Friday, 8 November 2013

The American Heiress

Author: Daisy Goodwin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Pages: 468
Publisher: St Martin's Press
First Published: August 2010
First Line: "The visiting hour was almost over, so the hummingbird man encountered only the occasional carriage as he pushed his cart over the narrow strip between the mansions of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean."

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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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

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.  But I also realize that it's nice to use our imaginations -- I get that, I do.  But it also has to be believable.  It's a fine line. 

I think another issue with the book are the flat characters.  Cora, the main character, came off as pretty bland, the Duke was also a one-dimensional pompous rich guy and their 'love' felt more like infatuation on Cora's part.  No one really stood out for me as more than a cliché.

This book also skims over a lot of issues that could have made this book have more depth.  It hints at certain social observations but never feels like it gets into the 'nitty gritty' of it all.  Certain characters are brought into the storyline (like the hat maker) and then never really used to their full potential or to progress the storyline.  Why add them at all?
I will say that the book is beautifully written as it describes the locations, homes and clothing of the era.   It was also interesting to see the 'new money' versus 'old money' issue as well as the difference in American versus English attitudes.  But without more depth of the storyline and characters who mature throughout the book I can't honestly say that I liked this book.

It is not an in-depth historical fiction book by any means but could be a fun, light read.

My Rating: 2/5 stars

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