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Before there was Meghan Markle, there was Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American Duchess. Perfect for readers of Jennifer Robson and lovers of Downton Abbey.
Karen Harper tells the tale of Consuelo Vanderbilt, her “The Wedding of the Century” to the Duke of Marlborough, and her quest to find meaning behind “the glitter and the gold.”
On a cold November day in 1895, a carriage approaches St Thomas Episcopal Church on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Massive crowds surge forward, awaiting their glimpse of heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Just 18, the beautiful bride has not only arrived late, but in tears, yet her marriage to the aloof Duke of Marlborough proceeds. Bullied into the wedding by her indomitable mother, Alva, Consuelo loves another. But a deal was made, trading some of the vast Vanderbilt wealth for a title and prestige, and Consuelo, bred to obey, realizes she must make the best of things.
At Blenheim Palace, Consuelo is confronted with an overwhelming list of duties, including producing an “heir and a spare,” but her relationship with the duke quickly disintegrates. Consuelo finds an inner strength, charming everyone from debutantes to diplomats including Winston Churchill, as she fights for women’s suffrage. And when she takes a scandalous leap, can she hope to attain love at last…?
From the dawning of the opulent Gilded Age, to the battles of the Second World War, American Duchess is a riveting tale of one woman’s quest to attain independence—at any price.
Harper (The It Girls) entices readers with this lively novel about wealthy American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. Forced into marriage by her mother, 18-year-old Consuelo marries Sunny, Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895. Embarking on her new life at Blenheim, the vast palace owned by the Churchills, Consuelo befriends villagers and tenants alike while Sunny spends her dowry to replenish Blenheim's coffers. Sunny and Consuelo have two sons together, though he remains emotionally distant toward her. She later decides to live separately from him in London, enjoying her freedom, charity work, and friendship with Winston Churchill, one of Sunny's cousins. Though Consuelo has crossed paths with French businessman Jacques Balsan during her marriage, it isn't until she is separated that she is able to contemplate the possibility of a future with him. Harper's story highlights how the wealth that prevented Consuelo from making her own decisions also enabled her to better the lives of those less fortunate. This immersive novel believably puts the reader in Consuelo's shoes.