Cleo Davenport has heard the whispers: the murmured conversations that end abruptly the second she walks into a room. Told she was an orphan, she knows the rumor—that her father is none other than the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne. And at her childhood home at Cairo’s Shepheard’s Hotel, where royals, rulers, and the wealthy live, they even called her “The Princess.”
But her life is turned upside down when she turns seventeen. Sent to London under the chaperonage of her very proper aunt, she’s told it’s time to learn manners and make her debut. But Cleo’s life can’t be confined to a ballroom. She longs for independence and a career as a jewelry designer for Cartier, but she cannot move forward until she finds out about her past.
Determined to unlock the truth, Cleo travels from London, back to Cairo, and then Paris, where her investigations take a shocking turn into the world of the Parisian demi-monde and a high-class courtesan whose scandalous affair with the young Prince of Wales threatened to bring down the British monarchy long before anyone had heard of Wallis Simpson.
The Royal Windsor Secret had me hooked from the start, even before the central mystery was revealed. Cleo Davenport, our main character, is instantly likable and I was drawn to her desire to buck convention as well as her inquisitive nature. This book sweeps from Egypt to London to Paris, as Cleo tries to track down the truth of her parentage. Wells paints each setting vividly with a strong level of historical detail that immerses the reader in the story.
There are several threads throughout the book: from Cleo’s relationships with her family and her best friend to her own career goals, to the mystery of her mother and father. Additionally, the story spans from the pre-war/inter-war years to the post-WWII era. This gave us the ability to see how Cleo’s life, and the lives around her, were changed by the war and put her story within the broader context of history. While the multiple storylines could at times get to be a little much in terms of authorial focus, the connection Wells created with Cleo made this an enjoyable read.