The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Titled My Last Duchess outside of the US

Many reviews of this entertaining novel have mentioned that “If you’re missing Downton Abbey, read this to fill the void” and really this could have been the story of Lady Grantham if she had married a dissembling dirt bag instead of Lord Grantham, who seems like a good guy.

This particular story tells the saga of Cora Cash, an American heiress to a flour fortune who stumbles into marriage with an Englishman, the Duke of Wareham. Cora is headstrong, feisty, selfish and demanding, yet she is also innocent and trusting. The combination of these traits makes her a realistic character. Her mother’s dream has always been to marry her to English nobility yet Cora surprises everyone when she truly falls in love with the Duke and he seems to fall in love with her too (not to mention her money). The novel covers the span of their first year of marriage in which Ivo, the Duke, leaves for five months to accompany the Prince of Wales to India as Cora marks time at their home, Lulworth, waiting for their child to be born.

Social mishaps, ill-advised purchases, trust in the wrong people, all befall Cora before the year is out. And so does the discovery that her husband is not the stellar human being we all knew he wasn’t.

Also similar to Downton Abbey is the parallel storyline of Cora’s maid, Bertha, and her romance with the Duke’s valet, Jim. This was interesting and sweet, but I always preferred to read about the goings on above stairs. The lavish meals, wicked manipulations, dazzling dresses and coy flirtations had me spellbound.

I listened to this on audio during my daily commute. It’s read by Katherine Kellgren who does a top-notch job. She gives every character their own distinct voice and they were all so different I knew exactly what character was speaking during scenes with dialogue.

Though not as endearing as Downton Abbey, I have to say this really is a good substitute. It is a hugely tantalizing read!

(I apologize for the photo. I took it on my phone at work where the harsh office lighting was not conducive to good photography!)

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