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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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.
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 ...
[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).
Full Review (887 words).
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.
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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