A Contemporary Storyline & One Historical Storyline — A Tale of Two Generations of Women
Husbands & Lovers Book Cover Husbands & Lovers
Beatriz Williams
Historical Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Ballantine Books
June 25, 2024
ebook, hardcover, audiobook

Two women—separated by decades and continents, and united by an exotic family heirloom—reclaim secrets and lost loves in this sweeping novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives.

“My favorite kind of page-turner—unputdownable!”—Martha Hall Kelly, author of The Golden Doves

New England, 2022. Three years ago, single mother Mallory Dunne received the telephone call every parent dreads—her ten-year-old son, Sam, had been airlifted from summer camp with acute poisoning from a toxic death cap mushroom, leaving him fighting for his life. Now, searching for the donor kidney that will give her son a chance for a normal life, Mallory’s forced to confront two harrowing secrets from her past: her mother’s adoption from an infamous Irish orphanage in 1952, and her own all-consuming summer romance fourteen years earlier with her childhood best friend, Monk Adams— one of the world’s most beloved singer-songwriters—a fairy tale cut short by a devastating betrayal.

Cairo, 1951. After suffering tragedy beyond comprehension in the war, Hungarian refugee Hannah Ainsworth has forged a respectable new life for herself—marriage to a wealthy British diplomat with a coveted posting in glamorous Cairo. But a fateful encounter with the enigmatic manager of a hotel bristling with spies leads to a passionate affair that will reawaken Hannah’s longing for everything she once lost. As revolution simmers in the Egyptian streets, a pregnant Hannah finds herself snared in a game of intrigue between two men . . . and an act of sacrifice that will echo down the generations.

Timeless and bittersweet, Husbands & Lovers takes readers on an unforgettable journey of heartbreak and redemption, from the revolutionary fires of midcentury Egypt to the moneyed beaches of contemporary New England. Acclaimed author Beatriz Williams has written a poignant and beautifully voiced novel of deeply human characters entangled by morally complex issues—of privilege, class, and the female experience—inside worlds brought shimmeringly to life.

“Men fall over themselves for a beautiful woman, women fall over themselves for a rich man. So who’s more greedy? At least money is useful. And it doesn’t fade with time.”

Husbands & Lovers is Folklore coded, and now that we have that out of the way, I can tell you that I’m continually blown away by how meticulous Beatriz Williams is in her ability to craft a storyline and weave it throughout two (or in this case three) timelines. I have yet to meet a story from Beatriz Williams that I didn’t lose myself while reading. Totally immersive and completely evocative, Williams has an ability to write storylines and settings that hold readers in her grasp. Much like a certain global phenom singer/songwriter currently on tour.

This is a messy story that centers around two distinct generations of women.  Of course, Husbands & Lovers has romance at its core.  Any story surrounding humanity usually does. This story is about the messiness of human relationships amidst adversity such as war, revolution, and even more frightening finding your footing in young love. The more modern timeline revolves around Mallory. Her storyline is told through present tense and flashbacks to her summers spent with a boy named Monk who grew up to a musical star of the rock star variety. We meet Mallory as she endures one of the hardest days as a single mother to her son Sam who is in the hospital due to mushroom poisoning. Mallory’s story intertwines with Monk Adams and their son throughout a tumultuous summer on the East coast.

“I can’t bring you back to life, Hannah,” he said. “You can choose to live again, or not. But I can make you remember what it was like to be alive.”

I love that the simple idea of following one’s DNA can uncover so much. I’m positive that Beatriz Williams also loves that idea as well since so much of the modern storyline in Husband & Lovers revolves around Mallory and her sister following clues started by a DNA test to the truth behind their lineage.

Which leads us to the historical aspect of Husbands & Lovers. Hannah is a young wife to an older British ambassador in Egypt. She’s the picture of a trophy wife: doting, lovely to look at, and utterly bored. A fellow wife suggests a distraction. A dalliance with a young man to pass the time while her husband works to undo the mess of the current tensions between the British empire and the local Egyptians. It isn’t just any man, of course, but Lucien, the enigmatic concierge who would do anything for Hannah. Hannah isn’t just some trophy wife either, she and Lucien both have secrets from the war and skeletons in their closets that could threaten to push the already heated tensions to boil over.

“A man is seldom lucky enough to fight for what he believes in. He just fights to stay alive.”

There are heaps of trigger warnings but that shouldn’t put off any reader who knows about the WW2 timelines. Some triggers include instances of war, rape, child loss, assault, adultery, drug usage, and murder.

The culmination of Husbands & Lovers is utterly enthralling. This is what Beatriz Williams does to me. I get hooked by fantastic characters and then I lose myself in the storyline and read with such a frenzy during the apex of the plot that I cannot put the book down for anything.  I guarantee that if you love historical fiction, romance, strong female characters, and storylines so well written and perfect for the beach then you will love Husbands & Lovers by Beatriz Williams along with every other novel in her extensive catalogue.