Dancing with the Devil

Christopher Wilson, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-27204-3
Those interested in the empty but privileged lives of American Wallis Simpson (1896-1986) and her husband, the duke of Windsor (1894-1972), who renounced the British throne for her in 1936, will be absorbed by this gossipy story of a strange love triangle. After the abdication, the royal family refused to accept the duchess, so the Windsors embarked on a life of travel and conspicuous consumption. In 1950, they befriended Jimmy Donahue (1915-1966), a playboy and an heir to the Woolworth fortune. Although Donahue was 19 years younger than the duchess and an active homosexual, the two began an amorous relationship that lasted four years. According to the author, despite the Windsors' epic romance, the duchess was apparently unfulfilled sexually (though she did, according to an unnamed source, indulge her husband's foot fetish and interest in masochism). Donahue's mother, Jessie, controlled his purse strings, because her son had repeatedly demonstrated his recklessness, but she approved of his relationship with the duchess. Jessie and her son paid for the Windsors' extravagances in exchange for using the royal connection for social advancement. Wilson, a London journalist and observer of royal romance (A Greater Love: Prince Charles's Twenty Year Affair with Camilla Parker Bowles), writes in a brisk, entertaining style, but there is little here to justify his description of Donahue--a self-indulgent substance abuser--as charming. Indeed, Donahue took pleasure in scandalizing those in his social circle; for instance, he would strip or display his genitals to waiters and party guests, and he enjoyed cuckolding Edward Windsor. The duke, who not only endured his wife's affair in silence but accepted gifts from her lover, did, however, eventually call a halt to the relationship. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-312-28896-9
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4668-7396-4
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