The American Duchess

Written by Sharon Page
Review by Caroline Wilson

It’s the Roaring Twenties, and American heiress Zoe Gifford embraces the heady lifestyle with abandon. When her mother writes a bad check for gambling debts, Zoe must find a convenient bridegroom to access her trust fund. Enter Sebastian Hazelton, the charming but cash-strapped younger brother of the Duke of Langford. The two hatch a plot to marry and then divorce, with Zoe paying for the trouble. They do not count on Nigel, the Duke of Langford, being so scandalized that he decides to propose to Zoe himself. But he intends their marriage to be anything but brief, and their two worlds collide, with many problems as a result.

The American Duchess cashes in on the rage for all things Gatsby. Every hallmark of the period is there – fast cars and equally fast women, crazy parties, and dark speakeasies. None of these things is unique, unfortunately rendering the novel rather cliché. Zoe’s characterization is particularly difficult to digest. Longing to be accepted and loved, she hides behind scandal and at times can be downright selfish and stupid. She seems to learn nothing during the course of the novel, nor does she experience an enlightening moment. Nigel is the more sympathetic character though he is cast as the typical frigid, damaged aristocrat. Zoe cannot fathom his dark days spent in the trenches of World War I; instead, she whines about their lack of sex life and his introverted ways. Some readers may hope that they don’t end up together.

Nonetheless, the scenery is vivid and the sense of a changing world is captured wonderfully. Though Zoe and Nigel’s incessant bickering can try the nerves, the realism of a difficult marriage is aptly portrayed. Readers looking for the Happily Ever After or for something light to read will enjoy The American Duchess.