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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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.
Review: The Gilded Age of America, 1890’s. Learning about the difference in classes of people, upstairs maids are different from downstairs maids. Old money is always better to have and if you New money you had better marry someone titled and from Europe to make you more creditable.
Cora Cash is of New Money and she is American. While traveling her mom decides she needs to marry a European man with a title to make her even richer. Cora was not only very rich she was also beautiful. She used to be carefree, funny, bright and smart. All that seemed to disappear when she had to deal with the aristocratic society of England.
By chance she runs into Duke Ivo Wareham and as her mother wishes for she marries him. It helps his family out as she has money and they are rather short of it at the time. Cora gets the title her mother so wants her to have. I think at this time their marriage is a sham. She just doesn’t see it because by this time she is infatuated with Ivo.
So Cora endures the affairs, deceit and continuous flirtations. All the while putting up with the stodgy English with their dry sense of humor tended to play tricks on her of which she fell for every time. She either didn’t see or else turned a blind eye to the scandal that went on around her.
I felt if it weren’t for her maid Bertha, who happens to love Cora, she would have run back to America a long time ago. Bertha was always giving up her own bit of happiness to help Cora not that she minded all that much. Bertha herself discovers the prejudice of her color and finds out that in Europe she shouldn’t be an upstairs maid as she is only fit for downstairs. You see there is a difference.
This story at times reminded me of others written about this same period where the age of innocence is lost as the world is opened up to lies and deceit, where if married to the wealthy you put a fake smile on your face and act as if everything is perfect in your life. Ms. Goodwin pays close attention to detail and makes the period come alive, capturing the essence of the Gilded Age with all the grit and glamour of that time. She found the typicalness (I think I just came up with a new word) of human nature bringing out what you deal with when you are dealing with things of the heart.
I found myself somewhat disappointed when I thought that Cora might finally stand up for herself and show that she has backbone only to back down and not deal with any type of conflict. I would love to have seen her show more strength as she was portrayed as rather weak making her more like the European woman than that of a strong American.
A somewhat good telling of coming of age type of story. A spoiled rich girl to some extent must deal with the differences between her beloved America, along with her new home and life in Europe.
This for me was alright, I wasn’t overly impressed. I guess I wanted more from Cora. The slowness of the story dragged and I would have liked it to be a little faster paced.
Robin has decided to share her review copy of The American Heiress with one lucky commenter. Due to shipping costs, the contest is open to US residents only. To enter, let us know what about this book interests you. The contest ends on Sunday, June 3.