When last I saw Pepper Schuyler in Tiny Little Thing, she was pregnant with her boss’ child (modeled clearly after one of the Kennedys) and had found and completely rehabbed a vintage Mercedes Benz that she discovered hidden in her aunt’s barn. At the end of that book, Pepper had taken off in the car to places unknown.
Pepper Schuyler is the youngest of the three Schuyler sisters about whom author Beatriz Williams writes many of her books. I met Tiny and Pepper in Tiny Little Thing, and Vivian in The Secret Life of Violet Grant. The fictitious Schuyler family is old East Coast money which probably wasn’t earned legally and which provides for a grand way of life in the 1960s, when the stories are told.
Early in Along the Infinite Sea, Pepper sells her car for a whopping (especially in 1966 dollars) $300,000 to Annabelle Dummerich, a beautiful and glamourous newly-widowed 50-something woman who has a mysterious past. Annabelle takes pregnant Pepper under her wing and brings her home to her beautiful house by the ocean in Palm Beach.
From then on, the author uses her favorite style – back and forth in time and place – from Pepper’s story in 1966 East Coast United States to 1935 Europe – Germany and France – as the world begins to prepare for war and where Annabelle begins her mysterious journey.
Annabelle’s story involves a love affair with a German Jew who she later learns is a resistance fighter. She falls in love, and he with her, but she learns a secret about her lover which leads to her marrying Johann von Kleist, a Nazi officer. She is pregnant with her Jewish lover’s baby, and he knows this and agrees to raise the child as his own.
The story touches on the persecution of Jews, before and during WWII, the role women played in history, and the power that wealth can bring. Williams’ story-telling is amazing. Her back-and-forth writing style, often ending chapters at a critical moment, thereby preventing the reader from putting the book down.
Williams’ novels definitely have a romance element, but while plentiful, the romance doesn’t drive the plot. The story was realistic and compelling.
I believe we have run out of sisters, so I am eager to see how Williams’ tackles other subjects. Along the Infinite Sea is a book that I can recommend with confidence.