Quick Take: Young American Heiress marries a British Duke in 1890s and must navigate perils of English society
Makes Me Want To: Watch Downton Abbey and urge Daisy Goodwin to write another novel
Recommend For: Fans of historical fiction and Downton Abbey, anyone looking to immerse themselves in an enjoyable read for a long weekend
My Thoughts: This is the beautiful bakery shop pastry of novels: it’s a tasty, easy to read, delicious treat of a book. I read it in about two days over Labor Day Weekend and spent the rest of the weekend devouring Downton Abbey (thank you netfix streaming). I now join the rest of the world in eagerly anticipating the second season, which begins airing in January.
Back to The American Heiress. It doesn’t have the character development or intricacies of Downton Abbey, but it’s a lovely way to tide yourself over until January. Cora Cash is an 18 year-old heiress splitting her time between Newport Rhode Island and New York City. After her debut, she and her mother sail for England so Cora can marry a title—the great ambition of all new money for their rich daughters.
Cora mets a Duke, and actually falls in love with him. Love had not yet conquered marriage, which in this culture was usually a business transaction rather than a matter of the heart, which will cause complications for Cora and her new husband Ivo. Duchess Cora must now handle English society, including her disapproving mother-in-law, the Double Duchess, the history of her new home, as well as her childhood friend Teddy, who was not interested in rescuing her in Newport, but seems to have realized what he has missed.
The upper-class of 1890’s Britain and American new money is a lush world I would explore again. The American Heiress has an interesting ending, which I’ll discuss after the jump. SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t read the book!
Cora gives birth to a son, and she and Ivo seem to be reconciling. At a dinner soon after for the Prince of Wales, it is rather publicly revealed the Ivo has been having an affair with Charlotte, a woman Cora believed to be her friend. Teddy is a witness to all of this and remembers Ivo and Charlotte’s intimacy at a train station as Ivo departed for New York to marry Cora. Cora must now decided whether to remain Duchess and stay with Ivo, or run away and begin a new life with Teddy.
Normally authors create these false choices when it is so obvious what the best option. That’s not the case here. I was glad I wasn’t Cora, and I didn’t know what Cora would do.
After speaking with Ivo, who confesses that he used to have a relationship with Charlotte, that they were in fact lovers when he mete Cora, but that they have not been since he married Cora. With their son, Cora and Ivo will start fresh, without Charlotte and Teddy, who are sent away and left waiting at the train station, respectively.
It’s more complex in the novel, and Goodwin actually does create a dilemma for Cora. I don’t know that I would call it a satisfying ending, but it worked, though I couldn’t help but wonder how the situation might have changed if Cora had a daughter instead of a son—the precious male heir.
As I said, it’s a lush, interesting world I would explore again.