Beatriz Williams’ A CERTAIN AGE Reviewed

Beatriz Williams
William Morrow
June 28th, 2016

A CERTAIN AGE by Beatriz Williams is part mystery, part historical, and part romance that is based upon Richard Strauss’ opera, Der Rosenkavalier. It has a gripping plot involving family secrets, an unsolved murder, intrigue, and scandal during the l920s. The title is a metaphor for the time period and the age of each character that is very relevant to the story line.

The narrative alternates between the perspective of Sophie Fortescue and Theresa Marshall with each chapter beginning with a quote from the actual journalist and humorist Helen Rowland. As the story unfolds readers understand that socialite Theresa, age 44, is having a love affair with Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome twenty-two year old aviator and hero of World War I. She enlists him to act as her brother’s cavalier to present the family’s engagement ring. After meeting Sophie Octavian becomes enthralled with her. With the love triangle progressing the saga emphasizes divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists.

Williams once commented that she wants to make her characters interesting with a likeable and unlikeable side. She has certainly achieved her goal with this book.

Octavian is honorable and loyal, yet appears to be somewhat of a “wus” in the relationship with Theresa. He allows her to take complete control and while professing his love for her falls head over heals for Sophie.

Theresa has had a hard time in her life, forced into a marriage at a young age, having her husband cheat on her from day one, has a still born daughter, and loses her favorite son during WWI. But she is also very manipulative and controlling. It seems that Octavian to her is no more than a plaything as she calls him Boyo, never by his name, and orders him around as if he is her servant.

Sophie is an innocent, gutsy woman who strives for independence and symbolizes the women of that era who challenged the role society has pigeonholed for them.

There is also the return of a character from an earlier book, Julie Schuyler, the new friend of Sophie. She represents a flapper, someone who dressed and acted boldly, drinking in excess and enjoying her many relationships.

An added bonus Williams has become known for are the descriptive and detailed happenings of the 1920s, which add depth to the story. Through the characters people see the conflict between old and new money, the demeanor of Ty Cobb, the famous horse Man O’ War, as well as the growing importance of the new technologies, the automobile and airplane.

Those who read her books will never be disappointed. She creates a suspenseful plot with characters that are three-dimensional.

Elise Cooper