Book Review: The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell
Connor Ford is trouble. Handsome and privileged, he can wrap women around his little finger. Even as a teenager, he’s hard to look away from. So when he sets his sights on beautiful blonde Tabitha, a waitress working at his grandmother Nell’s country club, she has little interest in saying no, even though her own Grandma Jean has warned her about Nell Ford’s strict views on social hierarchy.
For one golden summer, Tabitha and Connor are just a teenage couple in love, until Nell finds out and all hell breaks loose. Tabitha is willing to fight for their love, but next thing she knows, she’s been fired from the country club and Connor has been sent away from their small New England town. As the years pass, she never really recovers, staying almost as youthfully innocent as she was when she and Connor were involved, even through a disastrous marriage that nearly ruins her entire life. Now a waitress still in Baldwin Lake, the last thing she expects is for Connor to walk into her bar and upend her world once more.
Having spent the intervening years keeping tabs on Connor through the Internet, Tabitha knows he’s married, seemingly happily, to Nina Levitt, one of the richest women in New York. But when he sets his sights on her again, she’s as helpless to resist him as she was over a decade earlier. He vows to leave Nina for her, but as the months pass without word from Connor, Tabitha begins to feel increasingly desperate.
Meanwhile, Nina is having doubts of her own about her young new husband, confiding these in her diary as she contrasts her latest marriage with her first:
On the day we met, I was twenty-three, working in an art gallery, barely scraping by. Edward was fifty and one of the wealthiest men in New York. People said I was a gold-digger. But they were wrong. Edward might not have been the perfect husband, but I loved him. When he got sick, I nursed him. When he died, I grieved him. A year later, I met someone else and fell in love. And I married again.
That was Connor, my second husband. On the night we met, he was thirty. I was fifty and one of the wealthiest women in New York. Connor didn’t have a penny. People took that to mean he could only be after my money. I didn’t see it that way. People were wrong about me. I assumed they were wrong about him, too.
But they were right.
When Nina ends up dead soon after her annual Fourth of July gala, the coroner rules it a suicide. Perhaps more swiftly than is seemly, Connor proposes to Tabitha, drawing her into a luxurious world that she’s ill-prepared for. Things get worse when Nina’s estranged sister sues for her estate, claiming that Connor must forfeit his inheritance due to having been actively involved in Nina’s death. To escape the accusations with their attendant press pursuit, Connor whisks Tabitha off to Dubai, where he’s trying to close a lucrative deal with Saudi backers. Tabitha’s barely even been out of New Hampshire, so she’s not ready for the dazzling luxury, or the dizzying loneliness, of life amidst the financial elite:
We got off the elevator and my jaw dropped. The upper floors were designed around a soaring atrium like nothing I’d ever seen—honeycombed white balconies rising to an elaborate blue-and-gold ceiling. I had to stop and take pictures. The suite was two stories with a curving staircase and floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on the sea. The view went on forever, with sailboats and yachts and tanker ships passing in the distances. There were fresh flowers everywhere, and an elaborate fruit basket set on the gilded bar. The butler gave me his card and said he could arrange shopping or spa appointments if I liked, and that in the meantime he’d send the maid to unpack my things. I almost told him not to, that she’d be disappointed.
The butler left, and I was alone […] I sat down on the velvet sofa to regroup, and suddenly found myself sobbing. This life was magnificent. But it felt dangerous. And it wasn’t mine.
As Tabitha struggles to find her footing in a life she never expected, she finds her anxieties over the death of Connor’s first wife only increasing. Despite Nina’s sister’s claims, Connor couldn’t possibly have caused Nina’s death, could he? And when should Tabitha tell him that she had actually been at their mansion the night that Nina died there? Tabitha has to believe that her bond with Connor is so strong that they’ll be able to forgive each other anything. . . but are there secrets so unspeakable that her faith in their love could be irreparably shattered?
The Wife Who Knew Too Much is a fast-paced thriller that jet sets from the decay of old money New Hampshire to the paparazzi-filled streets of New York City to the extravagant wealth on display in Dubai. It’s a tale of secrets and lies told from the perspectives of two very different women, worldly, intelligent Nina and beautiful, wide-eyed Tabitha, forever bonded through their love for the unreliable Connor Ford. It’s not my favorite of Michele Campbell’s novels—that honor goes to the heartbreaking boarding school thriller She Was The Quiet One—but it’s a perfect beach read glimpse into the world of the very rich and the lengths some will go to in order to arrive and stay there.