Since Downton Abbey’s second season ended, I’ve been in search of another grand fictional English estate full of scheming and intrigue to get lost in. Lulworth Castle, the main setting of The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin, fit the bill splendidly. Set in the last decade of the 19th century, the story focuses on Miss Cora Cash, daughter of one of the wealthiest families in America. Since their wealth is a product of new money, Cora’s ambitious mother takes her daughter overseas in hopes of attracting a cash-poor but well-titled Englishman. The practice was far from uncommon during this time period (in fact, Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jarome, is one such example). Cora succeeds beyond her mother’s wildest imaginings when she lands the dark but alluring Duke of Wareham.
Thus Cora is uprooted from her glittering American society and transplanted into stuffy English customs hundreds of years old. The servants laugh behind her back as she tries to learn proper English etiquette. Her demanding mother-in-law raises an eyebrow as Cora tries to implement changes to the way Lulworth Castle is run. Her husband supports some changes, is appalled by others, and baffled Cora never knows which reaction her initiatives will incite. And throughout all this is the running undercurrent hinting to a past (and potentially present) relationship between the Duke and Lady Charlotte Beauchamp that everyone but Cora seems to notice.
The American Heiress had me hooked from start to finish. It’s a great summer read and I highly recommend it. Ms. Goodwin is a gifted storyteller, never giving away too much, just enough to keep you turning the pages in anticipation. Dropping subtle hints, we are allowed to draw our own conclusions about the Duke of Wareham’s character, as we try to figure him out alongside Cora. It’s an entertaining read, with enough plotting and scheming to assuage your need for more Downton Abbey, if only for a little while.
To learn more about author Daisy Goodwin, you can check out her website here.