August: A Spoiled Heiress, a Mysterious Duke, and a Whole Lot of Drama

Do you remember the glory days of Downton Abbey? Those lovely evenings when we would all stay up too long, waiting for a bit of melodrama and romance? The perseverance we showed after beloved Matthew Crawley died tragically and we had to suffer through a bit of a lull in the show’s writing before it finally picked up the pace? The wardrobes and overabundance? The lilting accents and pretentious noses in the air?

Jolly good times all around.

Downton Abbey
I would watch a spin-off series featuring Granny drinking tea and gossiping about her neighbors. Just sayin’.

I’m assuming we’ve all moved on to The Crown or Victoria, but if you’re still yearning for a world filled with corsets, titled, wealthy landowners, and snobby British folk, pick up Mama’s May Reading Challenge book, The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin.

Remember how I told you The American Heiress was written by the creator of Victoria? Well, apparently, she was penning novels in the same vein before she had her big Masterpiece break.

I predict that her writing and story telling has improved since this novel came out in 2011. I’d say it’s sitting at average to above-average. I give it credit since this brick is 465 pages, and I made it through at a relatively quick pace. That must mean it wasn’t too much of a trudge.

Cora Cash is the wealthiest heiress in America, but that isn’t enough for her society-climbing mother. Cora’s mother whisks her off to England on their private steamer to secure “the one thing money can’t buy in the States: a title,” the back cover tells us.

The American HeiressIn a completely “unforeseen” turn of events, Cora falls off her horse—even though she’s an excellent rider—on the property of a mysterious, handsome duke who very quickly proposes and marries her.

And the mother rejoices!

Yadda, yadda, yadda. The new duchess doesn’t fit into stuffy, British society and makes some faux pas. She isn’t certain if her new husband truly loves her or, more likely, her seemingly limitless cash flow.

Cora does grow and become a confident woman, wife, and mother, so I believe she’s a successfully written character. My main issue is with her man friend.

The Ninth Duke of Wareham, or “Ivo” as he’s known, is an enigma who never shows his true colors in a believable manner. Does he love his new wife? She kind of thinks so. Why is he mad at her All. The. Time? He vacillates between perfect romantic lead to sulky frat boy at the drop of a hat. I didn’t find him impressive or lovable. Also, he definitely didn’t keep his ducal trousers in place before he settled down, so that’s irksome as well.

I mean, the book was 645 pages. That’s more than enough time for sufficient character development for the leading man. I just couldn’t believe that Cora truly felt deep emotions for the man, or, frankly, even knew his full name.

There’s also a second romance between Cora’s African-American lady’s maid and the duke’s white valet. It was nice to have a break from the snooty upstairs and see the issues facing the folks behind the scenes.

Moral warning: A young, immature Cora pays her lady’s maid to teach her how to kiss in the first chapter or so. That’s about as steamy as this book gets, but it was a bit much. Feel free to skip.

And so, as I chose a book by its cover (and, to be honest, by the name recognition of the author), it wasn’t too much of a struggle. I’ll definitely forget that I read The American Heiress, but it was a decent journey in the meantime.

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