Synopses & Reviews
"Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn't?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwins 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 Dont 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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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, Coras 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 didnt always buy them happiness." --Daisy Goodwin in The Daily Mail The American Heiress was originally sold and distributed in the UK as My Last Duchess
From an award-winning novelist described by Hilary Mantel as "one of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture," the story of the exotic wife of a Scottish aristocrat who is not what she seems, set against the backdrop of the cultured drawing rooms and emerging tabloid culture of late Victorian London.
is set in Victorian Britain; at its center is Maribel Campbell Lowe, the wife of a Scottish M.P. and a self-proclaimed Chilean heiress. But Maribel's life is based on a web of lies, and a newspaperman's uncommon interest in her could prove disastrous" —New York Times Book Review
London 1887. For Maribel Campbell Lowe, the beautiful bohemian wife of a maverick politician, it is the year to make something of herself. She is torn between poetry and the new art of photography. But it is soon plain that Maribels choices are not so simple. As her husbands career hangs by a thread, her real past, and the family she abandoned, come back to haunt them both. When the notorious newspaper editor Alfred Webster begins to ask pointed questions, she fears he will not only destroy Edwards career but both of their reputations.
About the Author
DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia Universitys film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life,
have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London. The American Heiress
is her first novel.
Reading Group Guide
1. What is your initial impression of Cora Cash? How does she develop as a person in the course
of the novel?
2. In America, Cora is clearly at the top of society, while Bertha is very near the bottom. In what ways do their circumstances change when they move to England?
3. What role do the mothers in the story—Mrs. Cash, Mrs. Van Der Leyden, and the Double Duchess—play in the central characters lives?
4. Cora is always aware that “no one was unaffected by the money.” How does the money affect Cora herself ? What are the pleasures and perils of great wealth?
5. What is your opinion of Teddy and the Duke? What about Charlotte?
6. What do you think about Coras decision at the end of the book? Would you have made the same choice? (The author has said she was of two minds up until the last chapter.)
7. What are the differences between the Old World and the New in the novel? Do both worlds seem remote in the twenty-first century, or do you see parallels to contemporary society?
8. Why do modern readers enjoy reading novels about the past? Take a moment to discuss your experiences as a reader of historical fiction, in general, and of The American Heiress in particular.
9. When she was chair of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010, Daisy Goodwin wrote a controversial essay lamenting the “unrelenting grimness” of so many of the novels and pointing out that “generally great fiction contains light and shade”—not only misery but joy and humor. What do you think about Daisys argument that “it is time for publishers to stop treating literary fiction as the novelistic equivalent of cod-liver oil: if its nasty it must be good for you”?
10. Kirkus Reviews called The American Heiress a “shrewd, spirited historical romance with flavors of Edith Wharton, Daphne du Maurier, and Jane Austen.” Other critics have also seen echoes of Henry James. If you have read any of these earlier novelists, what parallels and differences do you see in Daisys work?