Summary and book reviews of The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

The American Heiress

A Novel

By Daisy Goodwin

The American Heiress
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  • Paperback: Mar 2012,
    496 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elizabeth Whitmore Funk

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Book Summary

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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is your initial impression of Cora Cash? How does she develop as a person in the course of the novel?

  2. In America, Cora is clearly at the top of society, while Bertha is very near the bottom. In what ways do their circumstances change when they move to England?

  3. What role do the mothers in the story - Mrs. Cash, Mrs. Van Der Leyden, and the Double Duchess - play in the central characters' lives?

  4. Cora is always aware that "no one was unaffected by the money." How does the money affect Cora herself ? What are the pleasures and perils of great wealth?

  5. What is your opinion of Teddy and the Duke? What about Charlotte?

  6. What do you think about Cora's decision at the end of the book? Would you have made the same choice? (The author has ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

[The American Heiress is] good, plain old pleasure reading that provides an escape to a world that is opulent and glorious, which is a welcome digression in times of austerity and economic flux. The pages fly by, and in the two days it took me to read the entire volume, I let myself relax into a dramatic flight of fancy. It's worth reading for the fun of reading, for the sake of being whisked off somewhere dramatic and regal. While I'm not always in the mood to read a book that will simply mute the rest of the world, occasionally I am, and in those times a story like The American Heiress is perfect.   (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

This lush look at Edwardian excess and scandal on both sides of the Atlantic...is a propulsive story of love, manners, culture clash, and store-bought class from a time long past that proves altogether fresh.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Top-notch writing brings to life the world of wealth on both sides of the Atlantic. This debut’s strong character development and sense of place will please fans of historical romance, including book club members.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A shrewd, spirited historical romance with flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, Jane Austen, Upstairs, Downstairs and a dash of People magazine that charts a bumpy marriage of New World money and Old World tradition.... Goodwin's debut, a knowing, judicious blend of Gilded Age extravagance, below-stairs perspective,...and sophisticated social tableaux, offers reader satisfaction....Superior entertainment.

Sunday Times (UK)

Sparkling and thoroughly engaging…a delight. Filled with vitality and peopled by a vigorous supporting cast of characters…the story of a poor little rich girl learning the hard way… makes for a highly enjoyable and intelligent read.

Author Blurb Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, winner of the Whitbread Prize for Biography
The detailing is beautiful, the great phalanx of historical characters amusing, and the relief of reading a novel that puts enjoyment first so rare and gratifying that I am ready for a sequel.

Author Blurb llison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of I Don’t Know How She Does It and I Think I Love You
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.

Author Blurb Penny Vincenzi, author of The Best of Times
I was seduced by this book, rather as Cora was seduced by her duke: with great skill and confidence. Intriguing, atmospheric, and extremely stylish, I was still thinking about it long after I had reached the end.

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The Mansions of Newport, Rhode Island

During the Gilded Age (1865-1914), America experienced a boom in railroad tycoons and oil barons, and a great deal of wealth was concentrated in the real estate of Newport, Rhode Island. Wealthy families like the Vanderbilts and Astors flocked to Newport each summer, and as their appreciation for the New England coast grew, they built opulent mansions that were affectionately referred to as summer "cottages." These stately homes are immortalized in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, from which Daisy Goodwin draws inspiration for The American Heiress.

Rhode Island map Many of the Newport mansions are constructed from imported Italian marble and are designed in the Beaux-Arts style (named after the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where it was ...

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