Beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash is the toast of the town. She is probably the most wealthy and eligible young heiress of the Gilded Age in America, since her father is one of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, making his mark in flour. Their family mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, puts the Vanderbilts’ down the street to shame. Her mother’s every move is in gilded and diamond-studded excess, so that there is no doubt who has the most money in town. Mrs. Cash has determined that the most ideal marriage for her daughter would be to a British nobleman – say, a duke, perhaps. So Cora and her mother are off to England to find a titled husband for Cora. Literally, quite by accident, she meets the dark, handsome and mysterious Lord Ivo Maltravers, the Duke of Wareham. In no time flat, he asks her to marry him. Everybody’s happy – end of story. Right?
Not so fast . . . there are a few things not quite right here. For one thing, our handsome Duke is broke. So did he marry Cora only for her money? Does he really love her? For sure, Cora is madly in love with her husband, which is also problematic. Since there appears that Ivo might be having an affair under Clara’s nose. Clara soon finds out that money can’t buy happiness, especially under the critical eye of the “Double Duchess,” Ivo’s jealous and deceitful mother. The rigid traditions of Victorian-era British aristocracy make mincemeat of Clara’s attempts at making a name for herself in the London social scene, to the point of humiliation. Can this marriage possibly be saved?
I normally do not read romance novels, but the vivid details of this period in history, the costumes, customs, food, and social lives of the upper class of the Gilded Age really drew me into the story. The author deftly used the culture clash of American new money vs. Victorian tradition to move the plot along. There were plenty of twists and turns in the plot, so that you were always second-guessing what you thought was going to happen. The cast of supporting characters was delightful, including Prince Bertie himself. The American Heiress
is Daisy Goodwin’s debut novel, which came as a surprise to me. Her writing is excellent and mature. This was really a fun summer read.