Review

An Outrageous Affair

by Penny Vincenzi

The Overlook Press, the small publishing house that first
introduced American readers to the epic novels of Penny Vincenzi,
is committed to bringing all of Vincenzi's backlist in print in the
United States (even as another, larger publisher has snatched up
her newest titles now that the word is out). AN OUTRAGEOUS AFFAIR,
first published in the United Kingdom in 1993, is another terrific
example of Vincenzi's ability to bring together a couple dozen
characters (and just as many subplots) in intriguing, titillating
and outrageous ways.

The novel opens in Great Britain in 1942, in the middle of World
War II, as aristocratic (and sexually frustrated) Caroline
Hunterton falls desperately in love with American fighter pilot
Brendan FitzPatrick. After Caroline becomes pregnant, she tries to
reach her lover to tell him the news; distraught when he does not
reply, she (at the urging of her mortified parents) gives the baby
girl up for adoption and marries a man she does not love. When
Brendan, who has been wounded and unable to be contacted, finally
returns to Suffolk, a heartbroken Caroline tells him it's too late
for their love. But it's not too late for one thing --- adoption
proceedings have not yet been finalized, and Brendan can take their
daughter, Fleur, for his own.

He does so, and the doting young father takes the girl back to
New York City. After the war, Brendan turns his eyes westward ---
to Hollywood, leaving his beloved daughter in the care of relatives
while he pursues his dreams of stardom. Brendan might not be much
of an actor, but he certainly does have star quality --- that is,
until the threat of exposing a salacious scandal destroys him
utterly.

As for Caroline, she and her husband have three children in
quick succession. The oldest, Chloe, couldn't be less like Fleur.
When teenaged Chloe learns of Caroline's past --- and of the
existence of Fleur --- she realizes there's a reason for Caroline's
persistent distance from her. She soon throws herself into marriage
with noted London thespian Piers Windsor, who might be the most
talented actor of his generation but is an absolute disaster as a
husband. As for Fleur, she bitterly resents being kept a secret
from her English "family" and becomes determined not only to avenge
her father's death but also to have her revenge on the mother and
sister who have shunned her for so long.

Into the mix comes dashing, debonair journalist Magnus Phillips,
whose tell-all book on Piers Windsor exposes connections that no
one knew existed --- and threatens to destroy the lives and loves
of both Chloe and Fleur.

Fans of Penny Vincenzi's other novels will recognize trademark
details here: the sprawling time frame, the large cast of
characters, the teetering balance between scandal and propriety,
between appearance and reality. Readers are also in for a
particularly alluring historical ride this time around, as the
action travels from old Hollywood to Madison Avenue advertising
pitch meetings to the London theater scene to noble English country
house culture. Both Fleur and Chloe are compelling characters, and
their climactic meeting proves just as satisfactory as audiences
will have anticipated. Perhaps not surprising given its title, AN
OUTRAGEOUS AFFAIR has somewhat more (and more explicit) sex than
many recent Vincenzi novels; it also contains numerous homophobic
comments that (one hopes) are meant to be reflective of the novel's
1950s and 1960s setting rather than a straightforward
commentary.

Nonetheless, AN OUTRAGEOUS AFFAIR gives readers more of what
they've come to expect from Penny Vincenzi: a thoroughly enjoyable
family saga with glamour, romance and drama to spare.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 14, 2011

An Outrageous Affair
by Penny Vincenzi

  • Publication Date: October 2, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover
  • ISBN-10: 1590201019
  • ISBN-13: 9781590201015