The American Heiress
Cora Cash is a beautiful and fabulously wealthy young woman in the 1890s – the decadent Gilded Age. To escape her overbearing, social-climbing mother, Cora begs her childhood sweetheart to marry her before her mother sweeps her off to England in search of a titled match. After he turns her down, Cora accompanies her mother to London, where rich American girls are marrying into the impoverished aristocracy. She meets a handsome young duke after a fall from her horse and is taken to his crumbling estate to recuperate. Cora is drawn to the brooding Duke of Wareham, and soon he asks her to marry him. Cora falls in love and believes her new husband loves her as well. But the duke has his own dark secrets. Is he only after her money? Cora tries to fit in with her new family, who disdain her as an upstart American. She stumbles through the demanding English protocol, making numerous mistakes. Her actions upset her husband but amuse her haughty mother-in-law. A scandal involving the duke’s spiteful ex-lover could destroy Cora’s happiness.
Part of the story is told from the point of view of Cora’s biracial maid, Bertha. Bertha has her own struggles in the strict hierarchy of the servants’ quarters and with her wavering loyalty for her spoiled mistress.
The point of view switches into minor characters detracts from the main thrust of the story. I’d also have welcomed deeper insight into the feelings of Cora and the duke. Cora is extremely naïve, especially concerning her husband, but I always sympathized with her and wanted her to succeed. The prose is lush, and the details of American excesses and English genteel poverty are well portrayed. I look forward to more from this author.
My Last Duchess
463 (US), 468 (UK)