Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publisher: St. Martins Press, 2011
Set around the turn of the twentieth century, the American heiress in this novel is Cora Nash, the daughter of an extremely wealthy, industrialist father and a social climbing mother.
The strongest influence on Cora is her obsessive mother. In today’s world the mother would probably be accused of child abuse. A steel rod in her daughter’s back every day for three hours? The girl couldn’t do anything that didn’t serve the advancement of her mother.
When Cora reached marriageable age she was taken to Europe. Her mother wanted a titled son-in-law to brag about. It did’t take long for Cora to meet and marry an eligible duke. Ivo, the duke Cora found, is the classic handsome, brooding bachelor duke of a crumbling English mansion. Ivo needed Cora’s money so, for him, it was a no-brainer.
There were plenty of things to complicate this romance. It started with the two mothers. I didn’t think it was possible to be as horrible as Cora’s mother, but Ivo’s mother succeeded. She was an evil witch. There were also all the normal misunderstandings that occur between a couple, but especially two people who hardly know each other.
I liked following the development of Cora from naive young woman to a bit more mature wife and mother. It was slow. It took until nearly the end of this almost 500 page novel to see it. For example, it took forever for Cora to understand how one of her so-called friends was attempting to sabotaged her and her marriage. Ivo (the duke) was not as well developed a character as Cora. For me, he was just okay.
The American Heiress wasn’t marketed as a romance novel, but it does have most of the elements of one. On the plus side, it isn’t filled with the petty squabbles that most romance novels depend upon. The novel is interesting and, in my opinion, falls more into the category of a literary fiction novel.
There were other elements to the novel that put it in the fiction category. For one, there was a small, yet good look at American and English society during that time period. Granted, it was a look at the super-rich and the old English royal system, but there was also a look at society through the eyes of Cora’s black personal maid. She experienced life differently in America and England.
There were obscene amounts of money spent on simple things like the 90 dresses for Cora’s trousseau – dresses only to be worn once. There were corsets purchased that would pay the salary of Cora’s maid for 20 years! Those obscenities disturbed me.
Overall, it was an interesting story to experience. It wasn’t something I could say I loved, but it was a good story.