. Reay gives readers useful but not obvious clues about what we will read in the journals or letters. So keeping oriented to the changing time periods is smooth. I love all the historical details throughout the novel from C. S. Lewis' radio broadcasts to references to famous dresses to conditions in London during the Blitz. And I loved the beautiful way Reay describes both time periods especially the London House itself and how it changes for the people who live there.

The characters are brilliant; their personalities are beautifully written giving them depth and complexity. I am always impressed by Reay's characters. These are people who have difficulties without easy solutions. They experience loss, trauma, fear, and pain. Sometimes they are lost, looking for a purpose or a way to fix relationships. But what I love most is the way her characters are able to find joy, hope, and peace. They are able to build or rebuild relationships. And their journeys feel real rather than forced. The characters in The London House are complex and fascinating to watch. Caroline, our protagonist, begins the story feeling fearful, lost, and shut out. She doesn't understand her family's story which sets her on a journey to uncover the whole truth. I loved her journey to self awareness and forgiveness. I enjoyed the complexities of Caroline's parents and how they deal with grief and pain. Mat was intriguing because of his search for truth, attempts to understand history, and desire for love. Perhaps most of all, I loved Caro and Margo. Their story is one of tragedy and love, loyalty and secrets. I was fascinated by their history and loved getting to know them alongside Caroline and Mat. 

I loved the way the story is told not just as a narrative but also in journal entries and letters. We get a different unique points of view from each format. In the traditional narrative sections, we get inside Caroline's head. And we see the family scandal inherited through the generations. But we also see connections between Caroline and her grandmother and great aunt. We see their similarities as they search for truth. Pairing that perspective with Caro and Margo's views is beautifully done. We get to see Caroline's search for truth while also learning about what really happened. And I loved the prologue and epilogue! The subtle differences between the sisters' descriptions of similar events were striking. They see the world so differently at times. but they always return to each other. Their relationship felt so real, like my relationships with my own siblings. They fight, they share secrets, they keep secrets, and they love each other fiercely. The medium that tells their story adds to the depth of emotion and intensity of the end.

Throughout this novel, I was struck by the beautiful writing and powerful themes. The plot is engaging and mysterious but what makes this book stand out even more is the writing. Reay writes beautifully! She weaves themes such as redemption, love, truth, right versus wrong, and more seamlessly into the story. And Reay creates her scenes so clearly and beautifully. I love the descriptions of Caroline's mother's renovations on the London House. I could see each room and wanted to experience being there. I could feel the tension in the Waite family dinners. I could almost smell the air along the Seine. And no one writes a description of food more beautifully than Katherine Reay. The ways she describes meals as experiences and connects emotions to food are gorgeous. 

Overall, I was captivated by this novel. The characters were well developed, the settings were beautifully created, and I loved the search for truth and peace. This makes me want to reread some of my favorite Katherine Reay novels to experience some of my favorite stories again. She writes powerful and relatable stories that I continue to think about long after I finish them. One of my favorite reads of this year!

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This is a historical masterpiece!!!!!! I loved this story and the extraordinary characters. I highly recommend this book.

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Readers get to see a more serious side of this author, as she pens an engaging WWII novel. Showing how hope can come out of tragedy, why secrets were kept, revealing a bigger picture neither of them could see. The author gives readers a front- row seat to the adventures these twin sisters (separated for the first time) go on to the London House and abroad, each fighting the good fight seeking to do their part for the war effort. Fast, forward to the future where we meet Caroline Waite, desperately digging to uncover secrets, that will bring healing and hope, to her family, setting them free from the shame and tragedy of the past.

I enjoyed how this author used diary entries and personal letters between the twins, which helped Caroline and Mat get to the truth that would change everything. The author does an incredible job of whisking readers back in time. Showing one sister mixing with high society in the fashion industry and the other at the London House (family home).

Unlike the author’s other books that were fun, inspirational with flawed, relatable characters, this book has more of a serious tone. It takes readers to places the author hasn’t gone before. For example, we go to a few high society parties (with alcohol etc), where the sister hears designers briefly brag about scandalous designs, and intimate moments. Not graphic, but gives readers a peek into that crazy world. This book almost reads as a non-fiction book about WWII very informative, and insightful, with no real spiritual thread like you find in her other books.

This was an informative, insightful story that shows a family torn apart and left fragmented by war. I enjoyed this mystery and how Caroline seeks to help her family heal. I also liked the splash of romance with Caroline and Mat as they discover some surprising secrets. Making this an engrossing story start to finish.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have received a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins!
The Book Club Network blog www.bookfun.org

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World War II stories have long been a historical fiction staple. I mean, there's so many stories to be told! However, this one stood out to me because it was different than most of what I've read involving this war. I loved the idea of uncovering family secrets and histories. And let me tell you, Katherine Reay told an incredible story. I was gripped from the start. She's a gifted storyteller who unraveled a plot I didn't want to end.

After Mat drops the bombshell of Aunt Caro's past, it doesn't take long for the plot to thicken. Nor does it take Caroline long to get to London where she begins going through letters and journals from her Grandmother and her Grandmother's twin sister. Through their words, you get glimpses of their bond and life growing up. You see their worlds take a dramatic 180 degree turn when grave illness comes into their lives- and the way it changes them.

I loved reading the letters and journals. I loved seeing everything unfold. Just when I thought I knew how the story was going to go, I'd be wrong. Reay kept me guessing and eager to see what would happen next.

There were numerous layers to the story: what Aunt Caro's true story was, the family dynamic between Caroline's immediate family, the tense friendship between old college friends. As the stories unfolded, the tension began to, as well. You watched the characters grow and change as the truth is uncovered.

If you're looking for a book to curl into, look no further than The London House. I was under the weather for several days, so I curled up with a cozy blanket and warm hot chocolate as I got lost in the latest story Katherine Reay had to tell us. It was so good. I was glad to see how it ended, but sad to leave the characters. This book will be on by bookshelf soon and had become one of my favorite historical fiction books. I hope you keep it in mind during your next library or bookstore trip. You won't be disappointed!

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This was a fresh take on the dual timeline WWII historical fiction genre. Full of dark family secrets, misunderstandings and espionage. I loved how this story grabbed me from the start trying to solve the family mystery of the black sheep thought to be a Nazi collaborator.

Caroline grew up hearing stories about her great aunt who was judged to be a traitor during WWII, but was that the real story?? When an old flame approaches her with a story he's writing, the two team up to dig into the past, uncovering truths long buried.

Great on audio, narrated by Madeleine Maby, this is perfect for fans of Natasha Lester or Kelly Rimmer. Much thanks to NetGalley for my advance review copy.

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The London House by Katherine Reay is Dual Time Historical Suspense. A World War II spy network and family secrets are exposed in letters. A woman discovers scandals and a great aunt missing since World War II. Was she involved with Nazis and a traitor? Did she escape and what really happened to her? A story of how deeply generations of a family were affected by war.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I appreciate the opportunity and thank the author and publisher for allowing me to read, enjoy and review this book. 5 Stars

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Thank you to Harper Muse and Net Galley for the chance to read and review this book. The opinions expressed are my own.
This book was definitely my kind of book! I like to read Historical Fiction with a lot of historical details and a life changing story. This book contained all of that along with so much more. Caroline Payne is just going about her life when she receives a call from Mat Hammond, an old friend and historian. He has discovered information about Caroline's British great-aunt. She may have betrayed her country and ran off with her German lover. Caroline and Mat decide to go to The London House and try to uncover what really happened. Through letters, diaries and research they begin to uncover this troubling family story. This book was very well-written with lots of history. If you like to read Historical Fiction, this book is for you!

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Caroline is stunned when an old college friend she’d lost touch with shows up at work—even more so when she learns he’s planning to publish a piece in The Atlantic, revealing her great-aunt and namesake as a Nazi collaborator.

Further, her mild-mannered but emotionally closed-off father is threatening to sue Mat if he does. On a whim, Caroline flies to London, to the house her grandmother left to her mother after Caroline’s parents’ divorce. Conveniently, her great-aunt’s and grandmother’s diaries and correspondence has been preserved, and while combing through these family archives, Caroline also reconnects with her mother. Her own nuclear family had never recovered from the death of Caroline’s sister when they were in elementary school.

She invites Mat to join her, and together, they reveal a much different story than Mat’s initial research suggested. Caroline’s father even joins the happy little reunion.

I love historical fiction and as an archivist, am always thrilled when archives figure in a book. But this novel was a little slow and flat for me. Nonetheless, the ending was satisfied and I enjoyed traveling vicariously through the characters.

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The London House by Katherine Reay is the type of book that immediately gets my attention. The first thing that stands out is how well this book was researched first. Reay captivated me with the descriptive narrative she takes us down and such beautifully developed characters.

*Arc received in exchange for honest review*

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There are a lot of WWII books out there right now, and in my mind there needs to be something different to make one stand out. Katherine Reay has found a way to draw in the reader into this book. Her use of letters, diaries and archives weave together the secrets of the past that have torn apart a family for 80 years. Dual time line in which a modern day woman is approached by an old college friend who has stumbled upon some old family secrets while researching another family. They do a deep dive to try to uncover the real story.

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The London House by Katherine Reay is a captivating historical read that is sure to pull you in from the beginning and hold your attention until the very end. A brilliant dual timeline historical fiction story about family secrets, misperception, misunderstanding, war, lost love, jealousy, resilience, hope, discovering the truth and changing the injustice from the past.

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** “When something bad happens, … it’s easy to blame someone else, and in some cases maybe it is their fault, but that doesn’t matter. Not in the end. What does matter is how long we hold on to that hurt or that anger. We can magnify the pain, making it worse and worse until it devours us, or we can forgive it and get on with life.” **

Katherine Reay delivers a dual-timeline story dealing with World War II, family secrets, treachery versus heroism, and forgiveness.

When Caroline Payne is brought into the story of her aunt Caro — an aunt she believed to have died as a child — by her college friend Mat Hammond, her world is suddenly rocked as she finds everything she thought to be true was not.

Twins Margo and Caro Waite grew up closer than close. But when Caro moves out of London to head to fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s design house in Paris, things quickly change. And when their family eventually comes to believe Caro becomes a traitor to England after she disappears during World War II, she is forever removed from the family’s memories.

Using letters and diaries, Caroline and Mat dig into the story of the sisters, longing to find the truth of their legacy.

Reay does an incredible job of delivering a story filled with twists and turns, one rich with history. Told with first-hand accounts in letter and journal entries, “The London House” is filled with incredible characters that are inspiring yet flawed and relatable.

The book is also filled with several great themes, like hope emerges from tragedy; we must learn from both the past and our failures; dealing with betrayal and grief; embracing life after tragedy; the power and impact of blame; learning from history; we are all part of a larger story; and the need for honesty and understanding (“But if these truths exist outside us and we do not determine them — nothing is dependent on our whims or happenstance. The truths are fixed, immutable, and eternal. We are the ones who will come and go, not truth. Isn’t that reassuring?”).

One disclaimer: this book does contain the use of alcohol, some brief innuendo at intimate moments; and one use of a very mild curse world.

Fans of dual-time stories, historical fiction, World War II stories, and novels like Kristy Cambron’s “The Paris Dressmaker” will love “The London House.”

Five stars out of five.

Harper Muse provided this complimentary copy through NetGalley for my honest, unbiased review.

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Not my favorite Reay novel. I found the historical documents hard to read and follow. I liked the idea of the plot more than the implementation.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley, but this opinion is my own.

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“O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive,” Scottish poet and novelist, Walter Scott.
Katherine Reay weaves an intriguing, poignant ‘tangled web’ in her dual timeline novel, The London House. The web begins in 1934, England when twin sisters, Caroline and Margaret Waite are separated for the first time. Caroline leaves for school in Switzerland then on to work at the House of Schiaparelli in Paris. Coming of age during the interwar years, “Caro” becomes involved in a life of espionage, revealing tiny bits about her love life, secrets, and spy-craft through letters to Margaret. “Margo” stays home, recovering from scarlet fever, coveting Caro’s letters, and recording her own thoughts in a diary named Beatrice. The Waite family believes reports that Caro is a traitor who ran away with her Nazi lover but have convinced next generations that she died of polio in childhood. Was she an informant, a traitor?
The ‘tangled web’ continues in present day Boston when Mat Hammond, writing for the Atlantic, calls on Caroline Payne, asking her to comment on the article he’s writing about her namesake, great-aunt Caroline Waite. Mat’s perspective is that “humans are resilient…and that hope emerges from tragedy.” Thus begins the ‘untangling’ of letters and diaries to find proof whether as Mat believes, Caro is a traitor or as Caroline wants to believe, she is a hero.
Katherine Reay’s characters develop very eloquently and with empathy through letters, diary entries, and dialogue; showing how “grief, fear, guilt and pain can transform you.” The stories of grief and misunderstanding are mirrored in both timelines: Caroline’s revelations about her 9-year-old sister Amelia’s death, and Caro and Margo’s separation and secrets with the ensuing years of family distrust. Readers find as Katherine Reay so aptly describes, “Banishment can take many forms.” Thanks to Mat and Caroline’s many hours of grueling research and cross checking of letters and diaries, readers will finally know if Caro is a traitor or a hero!

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Compelling story of secrets and how they can cast shadows that can be felt for generations. Katherine Reay has masterfully crafted a standalone split-time novel that will captivate readers from the beginning to the end.

With expert research skills and perfectly paced plot, the poignancy felt in both the past and present stories tugged at my heart. The expert way Ms. Reay wove these two timelines together, uniting them in one complete story of healing and love. I absolutely loved how the author used journal and letters in the older timeline of the story. I think the epistolary stories add feeling and a dimension of unique authenticity as it is woven into the contemporary story. It provoked deep thought and an emotional response I was not expecting. I believe this is Katherine Reay's most ambitious work to date and in my humble opinion, on of her best books.

I received a complimentary copy from the author/publisher and Netgalley. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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I have been fascinated with history since I was a child. Learning about people and events from the past has helped me better understand my own life and the world around me. While there can be a temptation to look back at a period of history and think that issues were simpler or clearer, for the people living those events there was no 20/20 hindsight, only uncertainty and struggle. For this reason, I was curious to explore the lives, past and present, touched by Katherine Reay’s The London House. Because I enjoy dual-timeline historical fiction and epistolary narratives, this latest work by an author of literary-themed contemporary novels went to the top of my reading list.

In present day Boston, Caroline Payne is contacted by a former college friend, Mat Hammond, who is preparing to publish an article about her great-aunt Caroline (Caro) Waite’s clandestine activities and subsequent betrayal of her country, defecting with her German lover and disappearing in the chaos of war. Caroline is broadsided by Mat’s news—her family told her that her great-aunt died in childhood. Visiting her father, Caroline learns that Mat is telling the truth and her family has been living under the shadow of Caroline’s betrayal for eighty years. Three generations have suffered under this shame, compounded by the inevitable losses and disappointments of life. Unfortunately, part of Caroline’s emotional inheritance is a pattern of burying hurt, hiding feelings, closing off from people, and denying the existence of painful truths.

But the shock of Mat’s research jolts Caroline into remembering a childhood visit to London and a trunkful of letters in the attic of the family’s house in Belgravia. She has one week before Mat will publish the article and she is determined to learn about her great-aunt and namesake. Strictly against her father’s wishes, but with encouragement from her brother Jason who believes that finding the truth can help their family, Caroline heads to London where her mother has lived since her parents’ divorce.

As she reads through journals and letters written in the years leading up to war, Caroline learns about twin sisters Caro (her great-aunt) and Margaret (her grandmother)—the Waite sisters— alive with youthful energy in the heady atmosphere of interwar England, as experienced by the wealthy class that they belong to. The aristocratic family is well-connected: prime ministers and other political figures dine regularly with the Waites. While Caro and Margaret have no material wants, they, like all teenagers, must discover their own paths to adult independence, even as they try to reconcile family responsibilities and expectations. A childhood promise to never keep secrets from one another is broken as they grow older, but as Caroline learns in reading their letters and journals, the break was born not of malice but misunderstandings and missed opportunities for connection.

As Caroline pours over the contents of the trunk in the old family house in London, she also begins to see her own life in a different perspective. When she uncovers material that changes the narrative of Mat’s proposed article, she convinces him to join her in London to follow the research trail. While she can tell herself that Mat’s academic connections and experience with research methods and document archives are the reason she’s asking for his help, she’s beginning to realize that there is an underlying emotional connection between them. With her own family divided over her search, is Caroline ready to discard a safe but numbing blanket of half truths for a chance at something real? She’ll need to uncover the truth about her Aunt Caro to find out.

From start to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed The London House. My reading journey paralleled Caroline’s search for answers, as I started out with quick impressions of the characters, both contemporary and historical, but was left with many unknowns and questions. As Ms. Reay spun out her story, I became increasingly invested in the complexity and realism of the relationships, the vivid descriptions of places and people such as pre-war Paris and the fashion house of Elsa Schiaparelli, and the mystery surrounding Caro’s disappearance in 1941. I did not notice any historical missteps or anachronisms in the novel—an indication of thorough research and thoughtful incorporation of detail that propels the narrative and grounds the action of the characters. In addition to elements, The London House weaves a powerfully hopeful message into its narrative.

From Caro’s letters to Margaret:
"I find solace tonight in remembering everything between us, every story we’ve shared and every tidbit of our letters. They tell our story and, while I’m feeling lost and alone, they lead me to you. Do the same when you need me. Please? Pull out our letters and find me in each shared story and in each detail. It’s all there." (268)

And from Caroline’s reflections on her family:
"If what had started a domino chain of pain, retreat, and dysfunction could somehow be reversed or reimagined, then couldn’t a domino chain of hope replace and even heal it? That’s how high I had aimed...It meant my dream wasn’t impossible. If our perceptions changed our reality, our minds could also adapt to something new...I could stop being a prisoner of a past I hadn’t understood because I no longer imagined myself to be one." (301)

The London House is expertly crafted. Katherine Reay’s skill and confidence in storytelling is evident in her handling of the emotional weight of the narrative and dual-timeline format incorporating letters, journals, emails, and text messages in the epistolary sections of the novel. The London House ticked every historical fiction box for me, delivering a richly satisfying experience that I think will resonate with many readers.

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