It is Christmas 1926, that exciting time between the World Wars, and Daisy Forbes is looking forward to celebrating with her family, especially the father she reveres. She is on the verge of adulthood and only hopes that she can find a man as worthy as her father when she comes to marry. But when she overhears a conversation about her father Howard's not so secret indiscretions, her faith in his integrity shatters. Not only does she have to process her father's fallibility, but she is horrified to find that her mother, Mabel, has invited her father's mistress and his mistress' son Valentine, in the guise of Margot Vincent's longstanding friendship with the family, to join the family at Eden Hall this Christmas time. As Daisy grapples with this newfound knowledge of her father, she is also faced with three very different men in her life: the steady and rather stodgy Ben, who works with her father; the dashing and fast Valentine, for whom she should feel only disdain given his mother's role in her father's life; and Stephen, the family chauffeur who is the companion of her childhood and still her best friend. Daisy, like the time in which she is growing up, is being bombarded with change. Her family and her life both move in ways she never could have predicted before Christmas.
Kinghorn has used many of her characters to reflect the way in which the world was speeding through change in the interlude between the wars. Women, like Daisy's older sister Iris, had secured far more freedoms than the generation before them. Social classes were more fluid and there was far more opportunity to better oneself for a person willing to work. But there were still those who hewed to the old traditions as well. Daisy is torn between the two options, trying both on for size as she comes of age and she is an endearing character even as she makes mistakes. In fact, it is her recognition and acceptance of imperfections in others that show how she's changed and matured over the span of the novel. This has a sweeping, elegant feel to it. It is realistically romantic, tapping into the concepts of both love and loyalty in a well researched and authentic historical setting.
Thanks to Kayleigh at Berkley/NAL for sending me a copy of this book to review.