Ever since the second season finale of Downton Abbey, I've been having withdrawals. I miss the characters, the drama, the fashion, and the subtle humor. I came across Daisy Goodwin's American Heiress, which has been a popular book at my library, which was marketed as a must read for those who had loved Downton Abbey. It sounded just the thing I needed. Little did I know, it would do the exact opposite for me.
Description (from book's panel): 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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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.
Review: Have you ever had a meal that looks so appetizing that you feel let down when it is not as good as you expected it to be? On your plate, it looks delicious and beautiful and you can't wait to dig in, except when you do you immediately notice one thing- there's no flavor; such was my reading experience with Daisy Goodwin's American Heiress.
The book is very much reminiscent of the works of Henry James and Edith Wharton who wrote about the upperclass Americans who desperately tried to achieve the social air and lifestyle of Europeans. As the book opens Cora, a very rich, snobby, selfish, and stubborn woman is on the hunt for nobility. She surveys her predatory eyes on any man with a title, preferably a handsome duke who can whisk her away from her controlling, smothering mother. It was hard to warm up to and even like Cora who didn't seem to have any redeeming qualities. Things are pretty ho-hum until she meets an allusive English duke named Ivo.
Unfortunately Ivo wasn't a debonair, love interest. He did absolutely nothing for me. To my surprise, he wasn't actually in the story all that much, which I guess was suppose to give him an air of mystery. It was clear, to everyone except Cora, who lived in a bubble, that he had another woman on the side. It's obvious that Ivo didn't marry Cora for love, but to put to rebel against his stuck-up mother.
The plot of the book is very predictable and quite slow. I had it figured out in the first fifty pages and I waited to see if anything new and surprising would happen, but it didn't. All I got was a superfluous subplot involving Cora's maid's romance which went no where. The book could easily have been trimmed 100-200 pages down (it's close to 500 pgs in length). I did, however, liked the author's descriptions of the time period. I also chuckled here and there with the cultural jabs the Americans and the British gave each other.
Overall, this didn't curb my Downton Abbey withdrawals at all. It made me miss the show even more. I would recommend this book to those who have a hard time reading Wharton or James, as I think this book was more approachable but for me, it lacked depth and originality.
Rating: 2 stars
Words of Caution: There are some small, non-explicit sex scenes. Recommended for older teens and adults.
If you like this book try: Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Summer by Edith Wharton, The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton