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Monday, August 29, 2011

American Heiress

The American Heiress
Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin’s Press, 2011

Cora Cash is beautiful, intelligent, and most of all, rich. After her debut at a party designed to top any other social occasion in the history of the New World, Cora and her mother have come to England in order to find a titled husband. Cora, who is also a tad spoiled and self-centered, understands her role in her mother’s ambitions, but is reluctant to play her part with any enthusiasm. Fate, however, has a hand in her future when she falls from her horse and is rescued by the Duke of Wareham – a handsome and withdrawn man with a secret. Before she quite knows what is happening, Ivo proposes and Cora finds herself the Duchess of Wareham and suddenly involved in a very complex English social scene that confuses her and eventually causes a rift in her marriage.

Juxtaposed with Cora’s story is the one of her maid, Bertha, an Africa-American woman who is surprised to find that her color makes no difference in England, but her social class does. She is also surprised when she doesn’t fit in with the downstairs staff in her new home because she refuses to gossip about her mistress because of her conflicted loyaties. When she learns about the Duke’s past and finally understands the betrayal that surrounds the Duke, Bertha is the one to act with true conviction and integrity.

This story of decadence, love and ambition set in the late 1800s totally captivated me. I knew it was something special in the first chapter and it did not disappoint. Cora begins the book as an immature child who stamps her foot to get her own way, but she grows up quickly when she falls in love with Ivo. Ivo seems to love her too – sometimes – and other times he is inpatient and disappointed in her ignorance. Despite the fact that he seemingly married her for her money, he does not like her to throw it about as she was accustomed to do in America. This dichotomy between old and new, lower classes and aristocracy, poor and rich totally confuses Cora and sometimes causes her to make mistakes that may forever hurt her reputation in a time and place where reputation is the upmost importance.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s moody, romantic, enthralling, and entertaining. It's a must read for anyone who loves historical fiction.

This is the author’s first novel.


Other titles you may enjoy:

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (2008)
Living out her final days in a nursing home, ninety-eight-year-old Grace remembers the secrets surrounding the 1924 suicide of a young poet during a glittering society party hosted by Grace's English aristocrat employers, a family that is shattered by war.

Author, Author by David Lodge (2004)
Set against the backdrop of literary and theatrical life in late Victorian England, this tale of literary ambition, rivalry, and creativity follows the public career and private life of Henry James.

Next of Kin by John Boyne (2008)
In 1936 London, Owen Montignac, the scion of a wealthy family, awaits the reading of his late uncle's will in the hopes that his legacy will alleviate his gambling debt, but when he discovers that he has been disinherited, he comes up with a scheme to escape his troubles.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not usually into historical fiction, but this one sounds intriguing.