The American Heiress: A Novel

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The American Heiress: A Novel

by Daisy Goodwin

St. Martin's Press | March 27, 2012 | Trade Paperback

3.8333 out of 5 rating. 6 Reviews
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"Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn''t?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress. The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind." --Allison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of I Don't Know How She Does It and I Think I Love You

Be careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts', suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora's story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James.

"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 them happiness." --Daisy Goodwin in The Daily Mail
 
The American Heiress was originally sold and distributed in the UK as My Last Duchess

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 496 pages, 3.23 × 2.13 × 0.52 in

Published: March 27, 2012

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0312658664

ISBN - 13: 9780312658663

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– More About This Product –

The American Heiress: A Novel

by Daisy Goodwin

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 496 pages, 3.23 × 2.13 × 0.52 in

Published: March 27, 2012

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0312658664

ISBN - 13: 9780312658663

About the Book

The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind."--Allison Pearson, "New York Times"- bestselling author of "I Don't Know How She Does It."

Read from the Book

THE AMERICAN HEIRESS (Chapter 1) The Hummingbird Man Newport, Rhode Island, August 1893 THE VISITING HOUR WAS ALMOST OVER, SO the hummingbird man encountered only the occasional carriage as he pushed his cart along the narrow strip of road between the mansions of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean. The ladies of Newport had left their cards early that afternoon, some to prepare for the last and most important ball of the season, others so they could at least appear to do so. The usual clatter and bustle of Bellevue Avenue had faded away as the Four Hundred rested in anticipation of the evening ahead, leaving behind only the steady beat of the waves breaking on the rocks below. The light was beginning to go, but the heat of the day still shimmered from the white limestone façades of the great houses that clustered along the cliffs like a collection of wedding cakes, each one vying with its neighbour to be the most gorgeous confection. But the hummingbird man, who wore a dusty tailcoat and a battered grey bowler in some shabby approximation of evening dress, did not stop to admire the verandah at the Breakers, or the turrets of Beaulieu, or the Rhinelander fountains that could be glimpsed through the yew hedges and gilded gates. He continued along the road, whistling and clicking to his charges in their black shrouded cages, so that they should hear a familiar noise on their last journey. His destination was the French chateau just before the point, the largest and most elabor
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From the Publisher

"Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn''t?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin's The American Heiress. The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind." --Allison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of I Don't Know How She Does It and I Think I Love You

Be careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts', suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora's story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James.

"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 them happiness." --Daisy Goodwin in The Daily Mail
 
The American Heiress was originally sold and distributed in the UK as My Last Duchess

About the Author

DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University's film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London. The American Heiress is her first novel.

Editorial Reviews

"Ms. Goodwin...writes deliciously." --Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
"A propulsive story of love, manners, culture clash, and store-bought class from a time long past that proves altogether fresh." --Publishers Weekly
 
"Top-notch writing....will please fans of historical romance, including book club members." -Library Journal (starred review)

"[An] exceptionally thoughtful and stunning historical novel that will leave you reeling and astonished...and give you the urge to re-read it the instant the last page is turned." --BookReporter.com

"Smart, emotional, entertaining writing....a delicious tale that captivates." --RT Book Reviews

"Deliciously classy. A story that gallops along, full of exquisite period detail." --Kate Mosse, New York Times bestselling author of Labyrinth
 
"Sparkling and thoroughly engaging...a highly enjoyable and intelligent read." --The Sunday Times (U.K.)
 
"I was seduced by this book, rather as Cora was seduced by her duke: with great skill and confidence. Intriguing, atmospheric, and extremely stylish." --Penny Vincenzi, author of The Best of Times

"A wonderful, guilty pleasure of a read.  The detailing is beautiful...and the relief of reading a novel that puts enjoyment first so rare and gratifying that I am ready for a sequel." -Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire

Bookclub Guide

Biography and Conversation

Daisy Goodwin is the daughter of film producer Richard B. Goodwin (A Passage to India, Seven Years in Tibet) and writer/interior designer Jocasta Innes (Paint Magic), and the sister of the Edgar-winning writer Jason Goodwin (The Janissary Tree). She earned a B.A. with honors in history from Trinity College, Cambridge, followed by a Harkness Fellowship to Columbia University Film School; and now runs her own independent television company in the UK.

In addition to publishing eight poetry anthologies, she has presented award-winning television series on poetry and on the enduring appeal of romantic fiction, and is a commentator and columnist for the London Sunday Times. In 2010, she served as chair of the judging panel for the Orange Prize for the best novel written in English by a woman. Daisy lives in London with two daughters, three dogs, and a husband who is an executive for ABC News. The American Heiress is her first novel.

What was the inspiration for The American Heiress?
I was visiting Blenheim Palace and saw the portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress who married the Duke of Marlborough. She was very beautiful, but she also looked spectacularly unhappy. When I read that she was basically blackmailed into marrying the Duke by her social-climbing mother, I thought about what a great setup this would be for a novel. American girls basically propped up the English aristocracy for a generation. In modern terms, Consuelo's dowry was about $100 million. No wonder a quarter of the British nobility made transatlantic marriages!

I started writing this book at the height of the boom (remember the boom?), when I was fascinated by the parallels between all these new billionaires and the plutocrats of the Gilded Age. How does getting rich that fast affect you? It has to be said, though, that the rich today are small fry compared to the Vanderbilts and their ilk, whose idea of a party favor was a jewel-encrusted Fabergé egg, and who would offer their guests cigarettes rolled from hundred-dollar bills.

Was there anything you found especially surprising while researching The American Heiress?
While certain details in The American Heiress might seem unbelievable, like the solid gold on the corset that Cora Cash wears on her wedding day, her trousseau is a replica of Consuelo Vanderbilt's. At her wedding to the Duke, Consuelo carried orchids that had been grown in the greenhouses of Blenheim and then shipped to New York in a specially refrigerated chamber because Marlborough brides always carried flowers from Blenheim. When I borrowed the detail about Cora's bouquet being brought over from England for my novel, my editor produced her red pencil and said, "This can't possibly be true." But in fact, you would have to have a very vivid imagination indeed to match the real extravagance and excess of the Gilded Age. Just as contemporary starlets are written about in the media today, every detail of Consuelo's wedding was chronicled in Vogue.

How typical was Cora Cash's experience for an American marrying an English nobleman?
Girls like Consuelo Vanderbilt came to England thinking it would be the height of sophistication. But for many of these American brides, a title really didn't make up for the horrors of English country life. A dollar princess frequently found herself isolated and miserable in a great pile of a house that, however exquisite, was miles away from anywhere, with no heating apart from open fires and-horror of horror-no bathrooms. One titled American bride wrote home to her mother that she hadn't taken her furs off all winter even when she went to bed. Another heiress gave up going to dinner at people's country houses because she couldn't bear the arctic temperatures in an evening dress. And English society was not exactly welcoming to these rich newcomers: Imagine Kim Kardashian marrying Prince Harry today and you get the general idea of the suspicion and disdain that the Americans encountered.

Those of you who enjoyed the Masterpiece Theatre series Downton Abbey will remember that the Earl of Grantham married an American heiress (also called Cora) whose dowry saved the family estate from ruin. But Downton Abbey is set twenty years after The American Heiress. By that time even the stuffiest English aristocrats had realized that American money had stopped the roof leaking. In Downton Abbey, when Cora, Countess of Grantham, wonders whether a potential suitor for her daughter comes from an old family, her mother-in-law, played by Maggie Smith, retorts, "Older than yours, I imagine." And even the Countess's own daughter, Lady Mary, dismisses her mother by saying, "You wouldn't understand. You're American."

The traces of these American girls are everywhere in Britain today; most people know that Winston Churchill's mother was American, but the great-grandmother of Princess Diana was also an American heiress.

What kind of experience was writing this book for you?
People are always asking me, how do you find time to write a book-when you run a company, write for the newspapers, have a family (and three dogs), etc.? My answer to this is noise-cancelling headphones. Once I plug these in, I can write anytime, anywhere. A great deal of this novel was written on trains, planes, and in between meetings.

I absolutely loved writing The American Heiress. To be able to escape into a world full of beautiful frocks and perfectly trained servants was a joy.

Who are some of your favorite writers? What authors have influenced your work?
I love Edith Wharton and Henry James, and anyone familiar with their work will see echoes in The American Heiress. I also admire Daphne du Maurier for the way she handles suspense and Sarah Waters for her utter command of historical period. I really enjoyed Julian Fellowes's books for the way they dissect snobbery, and Hilary Mantel is an extraordinary writer both for her present-day and period novels.

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