Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: The American Heiress

By Cindy Roesel
Season one of “Downton Abbey” captured four Emmy Awards, including best mini-series Sunday night at the “63rd Primetime Emmy Awards” proving American TV audiences are addicted to juicy British period soap opera television. While we wait on the edge of our seats for January 8th, 2012 when season two debuts on our "tellys," we have something to curl up with in the meantime.

Daisy Goodwin’s epic debut novel THE AMERICAN HEIRESS is called “a wonderful, guilty pleasure of a read.” What I like to call THE AMERICAN HEIRESS is 465-pages of, “The Real Housewives of New York” meets “Dallas” mixed with a couple of Gwyneth Paltrow and Colin Firth films. Reading the novel is incredibly visual, full of exquisite period details and sassy dish.

For daughters of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, it was the ultimate deal: marriage to a cash-strapped British Aristocrat in return for a title and social status. But money didn’t always buy happiness. Cora Cash is the beautiful and wealthiest American heiress, the darling of New York High Society. She’s been groomed to be the perfect woman and wife. Cora’s status-seeking mother schemes to marry her daughter off to a titled husband in Europe.

Cora is determined to do anything to get away from her mother, but ends up falling in love with her Duke. “Ivo cleared his throat. ‘Cora, will you do me the honour of accepting my hand in marriage?’ … ‘Yes,’ she whispered into his coat. There were tears in her eyes.”

The irony of THE AMERICAN HEIRESS is the novel set in such an outwardly beautiful world, but it’s rampant with fakery and excess. Cora’s wedding trousseau alone is comprised of ninety dresses, each handmaid in Paris, packed individually in yards of tissue paper. The well-to-do characters, dress in the most expensive silks, laces and fur behave in such an ugly fashion thinking of no one but themselves. Once Cora marries Ivo, the Duke of Wareham, she finds herself living within the dilapidated English Estate, Lulworth refurbishing it with her American dollars in exchange for a duchess title. “It had taken weeks before she (her mother) could persuade Wareham to install proper bathroom for Cora at Lulworth.”

Daisy Goodwin writes incredibly well and her research is exhaustive. The story moves along and the various plot twists make for an intriguing read. At once romantic and then tragic, delving into THE AMERICAN HEIRESS is a 19th Century voyeuristic trip between the New World America and Old World Europe. THE AMERICAN HEIRESS is an emotionally-charged decadent and delicious romantic historical treat. We look forward to Ms. Goodwin’s next novel.

Check out CLC's interview with Daisy Goodwin from last week. (The giveaway has closed, however.)

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1 comment:

Dee DeTarsio said...

Great review, Cindy--I'm putting The American Heiress on my list!!