A hidden shoebox behind a shelf of pristine Beatrix Potter books from long ago were all Cate needed to start unlocking the secrets of the Endsleigh House. “The Debutante,” by Kathleen Tessaro, satisfies a thirst for drama from the past – including hidden treasure, secrets behind a locked door, and letters sealed away for decades.

The book begins when the heroine, Cate, arrives in Britain ready to escape the dark she past left behind in New York.  Cate’s aunt Rachel Devereux has hired her to work for the summer in a London antiques shop, against all protests by antiques expert Jack – the one who (as he tells it) will end up babysitting her all summer.

Cate accompanies Jack to appraise the belongings of the Endsleigh House after its owner, Irene Blythe passed away. Irene and her sister Diane were famous in their heyday for their rapid rise in English society after their mother married a wealthy businessman. Diane “Baby” Blythe was well-known for her scandalous antics – think Paris Hilton circa 1926.

But Baby Blythe disappeared mysteriously during the war, never to be heard from again.

While appraising the items in the Endsleigh House, Cate picks the lock of a room closed permanently long ago. On the bottom bookshelf, behind a row of Beatrix Potter books Cate finds an old shoebox, filled with a pair of delicate silver dancing shoes, a tiny Tiffany bracelet, a key, and a photo of a young sailor.

While Cate spends the summer unraveling the mysterious history of the items in the shoebox and dips her toes into the past of the Endsleigh house, the reader is swept away in a parallel storyline told through letters from Baby Blythe. Cate and Baby’s storylines start to interweave, as both leading ladies of the story come to terms with dangerous pasts, breathtaking love, and unspeakable heartbreak.

“The Debutante” is thick with secrets, intrigue and drama. I couldn’t put it down. It’s absolutely a must-read.

A deeply engaging, romantic and tragic book like this has to be paired with an equally haunting, thick and satisfying wine. I’d pair “The Debutante” with Bolla 2009 Chianti. With bold flavors and a rich history, each sip of Bolla Chianti matches Cate and Baby step for step.

♥ Syrah