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A Certain Age

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The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she's fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa's wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother's cavalier, presenting the family's diamond rose ring to Ox's intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression ... and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams' fiction and alternating between Sophie's spirited voice and Theresa's vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss's comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby's New York.

327 pages, Hardcover

First published June 28, 2016

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Beatriz Williams

26 books7,557 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,202 reviews
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,290 reviews120k followers
May 14, 2020
When the girls admire him a young man takes it as a matter of course; but when a widow selects him for her attention he thrills with the knowledge that he is being stamped with the approval of a connoisseur. - Helen Rowland
Well, Mrs Theresa Marshal, 44, is no widow. She shares a 5th Avenue residence and a lovely place in Southampton with her very-much-alive husband, Sylvester. Octavian Rofrano, the 22-year-old she often refers to as Boyo, manages to prove, with some frequency and energy, that he is even more alive than the senior man in Theresa’s life. Marshall is goofy for her flyboy, Rofrano being late of World War I, although a lot less late than most of his fellow pilots. She is stuck on him enough to have begun having notions of them taking it on the lam together. If only life were so simple.

Beatriz Williams - from her FB pages

There is the problem of Sophie Fortescue, 19, an heiress to a successful, if somewhat reclusive inventor father, mom having reached a bad end many years back. She is a mechanically inclined chip off the old engine block, and an object of extreme affection for Theresa’s brother. Jay is not as far along in years as his sister, but is past his first bloom. An erstwhile man about town, he is eager to marry young Sophie, and secure not only the companionship of a beautiful and vivacious partner, but the not insignificant advantage of her considerable inheritance. Theresa engages young Rofrano for him, to act the cavalier and present young Sophie with Jay’s formal request for her hand, and presumably the rest of her, in marriage. But seeing Sophie sparks something in young Rofrano. Complications ensue.

We are introduced to the goings on by a gossip columnist for the New York Herald-Times. It is May 1922 and nom-de-plume Patty Cake fills us in on what looks like the crime of the century in Greewich, CT, a juicy case in which The Patent King is on trial for his life, his daughters, The Patent Princesses, in attendance. Ms Cake pops in from time to time to update us on the progress of the trial, and to add a third voice, enough to help plait the Theresa and Sophie threads into a lovely braid.
LOVE, the quest; marriage, the conquest; divorce, the inquest. - Helen Rowland
Patty is a fun element, but the star of this show is Theresa Marshall. I kept hearing the voice of Lady Mary from Downton Abbey, albeit it with an American accent. Lest one think of her as maybe too modern a woman, it should be borne in mind that the 20s was not called Roaring for nothing. It was a time of change. Boundaries were being pushed. Sophie is considered daring because she wants to work for her living instead of being a prize awarded to the highest bidder. Theresa takes advantage of the more daring culture of the day to match her philandering mate, for a change, in partaking of the world. Octavian confronts considerable survivor guilt, having made it through the vagaries of The Great War, while having lost so many of his fellow flyers.
Everybody seems to be going through life at automobile speed nowadays; but alas, there are no sentimental garages by Life's wayside at which we may obtain a fresh supply of emotions, purchase a new thrill or patch up an exploded ideal. - Helen Rowland
The title refers not only to the chronological status of Theresa Marshall, (and the May/December couplings of Jay with Sophie, and Theresa’s hubby with his latest young thing) but the times themselves. Williams offers a nifty look at the 1920s, peppering her novel with elements of the dynamic culture and the odd sign-post. Ty Cobb and his infamous demeanor are tossed across the stage early on. Man O’War thunders past in a back-story role, bringing Octavian and Theresa together. That relatively new-fangled automotive device comes in for some use as well. Here is a nice passage that gives a sense of much of this era-capturing
The bartender. The bar. So forbidden and masculine, an unimaginable place for a girl to find herself—alone!—until now. Until suddenly boys and girls are going to saloons together, and they aren’t called saloons any more. A whole new vocabulary is springing up overnight, it seems, like mushrooms or crocuses, all clustered around the underground slaking of illegal thirst, and it seems the more illegal the thirst is, the more ordinary and acceptable it’s become to slake it in mixed company, among strangers. And the vocabulary has something to do with that, doesn’t it? Hooch, speakeasy, blotto. Silly words, trivializing the laws they’re breaking. Trivializing everything in the world.
I love how Williams posilutely picks up the sudden societal unsteadiness that followed the horror of war, as the world tried, once more, to regain its balance. It is putting her story in the context of a time of great upheaval, made manifest in her characters, that raises it from a pretty good novel, with a sparkling character in Theresa, to something higher.
Love is like appendicitis; you never know when nor how it is going to strike you—the only difference being that, after one attack of appendicitis, your curiosity is perfectly satisfied - Helen Rowland
And if that’s not enough you might think it’s the bees knees that the story is based on the German opera, Der Rosenkavalier. The name Octavian Rofrano is lifted whole from that. The Marshcallin, Princess Marie Therese von Werdenberg becomes Theresa Marshall. Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau has become Theresa’s brother, usually called Ox. Sophie remains Sophie. Williams added the murder mystery element to move things along, as the plot of her source material was a bit thin. It is no surprise that she finds inspiration in the classics. Williams was raised in Ashland, Oregon, and was exposed early on to a regular diet of Shakespeare and some of the more refined forms of public entertainment offered in that notable college town.
After marriage, a woman's sight becomes so keen that she can see right through her husband without looking at him, and a man's so dull that he can look right through his wife without seeing her. - Helen Rowland
One of the truly delightful elements of this novel is that every one of the 27 chapters is introduced by a deliciously cynical (well, most are, anyway) quote from Helen Rowland. And if the name is unfamiliar, you are in good company. Rowland wrote a column called Reflections of a Bachelor Girl for The New York World in the early part of the 20th century. I have included in EXTRA STUFF a link to the Gutenberg edition(s) of one of her books of collected wit and wisdom, A Guide to Men, and sprinkled into this review some Rowland quotes taken, not from the book under review, but from Rowland’s opus, to give you a taste.

A Certain Age is a fun read. It points out some of the gender issues coming to the fore at the time. It notes how possibilities for women, in both work and love were constraining and loosening. But that is understructure. The characters are fun to follow, with Theresa standing above the rest, and Patty Cake offering some extra spice. You may be reminded of A Little Night Music, although with fewer jokes. The mystery element keeps the story moving along quite nicely. I would be shocked if this is not one of the major summer reads of 2016. A Certain Age is an ageless read and a certain joy.

Review first posted – March 5, 2016

Publication – June 28, 2016

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

This is Williams’ seventh novel. Her books tend toward the historical and the romantic. Usually I gag at such things, but I was able to manage this one quite nicely.

My review of Williams’ 2017 release, Cocoa Beach

November 14, 2016 - A Certain Age is named to Kirkus's list of the best popular fiction of 2016

The internet Guide to Jazz Age Slang came in handy

Project Gutenberg Edition(s) of Helen Rowland’s A Guide to Men
Profile Image for Erin .
1,214 reviews1,123 followers
July 30, 2017
3.5 Stars. Entertaining but not as riveting as the other books by Beatriz Williams that I've read. I didn't really connect with the characters & I would have enjoyed it more if the main story had been about the murder mystery, but overall I liked A Certain Age and Beatriz Williams continues be a favorite author of mine.
Profile Image for Christina.
261 reviews225 followers
October 13, 2016

3.5 stars

"Telling lies is a fault in a boy, an art in a lover, an accomplishment in a bachelor, and second-nature in a married man."
-Helen Rowland

Beatriz William's newest novel, A Certain Age, is a loose reinterpretation of Richard Strauss's comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, which was first performed in 1911. But Williams sets her twist of this story in New York, during the roaring 20's. Williams explains in her author's note that the opera was meant to enact a struggle between old and new - old money and new money, physical maturity and youth...the main plot being a rivalry between a beautiful young innocent and a lady of a certain age, over the lady's much younger lover. And her novel really showcases that, especially taking place in the 1920's, where there was a ton of conflict between tradition and modernism. The 20's were a time of great change for the world as a whole, but especially here in America. Things that were unheard of just years ago are suddenly becoming the new norm...such as divorce and women working outside of the home. The prohibition is going on, hemlines are being raised, automobiles are already clogging up traffic and returning soldiers are still struggling with memories of WW1.

But Williams takes a bit of liberty with her retelling, adding in the suspense of a murder mystery.

The novel opens with an article, dated May 29th of 1922, of a woman reporting on the Trial of the Century. The details aren't made clear right away as to who's on trial and what the crime was, but we get snippets of the article's reports throughout the book. The rest alternates between the POVs of Mrs. Theresa Marshall (our lady of a certain age) and Miss Sophie Fortescue, a sheltered daughter to a newly wealthy inventor. Sophie lives with her father and her older sister Virginia, along with Virginia's young daughter Evelyn. Virginia's husband is very much absent, in Florida trying to establish a life before he sends for his wife and daughter.

Their POV opens a bit earlier than the article, on the second day of 1922. We meet Theresa's young lover, Octavian Rofrano. They met after he had just returned from the War, where he was a pilot.

He is twenty-two years old, my Boy, and therefore a man, in the eyes of his almighty Lord God and of the law. He looks like a man, all the more now than when I first saw him. That was the summer of 1920, a year and a half ago, and he was a man in a boy's skin, let me tell you, a perfect pink-cheeked Boyo, young lips and old eyes.

Octavian wants nothing more than for Theresa to divorce her husband and to bear him children and marry him. He is, thus far, quite devoted to her.

"A bachelor never quite gets over the idea that he is a thing of beauty and a boy forever."
-Helen Rowland

Then Theresa's brother, Jay Oschner, an infamous bachelor, shocks everyone by proposing marriage at last. To Miss Sophie Fortescue. As an old family tradition though, he proposes through a cavalier. He goes to his dear sister, to ask for her assistance in providing said suitable cavalier, and she persuades Octavian to do it and to also check into the Fortescues, since they seem to be a bit reclusive.

"Ever since Eve started it all by offering Adam the apple, woman's punishment has been to supply a man with food and then suffer the consequences when it disagrees with him."
-Helen Rowland

When Octavian and Sophie meet, there seems to be an instant connection between the two. Loyalties are split as a triangle of a sort forms. Octavian also happens to discover a secret that members of the Fortescue family have been hiding, and the revelations are soon to come to light, very publicly.

"Before marriage, a man declares that he would lay down his life to serve you; after marriage, he won't even lay down his newspaper to talk to you."
-Helen Rowland

And throughout the novel, at the beginning of each new chapter, we have a great quote from Helen Rowland, who Williams mentioned in her author's note, was a journalist who wrote a popular column called "Reflections of a Bachelor Girl" a century ago. I completely agree with Williams observation that her quotes are an interesting insight into the changing social times at the turn of the century, but it's funny how a lot of her wisdom still holds true today.

This one kept me guessing until the very end too. I didn't see the twist coming until it was right before me and I was a bit surprised at the ending of this book. I was left unsatisfied with Virginia's ending...but am hoping that maybe Williams purposely left it that way as a set up for a future book...much in the same way she set up her series about the Schuyler sisters....
And speaking of the Schuyler's...
One of the things that I love about Williams books are that we see familiar characters from previous books in each one. This is no exception. In this book, we get to see Julie Schuyler (who has been a constant in every book I've read by Williams) but not as the grand older woman that we know and love. In this glimpse of Julie, she's in her early twenties and living life to the fullest. It was so fun to get that glimpse of her, so different than what I'm used to when envisioning her character. And she's not the only familiar one we get a glimpse of.

Of the character's in this book, Theresa was my favorite by far. Through her reminiscing, we get the story of how she and Octavian met and started their love affair, along with her life before he came along. Her choice at the end really surprised me, and I would love to see more of her in future books.

I couldn't connect with Sophie much...she's portrayed as this innocent young girl, green to the ways of the world, but she came across as much different than that most of the time. I didn't really sense any chemistry between her and Octavian, their relationship just seemed too sudden and a bit forced.

I adored the setting, having not read a lot of fiction set in the 1920's. Williams still remains one of my favorite authors and I hope she's already at work on her next book!

Profile Image for Nicole R.
972 reviews
February 7, 2016
If you know anything about me by now, it is that I have drank of the Beatriz Williams Kool-Aid. Williams has a magical way of transporting you to the defining times of our nation's history by creating characters that deftly tell a story that not only encompasses the culture of that era, but also subtly reveals what it meant to be a woman at that point in history.

A Certain Age takes us to the roaring 1920s Manhattan. The times, they are a-changin'. Women are becoming bolder, clothes are becoming scantier, jazz is being born, and booze is (supposedly) becoming scarcer. It is a city on the verge of cultural change. At least among the 5th Avenue elite.

Mrs. Theresa Marshall is the queen of the elite. Appearances are everything and she maintains them with her husband even while falling quite desperately in love -- or at least in infatuation -- with the much younger war hero, Octavian Rofrano. But, she unwittingly changes the entire trajectory of her entire happiness when she sends her lover to serve as the cavalier for her brother Ox, to present Ox's proposal to the almost scandalously young and certainly scandalously wealthy Miss Sophie Fortescue.

Family secrets. Unsolved murders. Discreet affairs. Steamy romanaces. Women challenging the role into which society has pigeonholed them. All leading up to the murder trial of the century.

A Certain Age is told from the alternating perspectives of Theresa and Sophie. The former being a woman of a certain age, jaded by life, eyes open to the realities of social standing and the associated expectations. The latter a doe-eyed and sheltered young woman, who still bows to the expectations of her father and lacks the life experience to question if she wants more. If she deserves more.

Without a doubt, Theresa was my preferred point of view. She had a self-confidence edged with just a touch of insecurity, and she had no delusions of what was expected of her in society. Stand by her husband, keep her lover discrete. She was smart, more than a little manipulative, and completely unapologetic. I adored her. Sophie's naiveté wore a bit thin at times for me, but she ended up being the one who cast off the mantel of 1920s woman and stepped into the future. These two women were two sides of the same coin: one who despite her best efforts could not break free of the mold and the other who seemed born to leave it behind.

The one aspect that fell short of Ms. Williams's other books was the entwined mystery. There is a trial that is alluded to in flash-forward news columns and Sophie has a mysterious childhood and recluse father, but I was not drawn into that storyline. It was interesting, and I realized we were being led toward the resolution, but I was way more interested in reading about Theresa and Octavian. The general outlines of the mystery were not shrouded in obscurity and the big twist was not as shocking as I know Ms. Williams is capable of. Intriguing at best.

Finally, we see some of familiar faces and names as are woven throughout Ms. Williams's other books: the Schuylers (particularly Julie), the van der Wahls. At this point, I would love a friend/family tree to see how all of these novels piece together to tell an epic story of the Schuylers.

Overall, another solid novel by Beatriz Williams full of glitz, glamour, and romance.

Thank you to Edelweiss for providing an advanced copy of A Certain Age in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for C.W..
Author 16 books2,283 followers
April 10, 2019
I discovered Beatriz Williams' work as I was about to fly abroad on vacation. In my final misguided attempt to only travel with e-books, I promptly had a panic attack after clearing security and raced into the nearest airport bookstore to load up my carry-on with paper copies. I bought THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT on a whim because the premise intrigued me, and devoured it while on the beach. Addicted, I then scoured the local bookstore for more of her books, which I fortunately found.

In A CERTAIN AGE, Williams evokes the champagne shimmer and razor-cut sophistication of post-WWI 1920s Manhattan, as the craze for bootleg liquor and freedom seeps into the calcified upper echelons of Fifth Avenue society. Theresa Marshall lives a posh life in a long-term marriage that has a time-honored arrangement: both she and her husband are conducting discreet, mutually respectful affairs. Though Theresa is a woman of a certain age, wealth and prestige have cocooned her in unimpeachable, bare-backing beauty; and she attracts the attention of the Boy, aka Octavian - a brooding former pilot, whose heroic endeavors during the war have assisted him to bypass the rigid entry rules of the upper-class, landing him a helpful patron and stock-broker job. His sinewy physique and tight-lipped attitude prove irresistible to the intrepid Mrs Marshall, who tries to set him up as her toy only to find herself falling uncontrollably, and uncomfortably, in love with him.

When Theresa's dissipated brother sets his sights on Sophie, a seemingly naive heiress of "new money", Theresa dispatches her Boy to present her brother's marriage proposal in an old-fashioned act of cavalier manipulation that will upend everyone's fragile existence. Boy and Sophie discover unexpected rapport within a secret, and the unsolved mystery of a murder unravels with startling consequences for all involved.

Narrated in the alternate POVs of Theresa and Sophie, Beatriz Williams is at the top of her game here. She evokes the intimate, socially incestuous world of old New York and its clash with the burgeoning riches forged by middle-class enterprise, as well as the struggle toward feminist liberation, within the framework of two very different women who must decide who they want to be in the waning glory of a certain age. Sophie and Theresa mesmerize with their opposing views; twin sides of the same coin that can never be fully reconciled.

Steeped in wit and glamour, riddled with the fractures of a crumbling time and place, A CERTAIN AGE is gloriously readable, transcending the cliched boundaries of so-called "women's fiction."
Profile Image for Toni.
632 reviews199 followers
December 4, 2016
Well, this is a cool little number from Ms. Beatriz Williams, a snazzy author I just rediscovered. I've read "One Hundred Summers," but this novel about the 1920's jazz age, and everything we hoped went with it, held my attention so much better. Wealthy 5th Avenue socialites, their affairs, Long Island summer homes, horse racing, etc. They were doing it all well before we were all born, and they did it with such casual accomplishment, as if it were their birthright. It's so amusing that every generation thinks they discovered sex, alcohol, parties, etc. No wonder my parents just smiled at the sixties and seventies. The same old, just in a different way; less clothes and longer hair. But now it was their children out there. Fast forward to present day and the "millennials" are having their way with the world. Our kids.
Anyway, this book is marvelous, witty, sexy, sneaky, and mysterious.
Bonus is the journalist of that era, Helen Rowland, whose quotes introduce each chapter. I want a book about her.
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,603 followers
April 23, 2017
I am always fascinated by well-written books that take place during the 1920’s. It was an exceptional time: between two wars, prohibition, the old guard and the new struggling to find a way to share the same space. Beatriz Williams’ book exemplifies those times and struggles – and in a way that is so real it is almost painful at times. There was a point where I almost couldn’t bear the fact that some people in this story would not get what they wanted – that they would be forever marked, or even destroyed, in the very intimate battles of the war between the various lovers. I wanted them all to “win” – all of the characters drew my empathy for one reason or another. Based on a play that I have never seen nor experienced, this “up-dated” version of the story with a twist finely woven in, should have a film based on it – but only if they can find actors who can do justice to the nuances of the characters. A great story that I recommend to everyone who enjoys historical fiction that is extremely well written.
Profile Image for PennsyLady (Bev).
1,039 reviews
July 13, 2016
A Certain Age
by Beatriz Williams

Let me begin by placing a few key phrases before you.

"hedonism of the Jazz Age" in New York City
Captain Octavian Rofrano (BOY)... honorable, devoted war hero, "battle scarred" paramour of the flamboyant Mrs. Theresa Marshall.
Miss Sophie Fortescue... naive, charming ingenue, advancing and retreating on the fringes of "the Roaring 20's."

"As a fateful triangle forms, loyalties divide and old crimes are dragged into daylight, drawing Octavian into transgression…and Theresa into the jaws of a bittersweet choice."
(publisher's note)

This is an excellent rendering of the jazz age in NYC and the colorful characters dabbling in conventional and forbidden pursuits.

4.5 ★
Profile Image for Alicia.
322 reviews69 followers
April 1, 2017
By the end of the first chapter, I had to force myself to finish this book. I really liked the author's writing style, and the murder story was interesting and I wanted to find out who the murderer was. But that was largely overshadowed by the constant and crude descriptions about Mrs. Marshall's and Octavian's adulterous relationship (which went on page after endless page until it became a story almost solely focused on a lady and her young lover). I also did not like a lot of the characters in this book and tolerated the rest.

I think that the author herself is a talented writer...but the content missed the mark.

*I received this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway and did not have to write a review
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,044 reviews1,367 followers
June 28, 2016

Falling in love with a younger man while you are still married and then having a younger woman come along wasn't the best thing to happen to Mrs. Theresa Marshall.

A CERTAIN AGE began with an excerpt from a murder trial then moved to alternating chapters and told of the life of high society and how they adapted social protocol to whatever they wanted.

We follow Mrs. Marshall, Mr. Marshall, Captain Rofrano, and Miss Fortescue in the scandalous antics they were all involved in. Decisions had to be made and​​ Sophie Fortescue had the most difficult decision, even though her father was the one that would be making the decision about who she was to marry.

Ms. Williams again perfectly portrays the time period and how women in wealthy families really didn't have a choice about choosing their spouse. After the marriage proposal was made, an investigation into the Fortescue family adds another layer to the book. The Fortescues are not who they say they are, and a house that Mr. Rofrano grew up in was part of their secret.

Once the secret was revealed and Sophie Fortescue was more outspoken, the book heated up with an ending that was oh so good with an unexpected twist.

I enjoyed the characters, but Mrs. Marshall and Mr. Fortescue were my least favorites. Mr. Fortescue was too controlling, and Mrs. Marshall was too sneaky for me.

A CERTAIN AGE was beautifully written as all of Ms. Williams’ books even though it took me a while to get connected, but it was still enjoyable.

The book's cover is stunning, and the book is patterned after an opera titled Der Rosenkavalie.

ENJOY if you read A CERTAIN AGE. 4/5
Profile Image for Tracy.
538 reviews44 followers
October 16, 2016
I love everything Beatriz Williams writes. Literally everything! This book is no exception and I really enjoyed it. The story is unique in that you think you're going to read a fun romance but it ends up having a whole murder mystery tied into it too. The sassy writing describing 1920s New York City was great. You read from a few perspectives and they were all very well written. I loved the ending of the story. I didn't expect the ending the way it happened but I thought it was great!

I highly recommend anything Beatriz Williams writes!
Profile Image for Sherri Thacker.
1,213 reviews234 followers
January 22, 2018
A Certain Age was a “ok” read and I kept getting lost in parts of the story. I felt like i skimmed through a lot of the sections because i was losing interest. For that reason, I’m giving it 2 stars. Oh well.
Profile Image for Julie.
767 reviews63 followers
June 30, 2016
Beatriz Williams has another great book here with A Certain Age. Set against the backdrop of a changing NYC, we are thrust into a love triangle and a scandal.

While Theresa might have had an entire entitled air about her I thought she was true to how she was brought up and how she was at least honest.

Sophie drove me a little nuts. I get that she was sheltered and wanted a different life but I don't think she was really that naive.

I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the trial and I really liked how all the pieces came together in the end.
Profile Image for Judy Collins.
2,508 reviews352 followers
July 3, 2016
A CERTAIN AGE, is a delicious gripping tale of love, secrets, and family scandal in the glamorous Jazz Age — inspired by Richard Strauss’ masterpiece Der Rosenkavalier — a glamorous New York Manhattan socialite loses her young lover to an ingénue with a mysterious past.

Love the elegant cover!

The queen of historical fiction, Beatriz Williams skillfully blends the old and new, sorrow and joy, wealth and depression, the delicate and fierce, with an ongoing theme of age—from the dazzling youth to the middle age.

In a time of contrasts, extremes and profound changes. The exciting 1920s, in the wake of the First World War-- science, art, modern age, wealth, women’s movements, and the glamorous Jazz Age in New York.

Inspired by Richard Strauss’ opera Der Rosenkavalier (Marschallin), from love, honor, betrayal, high society, and lowbrow secrets combine in a delightful timeless tale.

Sprinkled with snippets of clever witty advice from Helen Rowland at the beginning of each chapter, (think Carrie Bradshaw), from “Reflections of a Bachelor Girl”—making for a perfect match for the context of intricacies of love and marriage.

A love triangle. Theresa, Octavian, Sophie. Two love stories: Octavian and Theresa. Sophie and Octavian.

An aviator (flyboy) “the boy” has returned from the war in France. An affair. An older woman and a younger man more than twenty years apart in age, find comfort in one another. In between a shocking family mystery.

Mrs. Theresa Marshall, age 44, married (the most inquisitive) of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island—wealthy, elegant, chic, and fashionable. She and her husband, Sylvo have an agreement. After all, the well-respected philanderer husband has younger mistresses. So a younger man seems a suitable compromise.

She meets her new younger lover at a late-night Fourth of July society party on Long Island. Instant fireworks. Octavian, age 22, her lover. He wants to marry and have babies. Of course, Theresa is not interested in such things, since her children are much older and she has a husband.

Complications compound things. Her brother, Edmund Jay “Ox” Ochsner wants to marry 19 year old Sophie Fortescue, youngest daughter of the so-called Patent King, an entrepreneur and inventor who made his fortune as his nickname suggests.

To add even more spice, we hear from “Patty Cake,” a jaded society reporter from a New York paper, covering a “Trial of the Century” in Connecticut.

Theresa enlists Octavian, to act as cavalier for Ox, delivering a rose-shaped engagement ring to Sophie at her father’s home on 32nd Street-- and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family (wealthy father).

They soon become smitten with one another, while he discovers family secrets. Loyalties are tested and relationships are threatened. Even after Sophie has accepted Theresa’s brother’s proposal, she finds herself falling for Octavian.

Although he’s supposed to be working to reassure Theresa, he can’t ignore his attraction to Sophie. He feels a connection to her—they share a connection from the past that takes their relationship to a whole other level.

Theresa loses her lover and her hubby wants to marry his mistress.

Testimony at trial recalls a Greenwich, Connecticut, house once occupied by a mechanic, who disappeared with his two daughters after his wife was found murdered. Chapters alternate in time, for a delicious and entertaining saga.

As always, Williams brings the Roaring Twenties to life—from the setting, mixed with intrigue, romance, and scandal. Love this era—the fashion, the atmosphere, and the glamour. No one can spin a tale from the past, better than Williams.

After finishing the audiobook narrated by Mia Barron, Barbara Goodson, and Adrienne Rusk,- delivering a gripping performance, I watched the Amazon Prime Pilot “The Last Tycoon”, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the same name. More Golden Age, love triangles, older woman-younger man-- glitz, and glamour and Hollywood scandal (loved it), especially sexy Matt Bomer and stunning Lily Collins.

A blending of fact and fiction --From old and new money, past and present, and the scandalous secrets. The New York Herald-Tribune celebrates the launch of Beatriz’s upcoming novel with an issue devoted to A Certain Age.

What’s Next Looking forward to more Roaring Twenties: Coming January 2017
The Wicked City “A spin-off series about a steadfast Prohibition agent and the dashing New York City flapper who — reluctantly — helps him break a bootlegging ring, all of which is framed by a contemporary narrative about the woman who moves into the flapper’s old apartment, decades later. The Wicked books will come out in winter, alternating with my stand-alone books in summer, and those fictional worlds will definitely intersect, though you won’t have to read one to read the other.”

Can't wait!


On a personal note: Every time I visit HMF’s The Breakers Palm Beach, I cannot help but feel I am re-living this exciting era. Named for The Breakers’ founding father, Henry Morrison Flagler this thrillingly glamorous retreat is an ode to golden era Palm Beach, with all of its high style, grace, and unapologetic decadence. When stepping into room, the ambiance, the mood, takes you back: Listen to the Music It awakens your spirit, and resonates the glamour and sophistication of the exciting and dazzling 1920's. (all of these selections are on my personal playlist).
Profile Image for Purple Country Girl (Sandy).
150 reviews23 followers
May 24, 2018
I won a copy of A Certain Age in a Goodreads Giveaway.

A Certain Age is my first novel by Beatriz Williams. I’m a big fan of historical novels and I thought I would have no problem diving in and getting lost in the roaring 20s. Unfortunately, I found it very hard to stay interested in the story and I did not connect with the characters. I kept putting the book aside and finally, after many weeks, decided to buckle down and finish it even if it meant skimming...which, sadly, it did.

Theresa Marshall, a woman of a certain age (she’s in her 40s), is having an affair with Octavian, a man half her age. (Not to worry, her husband is also having an affair!) When her brother, Jay, a.k.a Ox, comes to her and proclaims he is in love with a much younger woman, Sophie, he begs Theresa to act as his proxy in popping the question to his intended. Theresa resists this antiquated ritual until her brother wears her down. She enlists young Octavian to perform not only this task but to also look into the bride-to-be’s family for any skeletons. When he arrives to perform his duty as proxy or "Cavalier," Octavian and Sophie seem to hit it off from the beginning.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this is headed...

There’s a lot of talk on the book jacket about fateful romantic triangles and long-hidden secrets being revealed but, even though it is all well-written, it just never grabbed me. Where I should be shocked, I was just mildly interested. Where I should be caught up in the relationships, I was mostly tuned out. I think it boils down to the characters - and some of the confusing jumps in time. Williams is a fine writer but I did not care for any of her characters so it made reading the 300+ pages rather difficult. As others have mentioned, the book does pick up closer to the end when the mystery is revealed but it feels like too little, too late for me.

I did enjoy the excerpts from Patty Cake’s gossip column (probably my favorite part of the book) but I did not care for the nickname game. Theresa refers to Octavian as “Boy” or “Boyo” throughout the book. It is probably meant to show some sort of detachment - that he’s just a “boy toy” to her but, whatever the reason, it is extremely annoying. Almost as annoying is Ox (yet another nickname) referring to Theresa as “Sisser.” It is rather juvenile and it drove me nuts.

Readers seem to love Williams and many reviewers say this is their least favorite book by her so I’m willing to give her another chance since I love historical fiction. A Certain Age just moved too slow for me and it lacked likeable characters which made it hard for me relate to them or even root for them.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,013 reviews1,924 followers
October 31, 2016
I didn't love this but I’m wondering if my dissatisfaction with this book has more to do with me than with the book itself. For one thing, it’s a retelling of an opera that I’ve never even heard of until literally right now as I pulled up the book’s page on Goodreads to write this review. Perhaps some of the construction issues were homages that flew right over my head? I dunno.

For another thing, I read this book on a flight to New Orleans for a conference, then in patches while I was working at said conference, and then on the very hungover flight back to DC. Perhaps I wasn’t giving it the kind of focus that it really needed?

Either way, I was ultimately kind of underwhelmed by this one, in which Williams visits 1920s New York (and brings back in an older member of the Schuyler family) to explore a love triangle set against a murder mystery. You’ve got Theresa, the “older woman” who is having an affair with the much-younger Octavian. Her brother, Ox, becomes engaged to the much-younger Sophie, a naïve girl with a complicated family history and dreams of becoming an engineer. Theresa asks Octavian to dig into Sophie’s background to ensure that Ox is making a smart decision – and the two younger folks begin to develop feelings for one another.

Of course, Octavian does find something interesting in Sophie’s background, which becomes the mystery at the center of the story. Williams alternates between Theresa’s first-person POV and a third-person POV of Sophie’s side, with occasional asides from a gossip columnist who teases out a trial that the characters ultimately find themselves engaged in.

The bouncing between narrative points of view leads to some bouncing back and forth in the timeline as well, as Williams will back up and provide new information to a scene that we just read from the other side or illuminate the pieces of the story that one particular set of characters isn’t privy to. I’m wondering if it’s because my time reading the book was so disjointed, but I found that I often had trouble following along. Something would be happening with Sophie, then we’d bounce over to Theresa and it wouldn’t necessarily be where we’d last left her and I’d struggle reorient myself in her narration. Throw in the gossip columnist’s information and it was difficult to keep track of who knew what and who was doing what. It started to come together as the central mystery was solved, but not enough that I felt genuinely satisfied by the conclusion.

All that being said, the characters were interesting and well-drawn. I loved Sophie, I loved Theresa, and I loved how they represented the complicated changes that were taking place in the 1920s – even if the historic atmosphere here wasn’t quite as rich as it’s been in other Williams novels. I’m sure anyone who is a fan of Beatriz Williams will enjoy this book – I might try to go back and give it a second chance myself.

A strong 3.5 stars. For now.
Profile Image for Tammy(PeaceLoveBooks).
525 reviews200 followers
March 8, 2018
A Certain Age is a rollicking ride of the glitz and glamour of the roaring '20's! It has scandal, high society, a love triangle and a murder mystery. I loved the nod to Beatriz Williams writing partners(Karen White and Lauren Willig)...one of the characters is employed at the firm of Willig and White. I am so in love with Ms. Williams writing! Well done, Ms. Williams, well done!!
Profile Image for Linda.
1,408 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2016
2.99 Kindle Special on 10/15/16.. great deal for those of you that have it on wish list

Cheaters, liars, lust, drunks, free thinking, murder...and all that jazz. I was drawn to this book because of the era, New York, and the author. I had never read Beatriz Williams until this year and I love her writing. No one writes character driven books better than her. I enjoyed the love triangle, the mystery and the ending. You all know I'm a sucker for a beautiful cover too! I look forward reading more books by Williams.
Profile Image for Kathleen Nightingale.
457 reviews26 followers
August 15, 2016
Not only did I read this book, I re-started reading this book because I felt that I had missed critical points at the beginning. Why? Yes Williams did address the roaring 1920s between youth and age, tradition and modernism and old and new money. From the beginning of this book I saw Mrs. Theresa Marshall being played on the big screen by Cate Blanchette. Williams re-interpreted the comic opera of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and set it against the roaring 1920s in New York City. A very poor way I feel to interpret the opera. Secondly Williams structure of writing became a little problematic especially on how the characters in her story were referred to as Mr and Mrs instead of a first name basic. Then refer to the same Mr or Mrs on a first name basic. This is shown constantly between Theresa brother Ox and her lover Octavian. The reader could become disjointed with the lack of structure in the story line.

Further complicating the story line was Williams invention of a murder mystery. Why oh why bother did Williams try this? The murder mystery just added to the lacklustre story line and it was totally and absolutely unbelievable to me.

The best part of this book was how Williams structured Helen Rowland's "Reflections of a Bachelor Girl" in the New York World newspaper. What a fabulous and accurate reflection of how really men and women have not changed even though a hundred years have passed.

What happened to Sophie's friend Julie? Who knows, she just gets dropped from the story line and frankly, to quote Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn".

From the beginning of this book to the end I have fluctuated between viewing the read as the greatest bore I have ever read to being the most interesting book I have ever read. As you can see from my rating a 1.5 you get a sense where I finally took a stand.
Profile Image for Kelly.
861 reviews111 followers
July 25, 2019
- 2 stars -
I was sorely disappointed by A Certain Age after really loving A Hundred Summers by the same author. That book was fast-paced and fascinating, while A Certain Age is hampered by a dragging-its-heels first half, an unclear plot twist , and then a very muddled yet admittedly faster-paced second half in which the plot twists arrive frequently, yet contribute nothing but confusion, until whatever you thought this plot was becomes so unraveled that arriving at the end of the story is a wholly dissatisfying experience. It's a complete mess. The only thought left in my head was, "What did I just read?"

It is well-written - no getting around the fact that Beatriz Williams is immensely talented. She does, however, have a tendency to overwrite. Here is an example: “I don't understand,” he says, in a voice like the spray of fine gravel at the apex of a crescent-shaped driveway. That grated on my nerves.

Chuck in a cast of unlikable characters, annoying "Twenties-isms" and dialogue, a title which has zero connection to the story itself, and an extremely unconvincing insta-love story , and what you're left with is a gorgeous cover and a handful of potential that was frittered away on a senseless and confusing plot.
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,937 reviews774 followers
December 21, 2017
Certain Age is fabulous historical fiction with the setting placed in the glamours 1920s. The story is inspired by Der Rosenkavalier and I was totally charmed with this interpretation. For me, was this book extra interesting to read since I have read the other two books that come after A Certain Age, and now I get the full background story to Sophie Fortescue and here sister Virginias life before we once again met Virginia in Cocoa Beach. One thing I really enjoyed about this book is the way Theresa Marshall is written. It was pretty obvious that her young lover, Octavian, become madly in love with Sophie after meeting her, but Theresa who obviously tried to keep her lover never become a villain in this story. To be honest, I liked her. She was the character whose POV I loved the most in the book. I had nothing against Sophie, her POV was also good, but I never truly enjoyed here storyline as much as I enjoyed Theresa's.

The ending is bittersweet and perfect. I truly enjoyed reading this book and it made me eager to someday re-read Cocoa Beach now when I have read this book.
Profile Image for Carol Storm.
Author 28 books181 followers
May 18, 2022
I loved A Hundred Summers. So disappointed this time around! The setting is similar, and some of the same characters reappear (it was fun to see sexy old Aunt Julie as a young flapper) but this time around the magic just wasn't there.

I love it when an older woman seduces a younger man. I mean, who doesn't? But Theresa's voice was not working from page one. She kept calling her young lover "The Boy." It was not cute. It was objectifying and frankly creepy. It didn't sell me on the idea that she loved him, or that she even knew who he was. Other than having lovely skin and a vigorous young body. In Tom Jones, Lady Bellaston seduces Tom and has nothing but selfish motives. But she doesn't pretend otherwise! Theresa keeps talking on and on about how she adores "The Boy," it's just so fake.

And the time period was fake. I love the Twenties, but this is the worst Twenties book I've read since Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen. Because BW only sees the shallowest side of everything. Girls smoking cigarettes! Girls getting drunk! Oh, there's some talk about women having the vote, but that's just the point. It's just talk. And some silly little girl wants to be a mechanic. But the idea that women are actually working, and working hard, never feels real.

And don't even get me started on race, class, and ethnicity. It's not just that BW won't talk about Harlem, (you know, where all the Jazz comes from.) She won't even talk about the Irish maid like she's anything but part of the furniture! You'd never guess that New York City was filled with immigrants, poor blacks just up from the South, Jews from Eastern Europe. There's no Harlem in this book, no Little Italy, no Lower East Side. But on the other hand, BW has plenty of time to sell you on the idea that cigarettes and alcohol are the key to being sexy and staying young forever.

I wish she could have met my old man!

Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,023 reviews1,741 followers
February 6, 2017
Favorite Quotes:

His ears are large and extend like a pair of wings from his old-fashioned whiskers, so that Sophie sometimes imagines he can actually hear her thoughts.

I don’t go in for soul-searching, for this modern passion of psychoanalysis. Examining every last detail of your childhood, every last itch in your subconscious. Generally speaking, the less I know about the contents of a person’s soul, the better I like him.

My Review:

A Certain Age was enthralling, captivating, and smartly written. I became so involved in the story I heard Jazz music as well as the tinkling of ice cubes, the ringing of an old-fashioned phone, the striking of a match, and even sensed the faint smell their cigarette smoke. The story seamlessly flowed from omnipresent narrative to a sharper dual POV with intriguing and unique characters, who were not always likable but unfailingly fascinating. The writing was multi-layered, brilliantly crafted, meaty, densely packed, and lavishly detailed. I adore this talented author’s smart and snappy style, clever humor, and insightful observations and will be forever in her debt for introducing me to the ingenious stylings of Helen Rowland, whose amusing wit was used to start each new chapter.
Profile Image for Dawn.
550 reviews24 followers
November 8, 2021
How to describe this book...? It's like The Great Gatsby with just enough less utterly vapid, thoroughly depressed people wandering through the cheap veneer of gilt layered over plastic, glitzy in a trying-a-bit-too-hard show of ostentation. This has all the glamour, all the slight disillusionment of the old money families who have all the pedigree but the wealth has dwindled, all the desperation of the new money folks who want the respect that they thought would arrive as the numbers in their bank accounts grew, and one or two individuals whose values and wholesomeness threaten to be snuffed out by the other two aforementioned groups.

What I liked about A Certain Age:
The setting is fabulous
- New York City, the Roaring Twenties. It's lush and opulent and daring and decadent, and the words the author strings together are perfectly representative of that. In any other case, they --the words, that is -- might actually be too much. But to take on building a story against this particular backdrop, they are necessary and effective.
Octavian Rofrano - I thought he might be the only character in this book with a moral compass, a heart, and a functioning brain. It turns out Sophie has as well, and while I felt for her character, I adored Octavian.
The murder mystery that was unexpectedly woven in - This isn't a spoiler by any means. It's revealed in the opening pages of the book. But I wasn't expecting it going in and what an element it turned out to be.
Chapter seven - This chapter alone is responsible for me awarding A Certain Age four stars instead of three. I gaped so hard that I'm surprised my eyeballs didn't fall out of my head and roll away. There were other twists and pivots throughout, but chapter seven was the boom I never saw coming. Moral of the story: never underestimate the power of a well-timed and completely unexpected twist.

What I didn't care for:
A bit coarse
- The cussing felt out of place for me. Like I stumbled upon it, completely unawares. I've mentioned in other book reviews that I can tolerate it, if it feels as if it comes naturally, but in this case, I think it could have been avoided without diminishing the effect of the story. I guess I am just not used to encountering crass language in this particular subset of the historical fiction genre. I'll be fair and say that being vulgar is certainly on par with Theresa's character (the only place the cussing took place, by the way, was in her narratives), but I still didn't feel it was necessary.
Theresa's asides - You know that thing they do now in some television shows where the characters address the audience directly in an aside? Well, Theresa had numerous parentheticals doing this in her first person narrative, and it was weird and distracting. I think it was an attempt to make it conversational but...it didn't work, at least not for me.
The overall tone of the writing - This isn't my first encounter with Ms Williams' writing, but the other two books were collaborative efforts with other authors, while this is my first of her solo novels, and somehow her writing style rubbed me the wrong way in this one, while I did very much enjoy the others. I'll need to read more of her writing to decide if I prefer her writing when it's tempered by additional contributors.

What left me conflicted:
Sometimes, it tried too hard
- What I mean by this is that it felt like the author was overly fond of reaching for a thesaurus. While I am an epic word nerd (for real, I took an advanced vocabulary class in high school just for fun) and I enjoy when an author drops in a word I've never encountered before, I felt like I had to search a definition at least once per chapter, which is a trifle excessive in my opinion.
The way the dual narratives were handled - Theresa's chapters were all in first person, Sophie's in third person. On one hand, it was a brain adjustment every time I started a new chapter. On the other, it was always very clear whose story and perspective we were currently in, which is occasionally an issue in books with multiple narrators.
The rampant infidelity - I spent the better part of this novel asking myself: How do I feel about the infidelity? Because casual disregard for the sacred ground of marriage vows is not something that sits well with me. In the end, I reached the following conclusion: I suppose it was handled as tastefully as it could be to tell the story? I guess? It was definitely not glorified and it had the dark feel to it that expressed a respect for marriage. It was still a prevalent theme, but ultimately I was satisfied with the outcome.

For as long as I've been able to read and imagine, I have thought it would be fantastic to be able to time travel back to bygone eras and feel what it was like to live in them, just for a short bit. One of my few exceptions is the 1960s (the whole free love flowerchildren thing just does not appeal to me in the slightest). I'm starting to think that the Roaring Twenties might also be on my "pass on that" list as well. So much sense of feeling hopeless and pointless but covering it up with fake laughter and parties no one can actually afford but the show must go on. I used to think that my problem with that decade was that my exposure to it came through The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises, and their band of depressing lost causes, but now I'm starting to believe those books may have been the sad representation of how life was in those times -- fake and gaudy, brash to cover the hopelessness, loud as a buffer from the crushing loneliness, drowning in booze and sorrow. That is how I felt reading this book; it was the undercurrent to a rather captivating story.
Profile Image for Barb.
1,167 reviews126 followers
July 8, 2016
I think this latest novel from Beatriz Williams is her best work yet. She's brings her characters to fully formed life in the very first few chapters, pulling the reader down into their stories. I love her strong female protagonists.

Theresa and Sophie, whose lives intersect and form a triangle at the point of one Octavian Rofrano, are two very different women. Sophie, young and innocent, has lived a life almost completely sheltered from the world. Theresa mature, poised and refined, is always controlled and in command but unhappy in her marriage. Her husband spends a fair amount of time with his mistress. While Theresa finds her own satisfying diversion in her relationship with Octavian.

The glamor and slang of the period sparkle and swirl around these sensuous characters. There are secrets beyond the obvious, secrets that create explosive, headline making gossip and speculation. Secrets that create the need for a murder trial.

A hidden history with a murder mystery, secrets and manipulations in the present setting and the culture of prohibition and women's newly won right to vote all make a rich and interesting backdrop for this compelling and emotional love triangle.

A satisfying read, that's going on my favorites shelf. I'm already looking forward to whatever comes next from this author's hand.

Profile Image for Debbie.
1,751 reviews95 followers
April 11, 2016
Here we have a manipulative, wealthy, sad and lonely old woman with her penniless, drunk, and lothario brother and her used, young, and curious lover on one side of the table. Then, we have a sweet, beautiful, naive debutante who is learning very quickly that things aren't as they seem. Throw in a seemingly rushed engagement and a decades old murder case and that sums up this book. Simple, huh?

Of course not. Ha!!! I absolutely loved this book! I was screaming at these characters as some motives were not in their best interests, i.e., the rushed engagement. Several I just wanted to slap over and over and over again. Ugh! And one, just when I thought he was out of the picture, he shows back up. As you can see, I felt a lot of emotions for these characters which , for me, only proves that the author did their job. Ms. Williams wrote an excellent book that touched me and entertained me. Can I give more than 5 stars?

Special thanks to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for allowing me to read and review this e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
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