As the world mourns the loss of Diana, Princess of Wales, one young woman uncovers a forgotten story of passion, betrayal, and a scandal surrounding the British crown in this unforgettable novel by the bestselling author of The Secret Wife.
Two women who challenged the Crown.
Divided by time. Bound by a secret...
1911: When fifteen-year-old Mary Kirk meets Wallis Warfield at summer camp, she’s immediately captivated by her fearless, brazen, and self-assured personality. And Wallis has a way with the boys who are drawn to her like moths to a flame. Though Mary’s family isn’t crazy about her new best friend, she steadfastly stands by her side—even years later when they’re adults and rumors swirl about Wallis and her reckless behavior with none other than the Prince of Wales. But when Mary’s loyalty to Wallis comes into question, their friendship will be put to the ultimate test.
1997: After a romantic proposal in Paris, Rachel and her fiancé Alex are in a cab when suddenly the car ahead crashes. They’re stunned to learn Princess Diana is in the car. By the wreckage, Alex finds a heart pendant with an engraved letter “J” and Roman numerals XVII and gives it to Rachel to hold. Haunted by the crash and Diana’s subsequent death, Rachel is intrigued when she discovers that Di had visited the last home of Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, only hours before the accident. Eventually, the revelation of a long-forgotten link to Wallis Simpson leads Rachel to the truth behind a scandal that shook the world...
From the Author:
When I started researching Another Woman’s Husband in 2016, Meghan Markle was secretly dating Prince Harry but the media had not yet cottoned on. I found out about their romance, like the rest of the planet, in October that year when the press descended on her doorstep en masse, forcing Harry to issue a strongly worded condemnation. Coincidentally, I was busy finding out about another American divorcee who captured the heart of a British prince – a woman who also knew what it was like to be the target of critical press.
Wallis Simpson has long fascinated me: surely she couldn’t be quite as unscrupulous and self-serving as her (mostly male) biographers made out? I wanted to find out what made her tick and the more I read, the more I realized her school friend Mary Kirk was a pivotal figure. They met at summer camp at the age of fifteen and stayed friends right up to the abdication crisis of 1936. Mary introduced Wallis to Ernest Simpson, her second husband – and later married him herself. There was a fascinating tale of complex female friendship buried in there and I decided to tell it from Mary’s point of view. Who better to shed light on Wallis?
A curious fact leapt out at me from the research: hours before she died in 1997, Princess Diana visited Villa Windsor, Wallis’s old home in Paris, and no one is entirely sure why. Dodi al Fayed’s father says the couple were thinking of living there but none of Diana’s friends believe that, and the house’s very public location makes it unlikely. They only stayed twenty minutes. Did they have something to collect? And then I wondered if Diana ever met Wallis. It was possible, because she married into the royal family in 1982 and Wallis didn’t die till 86. We know Charles visited Great-Auntie Wallis in Paris, so did he introduce her to his wife?
Diana and Wallis had a lot in common: both were raised by single parents; both had failed first marriages and struggled to find love afterwards; both were fashion icons; both were hounded by the press. I decided to write a story that linked them, but rather than write about Diana as a character, I was drawn to explore the extraordinary phenomenon of the mass mourning after her death, something I remember well. These people sobbing in the streets during her funeral didn’t know her personally, so what was their grief about? Why did a staggering 85% of the British public believe there was something suspicious about her death?
I like writing novels with two time frames, one historic and the other modern, and letting the stories intertwine and shed light on each other. This novel was a challenge because I stuck to strict historical timelines in both plots, but the fictional characters of Rachel and Alex gave me more scope for invention and an opportunity to ogle lots of gorgeous vintage clothes – one of the devices that links the two plots.
I finished writing in spring 2017, months before it was announced that Meghan was to marry her prince. I watched their engagement interview and thought she seemed articulate, unassuming and likeable. Diana would have approved. As a historian, one of the most important tasks is choosing which sources you trust. Let’s just say that of all the folk who spoke out about Meghan before her wedding, I know which ones I believe.
And Wallis? I think Mary Kirk knew the real person: the one who was emotionally and financially vulnerable because her father died when she was a baby; the one who accidentally married a drunk who used to beat and hogtie her; the one who struggled for security in an era when women of her class seldom worked. No wonder she couldn’t resist the heir to the British throne buying her jewels and sending her to the Paris shows with a blank cheque. Sure, she had her flaws – and you’d have been mad to leave your husband alone with her – but she sounds as though she was good fun.
You can make up your own minds about Wallis when you read Another Woman’s Husband – and please let me know what you decide. I love making Skype and Facetime appearances at book groups. If you want me to visit yours, please get in touch on social media or via the website www.gillpaul.com. Chatting with readers is one of the perks of my job.