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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig
Published by NAL ISBN 9780451474629
Hardcover, $26, 384 pages
Reprinted from the Citizen:
Writers Karen White (“The Sound of Glass”), Lauren Willig (The “Pink Carnation” series of historical fiction) and Beatriz Williams (“Along the Infinite Sea”) are all successful romance novelists on their own. Recently, they teamed up to write a book together, “The Forgotten Room,” in which the authors each take a different time setting then connect their stories together. 
It begins in 1944, where young Dr. Kate Schuyler races to an incoming ambulance to find a seriously injured soldier. Capt. Ravanel was injured in Europe in the war and placed on a boat to set sail for New York City to a hospital there for better care.
The hospital on East 69th Street that Dr. Schuyler works in used to be a family’s mansion during the Gilded Age, when money flowed freely until the Great Depression hit, and the family’s mansion was sold and eventually became a hospital.
Capt. Ravenel is delirious with fever, calling Dr. Schuyler by the name Victorine, and recognizes the ruby necklace that Kate wears around her neck. Kate doesn’t know Capt. Ravenel, although his last name sounds familiar.
In 1892, we meet young Olive Van Alan, who works as a maid in the mansion on East 69th Street for the wealthy Pratt family. While it appears that Olive is just another poor young working class woman, she has ulterior motives.
Olive’s father was the architect who built the Pratt mansion. It was his masterpiece, a showcase that he hoped would make his career and get him many more jobs. But Mr. Pratt was a dishonest man, and he refused to pay Olive’s father for his work, bankrupting him and resulting in her father’s death.
Olive was determined to find vindication for her father in Pratt’s paperwork. She would find proof that her father’s work was not unacceptable and poor, as Pratt claimed. She would get justice for her father.
But Olive didn’t count on falling in love with Pratt’s artistic son Harry. Olive was warned to stay away from the young master of the house, that it would only mean trouble for everyone, but Harry became infatuated with Olive, and a torrid affair began.
In 1920, Lucy Young takes a room in the attic of a mansion on East 69th Street, the former Pratt Mansion. She secures a job at the firm that handles the affairs of the Pratt family. The junior partner in charge of the Pratt account is the stepson of Prunella Pratt, the last remaining member of the famous Pratts, and sister of Harry.
Before long, Lucy is now working closely with Phillip Schuyler, Prunella’s stepson. Lucy can’t believe her luck. She got the job at the firm hoping to get an answer to a very important question: Could Lucy be the illegitimate daughter of Harry Pratt?
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Harry Pratt disappeared a long time ago, and his family had no idea where he went or if he was still alive. Lucy hopes that if she can find Harry Pratt, she can find the answer to her real heritage.
Lucy becomes Phillip Schuyler’s valued assistant, and when he asks her to entertain a client, a Mr. Ravenel from Charleston, we have a connection that will be repeated in 1944, in the Pratt mansion that is now a hospital.
White, Williams and Willig do a masterful job creating three distinct worlds that intersect in the end. Each takes a storyline, and immerses the reader in their time period. We can feel the distinct delineation between the classes in Olive’s story, as the opulence of the Pratt family contrasts with Olive and her widowed mother, who tries to marry Olive off to the nice bakery owner.
Lucy Young is a career woman living in a room in a woman’s boarding house in 1920 under the watchful eye of a woman who deems it her goal in life to keep her boarders' virtue intact. Lucy came from a family who owned a small shop, but she uses her education to make a better life for herself.
And then we get to Dr. Kate Schuyler, a doctor in 1944, an unusual occupation for a woman at that time. Kate has to put up with the sexual harassment of her boss, and back then the only method to handle that was to avoid the man at all costs.
The way the authors seamlessly weave their stories together is beautifully done, and when the resolution to the story comes, it is a satisfying conclusion. “The Forgotten Room” is the perfect book to curl up with on a snowy day and lose yourself in a wonderful story.
Grade- A-

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