All My Secrets

Written by Lynn Austin
Review by Anne Leighton

New York City, 1898. The Gilded Age has all the glamor and sophistication of theater. Mrs. Astor decrees that the four hundred people who can fit into her ballroom are the only acceptable members of society. Careers and lives can be made – or destroyed – by obscure rules of a world that is both exclusive and cruel.

The Stanhope family are rich and live in a vast mansion. The sudden death of Arthur Benton Stanhope III leaves his widow, Sylvia, his mother, Junietta, and sole unmarried daughter, Adelaide, penniless. Stanhope has left them modest trusts in addition to the family mansion and their yacht. They can no longer afford their previous lifestyle. Sylvia is advised to move and sell the mansion and the yacht. The women are reassured that with a modest home and budgeting, they can still have a nice life.

But Sylvia cannot conceive of the humiliation of poverty. She determines that Adelaide must be launched into society and find a rich husband before all their cash is gone. Junietta understands that things must change and decides it all may be for the best. She hopes events will free her granddaughter from the arid destiny of a society wife. But both mother and grandmother have painful secrets in their pasts. Both women must accept that sometimes secrets are meant to be revealed and that change can be painful but also liberating.

The book is sure to appeal to fans of Edith Wharton and Downton Abbey but also to those just looking for a delightful read. Austin focuses on the plight of Adelaide but also makes Sylvia a more sympathetic character as she realizes that life is possible without a ballroom. The book has all the makings of a multi-volume series of the lives of three women who are much more than just pretty faces.