It is the story of the Pratt House, a mansion in Manhattan on East 69th street. The first story-line takes place in 1892 when Olive Van Alan, the daughter of the house’s architect goes to work there as a maid. Her father was never reimbursed for his years planning and building the magnificent dwelling and has committed suicide as a result of his despair and loss of reputation. She plans to find proof of the nonpayment so that she can honor her father’s memory. But there she meets the son of the house, Harry.
Harry is an artist. He is also very handsome and charming. As a result Olive finds herself posing for him in his attic studio – henceforth called the forgotten room…
Then we jump ahead to 1920, when we meet Lucy Young. Lucy is a legal secretary who lives in the forgotten room at the house which has been converted over into a ladies’ boardinghouse. She has a job working for the attorney Philip Schulyer. As this is the firm that handles the Pratt family’s affairs, she plans to covertly search his files in her quest to understand her lineage. Through her work she meets the client Mr. Ravenel who finds her face eerily familiar…
Then skip ahead once again to 1944 where we meet Kate Schulyer, a doctor who works at the house which is in it’s third reincarnation as Stornaway Hospital. While working there she meets an injured soldier named Captain Cooper Ravenel. He has a portrait miniature of ‘Victorine’ that he always carries. Remarkably, she looks exactly like Kate! And what is more she is wearing the same ruby necklace that Kate’s mother gave her upon her death.
The reader quickly realizes that all three protagonists must be related – and are in fact three generations: grandmother, mother, and daughter. But what is the hidden story? Why is their connection shrouded in secrecy?
I confess that I was a tad confused with the interweaving relationships. Enough that I actually created a family tree on paper. That doesn’t mean I liked it any less – I quite enjoyed the attempt to ‘puzzle it out’.
“The Forgotten Room” is a delicious love story where the memorable protagonists whisk the reader away to another time. A story of love, loss, secrets, illicit liaisons, artists and their muses, and choices made. A story of passions versus practicalities. A cautionary tale of the regret that comes from not following your heart, this novel is also an interesting review of woman’s social history.
I have only previously read one of the three authors of this book, Karen White. I have never before now had the pleasure of reading Beatriz Williams or Lauren Willig. The narrative flows smoothly making it difficult if not impossible to discern where one author left off and another began. The writing explains why all three are New York Times Bestselling Authors!
Recommended highly to readers who enjoy strong women’s fiction with more than a dash of romance and history.