In an age of bolters - women who broke the rules and fled their marriages - Idina Sackville was the most celebrated of them all. Her relentless affairs, wild sex parties, and brazen flaunting of convention shocked high society and inspired countless writers and artists, from Nancy Mitford to Greta Garbo. But Idina’s compelling charm masked the pain of betrayal and heartbreak.
"A woman like no other …"
When 18-year-old Grace Campbell arrives in London, in 1914, she's unable to fulfill her family's ambitions and find a position as an office secretary. Lying to her parents and her brother, Michael, she takes a job as a housemaid at Number 35, Park Lane, where she is quickly caught up in the lives of its inhabitants - in particular, those of its privileged son, Edward, and daughter, Beatrice - who is recovering from a failed relationship that would have taken her away from an increasingly stifling life. Desperate to find a new purpose, Bea joins a group of radical suffragettes and strikes up an intriguing romance with an impassioned young lawyer.
On Friday 25th May, 1934, a forty-one-year-old woman walked into the lobby of Claridge's Hotel to meet the nineteen-year-old son whose face she did not know. Fifteen years earlier, as the First World War ended, Idina Sackville shocked high society by leaving his multimillionaire father to run off to Africa with a near penniless man.
Bea treads carefully on the thick carpet, quite deliberately like a servant. Her elder sister, Clemmie, tells her that it is "not done" to worry about being heard but Bea enjoys this oh-so-silent rebellion against convention. She teases back, "This is the twentieth century, Clem, things are about to change." London, 1914.