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The American Heiress: A Novel [Bargain Price] [Hardcover]

Daisy Goodwin
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 21 2011
"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." --Allison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of I Don’t Know How She Does It and I Think I Love You

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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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

"For daughters of the new American billionaires of the 19th century, it was the ultimate deal: marriage to a cash-strapped British Aristocrat in return for a title and social status. But money didn’t always buy them happiness." --Daisy Goodwin in The Daily Mail
 
One of Library Journal's Best Historical Fiction Books of 2011

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Product Description

Review

Advance Praise for The American Heiress:

 
"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." --Amanda Foreman, author of GEORGIANA, DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE, winner of the Whitbread Prize for Biography
 
"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." --Kirkus Reviews (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." --Library Journal (starred review) 
 
"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."
--Publishers Weekly
 
"Deliciously classy. A story that gallops along, full of exquisite period detail." --Kate Mosse, author of  LABYRINTH and SEPULCHRE

"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." --Penny Vincenzi, author of THE BEST OF TIMES
 
"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." --London Sunday Times

Review

Advance Praise for The American Heiress:

 
"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." --Amanda Foreman, author of GEORGIANA, DUCHESS OF DEVONSHIRE, winner of the Whitbread Prize for Biography
 
"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." --Kirkus Reviews (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." --Library Journal (starred review) 
 
"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."
--Publishers Weekly
 
"Deliciously classy. A story that gallops along, full of exquisite period detail." --Kate Mosse, author of  LABYRINTH and SEPULCHRE

"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." --Penny Vincenzi, author of THE BEST OF TIMES
 
"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." --London Sunday Times


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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good premise that goes nowhere Dec 20 2011
Format:Hardcover
To start, I'm not going to go into the whole storyline as you can get that anywhere!
The premise of a naive American heiress marrying a crumbling young English Duke and having to adapt to a new world and a new set of rules intrigued me. But I soon became frustrated with the whole book.
The author writes well and the historical aspects are spot on but character development never seems to take off. Cora remains naive and never seems to grow. Ivo remains very superficial and his explanation of why he had an affair at the end of the book seemed out of character and I didnt believe him at all. Cora's continued easy acceptance of him and his explanations left me wanting to kick her! The ending just seems like a quick wrap up and left me feeling flat.
There are several side storylines brought in ie. the hat maker, the maid who seemed infatuated with the Duke and the snake tattoo that could have been expanded on and brought interest but they were just ignored. (I awaited eagerly the tattoo storyline to expand and was very disappointed when it wasnt!)
Maybe i'm used to a more involved storyline and see that others have thoroughly enjoyed this read. I can't honestly recommend this except to those who want light reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars July 8 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really Enjoyed this one. Would love a sequel?
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By The Baking Bookworm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Note: This review, as well as many more, can also be found on my blog, The Baking Bookworm (www.thebakingbookworm.blogspot.ca).

My Review: This is another book that I picked up from my local library based on the book cover. What can I say? I'm attracted to pretty things and the dress alone in the picture is spectacular. It's a really beautiful book cover and from the description on the back I was expecting a grand, epic read that follows the life of an affluent American woman plunked down in England in the Gilded Age. I was looking forward to a lot of plot twists, people being deceived and slandered but in a cool, posh, English way. Kind of a British version of a Sidney Sheldon novel.

Unfortunately my assumptions didn't pan out and I didn't find it quite as epic as I was hoping. Not epic at all actually. While it does have a slight Downton Abbey feel to it (especially since it includes the point of view of Bertha, Cora's maid), it just doesn't have the excitement or the riveting characters that are known at Downton.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. But there were several issues that I just couldn't overlook. First of all, the pace was extremely slow. While I realize that large books tend to take a bit of time to get wind in their sails there's also a point at which I need something to happen to propel the storyline and keep me from nodding off. This book lacked the twists, trials and tribulations.

It was also a pretty predictable read with certain events happening much too easily and serendipitously for young Cora. If I had a dollar for every time I heard of someone falling off a horse into the arms of a rich Brit I'd have ..... well, nothing. Because that just doesn't happen.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Debut author Sept. 28 2011
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
When I saw the cover of American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, my first thought was of Grace Kelly. But Goodwin's novel takes place before that time period, set in the Gilded Age. I found Goodwin's inspiration behind the writing of American Heiress quite fascinating.

"Daisy has long been fascinated with the Gilded Age, and she decided to write about it when she was visiting Blenheim Palace and saw a portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt looking absolutely miserable. Consuelo is the inspiration behind this book: the American heiress who went to England, married the Duke of Marlborough, lived at Blenheim...Daisy's "aha' moment, which precipitated her to write this novel, revolved around wondering who these girls were, what happened to them in England, how they lived, coped, adjusted, etc."

Goodwin has created Cora Cash, an incredibly wealthy young socialite living in Newport, Rhode Island in 1893 at the time of her 'debut'. Cora's mother is determined that Cora will make the best match possible. And what she wants cannot be bought in the United States - a title. So they debut continues in England. And Mrs. Cash finally has her wish - Cora marries a Duke. But life is not the fairytale that Cora had imagined. Does her husband truly love her? Her mother-in-law seems determined to thwart her at every turn. The staff don't respect her. And she is alone in a strange country with no friends and really no idea of how things are done in England.

Cora is spunky and full of life, determined to succeed at everything. I enjoyed her enthusiasm, but found her to be a bit of a spoiled brat at times. Certainly this can be explained by her upbringing, but I found her treatment of her maid Bertha discouraging. Bertha's story was for me just as interesting as Cora's.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  426 reviews
354 of 378 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars My Love-Hate Relationship with The American Heiress June 2 2011
By FogCityBookGal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I love and hate this book. It contains superb writing, but I'm sorry to say the story bummed me out. This is just as beautiful a book as the cover hints at, full of the lives of many different people of several classes. I enjoyed the first part of the book so much, I can barely bring myself to say that I didn't like it in the end.

Cora is a rich "new money" American girl who is pushed by her mother to find a titled husband in Europe. The time period and custom of classes seemed flawless and I really enjoyed seeing both the master and servant life. It has a sort of Titanic -like all encompassing view of life in the 1890's that explores much more than just Cora's life. Through the eyes of her black (but free) maid, Bertha, we get to see Cora from an outsiders viewpoint, which is rather fun.

The writer has an excellent command of language and style and I would give other works of hers a chance. Descriptive passages like, "The white limestone houses, clustered along the cliffs like a collection of wedding cakes..." are so beautiful, they really transport you into her scenes. Also, it is quite entertaining to see Cora's mother try to be the most extravagant but ultimately set herself ablaze at THE ball of the season.

In fact, there is nothing in the beginning of the book that would have warned me what I was getting into. By the middle of the book, I was so caught up in Cora's life that I felt protective of her and angry that she could not see the scandal being set up around her. With every comment Cora didn't catch and trick she fell for, I got angrier. I am not a fan of infidelity and this book seemed to say that no one could possibly live a life of monogamy. Every marriage is filled with deceit, flirtations with others, and unhappiness covered with plastic smiles. Not only is Cora constantly set up and laughed at for being an American, even after her marriage into title, she is treated as a "stupid girl" who doesn't deserve the common courtesy required by society for a Duchess. Cora is cast as the type of girl that should have demanded (because of her wealth and beauty) to be treated well. Yet, at every turn her innocent life is tested with evil people who care nothing of others and think only of the next "game" - the goal of which seems to be corrupting innocent people's lives. And instead of growing stronger and smarter and rising above the debacle, Cora plunges head first into it. She gives up her good morals and in the end, settles. I don't believe the "coming clean" scene at the end from her husband in the least. I was rooting for Cora from the beginning and even through all the scandal and the fact that everyone knew more about her husband's affairs than she did... I was hoping she would get smart and pull through. Whether she stayed with her husband or not, I was hoping she would stand up for herself and demand the respect of others. I was so angry at the end of the book, I threw it across the room.

I guess you could point out that The American Heiress, even though it plunged me into helpless despair, did raise passionate feelings in me - however unpleasant. I'm sure there are those who would enjoy this book and I don't mean to deter you, but know what you're getting yourself into. I don't find the ending in the least bit satisfying and categorizing it as a "romance" is misleading. Period piece? Yes, but not a happy ending romance.
112 of 121 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decadent and Delicious June 4 2011
By Utah Mom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Reading Daisy Goodwin's novel American Heiress was a bit like reading a tabloid magazine about today's celebrities. In American Heiress, Cora Cash is one of the wealthiest American young women in the 1890's--the gilded age. Cora is already worth a fortune but her status-seeking mother schemes to marry her off to a titled but money-troubled English gentleman. Cora is OK with that plan if it means that she can escape her mother's control. The press and the admiring young fans crowd the streets for a glimpse of Cora at her elaborate wedding to Duke Wareham. Cora thrives on the attention but her wedding day is even more perfect because she has married for love.

However, is this highly educated and groomed young woman really ready for the stuffy and proper English gentility? And did her duke marry for love or money?

Goodwin's novel is a very entertaining read. I had a hard time putting it down to go to sleep each night this week. Reminding me of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence with it's decadence and moral themes, this novel is full of fresh plot twists and elegant but ultimately self-serving characters. Cora, while narcissistic and conceited, is so young and naive that I couldn't help but hope the best for her as she stumbles her way through the English protocol and the intrigue that awaits in her new life.

By turns romantic and tragic, American Heiress lured me in with details of the extravagant lifestyles of the extremely wealthy but captured and held my attention with a well-paced plot and fabulously delicious and devious characters. It's a "guilty pleasure" but not too guilty, because Goodwin is pretty good at keeping the details of the "bedroom" scenes brief and discreet.

This is one enthralling summer read.
66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ho-Hum May 29 2011
By Rita Sydney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I didn't pick up this book expecting Henry James or Edith Wharton but really, for the most part this novel covers oh so familiar ground without any new twists.

Rich and unworldly, but outspoken American girl in England to marry a title. Mission accomplished but then she discovers qualities in M'Lord that leave her bewildered and unhappy.

Does the Duke love her or his ex-girlfriend? The plot revolves around this question.

There's an unstairs-downstairs element to the story as we watch the heiress' lady's maid (who is Black) experience the lack of color prejudice among her lower class peers.

The Duke is a totally cardboard character: His motivation at the beginning was not made clear and at the end it was tritely predictable. The heiress, then Duchess, is a bit more real though not very interesting. The lady's maid came off as the most fully realized and believable character.

I would have given this even fewer stars but there was at times some good dialogue between characters. Enough to keep me reading to the end.
54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you've read one.... June 28 2011
By The Kite - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For a full-length novel, I sure felt like a stranger to the characters by the end of the book. Of course, the fact that I made it to the end is something, because I am quite particular about my books and will NOT waste a minute on something I'm convinced has no potential. Turns out though, the "no potential" thing wasn't fully confirmed till the last page.
I found myself quite confused at Mrs. Daisy, our first time author. She is somehow simultaneously an excellent writer and painfully inadequate. Her attention to detail, the flow and rhythm of the book, setting the scene and overall mood were flawless. Unfortunately, the characters had little more depth, diversity or development than a paperback novel (think steamy cover, less than 150 pages and plenty of girly style porn - bleh). Sooooo we have a rich heiress, spoiled and wanting to be free. Ummm yep. That's pretty much all you ever learn about her. She honestly doesn't ever change or develop. She simply responds to what's around her. There is never a moment of introspection, never an added level to her personality. While we hear her thoughts constantly somehow she keeps us at arms length for the whole book - and not in an intriguing, mysterious way, just in a shallow, nope-that's-really-all-there-is-to-her way. Bertha is a cringe-worthy cliché. Steady, smart, flawless... yaaaaawn! When she decides to stay with Cora and not Jim at the end, her reasons are entirely out of character! She has not shown for a fraction of a second that she had any true connection or concern for Cora so it is quite bewildering that she suddenly, inexplicably thinks of her mistress as "her only family". Of course we have two one-dimensional mothers concerned only with themselves and their societies, not their children. The men are, as usual in this type of book, ever revolving around this Rhett-Butler type of cocky indifference and brooding depth. I actually laughed as Ivo - all at once in an entirely uncharacteristic way - gushes out a play by play explanation of himself. Really Mrs. Goodwin?! I'm still not sure if that was supposed to be a twist or if it was just a very sloppy attempt at winding up the book and trying to make us like Ivo better. For me, I never liked Ivo for a heartbeat. Luckily, I was not even slightly attached to the vanilla Cora so I only shrugged when she somehow convinces herself that Ivo is better than Teddy. Charlotte - the foil character! - ever lives up to her cliché. Beautiful, powerful and utterly shallow. Oh and please! don't bother explaining WHY anyone loves each other, least of all Charlotte and Ivo. We'll just, uh, guess about that trivial matter.
There were so many moments where I thought something new or interesting was being added to the story - the maid with a crush on Ivo, the hat maker who fainted at Cara's wedding, the double duchesses' affair with Cora's father, the painter's intrigue with Cora - but no, all of them fizzled out or were bluntly abandoned. It really just felt lazy. Mrs. Cash gets burnt but we never understand how this really ties in to anything or how various people change because of it. We hear all about Bertha's mother, anticipating a climax in that relationship only to find her quickly brushed off once she dies. Sybil promises to be a quirky, complex character who can't get a man. But no, she is neatly and without any details is married off at the end. A terrific tension is built between Cora, her mother in law and the household staff... but yet again, nothing ever happens(apparently she forgot to make the scene and fire the head butler). This is just sloppy, thoughtless writing. Next time, Mrs. Daisy, spend less time describing clothing and describe the people beneath!
It's really a shame that such good writing skills are combined with such a lack of originality.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Full of historical howlers Aug. 5 2011
By tanchun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I'm about one third through "The American Heiress" and enjoying it. But oh, the historical howlers! Did the author put these in to play with her readers? In an age of wikipedia, when facts can be checked in 30 seconds, how did an editor let these pass?
An example: the duke in the story needs an American heiress because his father and brother died in close succession and he is ruined by death duties. But the novel begins in 1893, and death duties were first levied in 1894. The duke would have received his estate intact.
His castle was built by Edward III as a hunting lodge and given to an ancestor of the duke in 1315 in gratitude for services during the Hundred Years War. But Edward III was born in 1312 (probably didn't do much hunting before 1315), and ascended to the throne in 1327. Furthermore, the Hundred Years War began in 1337.
This isn't just pedanticism -- when an author scatters bloopers about historical facts I happen to know, I can't help wondering how much misinformation she is passing out about matters I know nothing of.
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