Against the backdrop of an abandoned English manor house, secrets, clandestine affairs, lost loves, and a mysterious box filled with a strange collection of objects all deftly combine to create a compelling mystery/love story in The Debutante, by Kathleen Tessaro.
When Cate Albion, a gifted young artist, arrives in London after fleeing a love affair gone bad, little does she imagine that her emotional life will soon become entwined with Diana “Baby” Blythe, a beautiful young society woman who mysteriously disappeared without a trace in the late 1930’s. Cate begins working in her aunt’s estate auction business, and is sent on assignment to help value the items at Endsleigh House, the Blythe sister’s home. The beautiful home has stood empty for years, and Cate quickly learns there are as many secrets within its walls as there are cobwebs and dustbunnie’s outside them. When Cate discovers an old shoe box containing an exquisite pair of silk dancing shoes, along with a diamond brooch, a photograph of a handsome young sailor, and dance card, and a pearl bracelet from Tiffany’s, she quickly becomes immersed in solving the mystery surrounding the provenance of these items. In her search to understand and determine Baby Blythe’s fate, Cate comes to terms with some rather disturbing facts about her own past, and finds herself on the way to love again.
The story unfolds in alternating sequences, between Cate’s tale in the present, and Baby’s, which Tessaro presents in epistolary form. Although there are a multitude of factors at play in the novel, each one comes together quite handily, keeping the reader in suspense until the last pages.
The Debutante was an engaging, interesting read. The period details were well executed, and the characters interesting and sympathetic. I found myself quickly caught up in the story, and the novel kept me reading far past my bedtime one evening! I’ll be looking out for the author’s other three novels as well.
About the Author: Born in Pittsburgh, Kathleen Tessaro emigrated to London where she worked as an actress in films, television, and theater, while training to be a drama teacher and voice coach. She is the author of the novels Elegance, Innocence, and The Flirt. Kathleen currently lives in Pennsylvania.
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