The Second Mrs. Astor

Written by Shana Abe
Review by Rebecca Cochran

Madeleine Force was just seventeen in 1910 when she caught the eye of the famously rich, dashing John Jacob Astor, who was more than twenty years her senior. Their romance captivated the press, enthralled her family, and enraged John’s son. Abé has vividly captured the essence of this well-documented real-life romance, giving voice to the lesser-known Maddy as we learn of her hesitation and then fascination and finally love of her extremely handsome and very popular beau. Their courtship and eventual marriage intrigued the press, especially as John was a divorced man. Abé has imagined what their lives might have been like, and although she may have over-vilified John’s son, Vincent, the personalities of these characters make for an engaging tale.

Abé richly describes the scenery. Everything is opulent, decadent, rich. Maddy and her family, and later, she and John, travel quite a bit. We’re taken from the shores of Maine to bustling New York City, Egypt, and eventually, aboard the Titanic where their romance meets a tragic end in the icy waters. As the story crescendos to that fateful night, readers will remain captivated by both the imagery and the plot. Abé does end the story a bit short, though; readers are left wondering what the future holds for Madeleine and Vincent. A quick Google search yields some interesting tidbits. Overall, this is more than another tale about the Titanic, it’s a love story, a drama, and a fine historical novel. Recommended.