- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
- Publish Date: February 26, 2019
Before there was Meghan Markle, there was Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American Duchess. Perfect for readers of Jennifer Robson and lovers of Downton Abbey.
Karen Harper tells the tale of Consuelo Vanderbilt, her “The Wedding of the Century” to the Duke of Marlborough, and her quest to find the meaning behind “the glitter and the gold.”
On a cold November day in 1895, a carriage approaches St Thomas Episcopal Church on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Massive crowds surge forward, awaiting their glimpse of heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Just 18, the beautiful bride has not only arrived late, but in tears, yet her marriage to the aloof Duke of Marlborough proceeds. Bullied into the wedding by her indomitable mother, Alva, Consuelo loves another. But a deal was made, trading some of the vast Vanderbilt wealth for a title and prestige, and Consuelo, bred to obey, realizes she must make the best of things.
At Blenheim Palace, Consuelo is confronted with an overwhelming list of duties, including producing an “heir and a spare,” but her relationship with the duke quickly disintegrates. Consuelo finds inner strength, charming everyone from debutantes to diplomats including Winston Churchill, as she fights for women’s suffrage. And when she takes a scandalous leap, can she hope to attain love at last…?
From the dawning of the opulent Gilded Age to the battles of the Second World War, American Duchess is a riveting tale of one woman’s quest to attain independence—at any price.
If you remember, a few months ago, I did a review of a book titled ‘A Well Behaved Woman’ by Therese Anne Fowler, which was about Alva Vanderbilt. This book sort of continues the story by focusing on Consuelo, Alva’s daughter. Alva features heavily, of course, she and Consuelo were very close, even though some might say Alva was a bit of an over-domineering b*tch at times. Granted, she wanted the best for her daughter, but you definitely find yourself saying, “Girl, you have GOT to chill!” Yet, later in life, Consuelo forgave her mother for being so strong-willed over her. Honestly, I felt a connection with that because my mother can be slightly domineering at times too. But we’re brought through Consuelo’s life, learning her thoughts and feelings about things, and it’s easy to place yourself there in her place. I don’t think I could have lived in her time; too many rules and regulations.
I enjoyed reading about her navigating her life and finding her place, I think it’s a journey that we all face and I related to it. Forced into a marriage that she didn’t want, Consuelo did try her best until finally, it could be borne no longer. I think her evolution as the book went on was quite excellently portrayed. As I always mention in histfic, I appreciate the research. I appreciate and adore detail. Both of these things are things Ms. Harper has always done well and which is why I always come back to read her books. I would have enjoyed the characters being given a little bit more life; but perhaps she was attempting to make you see how everyone seemed to behave during the Gilded Age. Like you could speak to one another…but not quite reach them all the way.
It’s a timely novel, considering Meghan Markle is now Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. (Well, it’s near a year already!) I enjoyed this book as I usually do with Ms. Harper’s titles. She’s a talented author who makes near everything she writes come alive in a certain way. Whilst I grant that she may not be for everyone–her books can occasionally be a little slow paced–I do think she is someone you should give a try to. This book is certainly one of those books. Others of her books, like the Elizabeth I Spymaster series, are always a brilliant place to start. They will forever be among my favorites.
- I’d give it ★★★ stars.
- I received this in exchange for an honest review. (Thank you!)
- I would recommend this to a friend.
Karen Harper is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of romantic suspense and historical novels. A native Ohioan, Karen is a former high school English teacher and English-and-writing instructor at the Ohio State University. (Go Bucks!) The Harpers are avid Ohio State football fans, but they have a serious side too. They were on the 10-year committee which revamped the main library on campus. The Ohio State Library houses her author collection in Rare Books and Manuscripts.
The Harpers love to travel, and Karen often uses her favorite places as settings for her novels. She’s recently written books set in Edwardian England and South Florida, the latter where she lived for 30 winters. Her latest trilogy is THE SOUTH SHORES NOVELS, with forensic psychologist Claire Britten and criminal lawyer Nick Markwood. Her most recent historical is the above-mentioned title, American Duchess. These bring her published books to over 70 in a 35-year writing career.
Karen belongs to several writer’s organizations, including International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and The Historical Novel Society. She appreciates hearing from readers on her website at http://www.KarenHarperAuthor.com and http://www.facebook.com/KarenHarperAuthor–and she answers!