The Paris Wife meets PBS’s Victoria in this enthralling novel of the life and loves of one of history’s most remarkable women: Winston Churchill’s scandalous American mother, Jennie Jerome.
Wealthy, privileged, and fiercely independent New Yorker Jennie Jerome took Victorian England by storm when she landed on its shores. As Lady Randolph Churchill, she gave birth to a man who defined the twentieth century: her son Winston. But Jennie—reared in the luxury of Gilded Age Newport and the Paris of the Second Empire—lived an outrageously modern life all her own, filled with controversy, passion, tragedy, and triumph.
When the nineteen-year-old beauty agrees to marry the son of a duke she has known only three days, she’s instantly swept up in a whirlwind of British politics and the breathless social climbing of the Marlborough House Set, the reckless men who surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Raised to think for herself and careless of English society rules, the new Lady Randolph Churchill quickly becomes a London sensation: adored by some, despised by others.
Artistically gifted and politically shrewd, she shapes her husband’s rise in Parliament and her young son’s difficult passage through boyhood. But as the family’s influence soars, scandals explode and tragedy befalls the Churchills. Jennie is inescapably drawn to the brilliant and seductive Count Charles Kinsky—diplomat, skilled horse-racer, deeply passionate lover. Their affair only intensifies as Randolph Churchill’s sanity frays, and Jennie—a woman whose every move on the public stage is judged—must walk a tightrope between duty and desire. Forced to decide where her heart truly belongs, Jennie risks everything—even her son—and disrupts lives, including her own, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Breathing new life into Jennie’s legacy and the glittering world over which she reigned, That Churchill Woman paints a portrait of the difficult—and sometimes impossible—balance among love, freedom, and obligation, while capturing the spirit of an unforgettable woman, one who altered the course of history.
Praise for That Churchill Woman
“The perfect confection of a novel . . . We’re introduced to Jennie in all of her passion and keen intelligence and beauty. While she is surrounded by a cast of late-Victorian celebrities, including Bertie, Prince of Wales, it’s always Jennie who shines and takes the center stage she was born to.”—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue
This finely researched, sumptuous novel from Barron (The Jane Austen Mysteries) follows the journey of American heiress Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill. Socialite Jennie marries Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill at age 20 and almost immediately becomes one of British society's most talked-about beauties. Despite their shared passion for politics and Jennie's staunch belief in Randolph's ability to shape Britain's future, it's clear that Randolph's sexual appetites don't include Jennie or any other woman, she begins to fear. In a society where homosexuality and divorce are taboo, and affairs are commonplace, Jennie falls for Charles Kinsky, an Austrian count and diplomat. Far from a fling, Jennie and Charles's love spans decades and weathers multiple stops and starts. Yet despite its powerful romanticism and eroticism, their relationship is complex and realistic. Barron's commitment to detail and scope allows for illuminating flashbacks and references to actual family letters, which serve to flesh out Jennie's story with realism and empathy. Though set in a world of transatlantic Victorian splendor, the story is more concerned with the harrowing aspects of the era war, social ostracism, classism, and the sad state of public health. Presenting a fiercely intelligent, independent version of Jennie, this satisfying book actively pushes back against her historical reputation as a scandalous woman to great, consuming effect.
Customer ReviewsSee All
That Churchill Woman
An intense and provocative read that documents history but, much more importantly, brings to the reader the pain and pathos of Jennie’s life. I highly recommend it.
That Churchill Woman
This gorgeous novelized biography of Jennie Churchill presents a new view of Winston’s American-born mother that drew me from the start.
Written in lush language that holds the reader as close as a lover, it reveals a woman who is not the tart who slept with 200 men and shamelessly neglected her two children. But rather a brilliant beauty who skillfully advanced the career of her husband, Lord Randolph, who remained married to him despite his advancing syphilis, his homosexuality.
At the heart of the story is the star-crossed romance with soulmate Count Charles Kinsky. Oh how they loved each other! Oh how circumstances prevented their being together.
After Randolph’s death she went on to marry two other times. Upon learning of her second marriage, Kinsky sent her a black-bordered card with just three words in French: “Toujours en deuil. Always in mourning.”
One wonders what her life would have been like had she married Kinsky, how Winston’s might have altered.
We will never know. At 67, she broke her ankle tripping down the stairs in fashionable Italian high heels. Gangrene led to amputation of her leg above the knee, resulting in complications that killed her three weeks later.
I mourn this spirited woman who refused to be controlled by others, whose American nature gave her a sense of freedom that eluded her English female peers.
I thank her for birthing and inspiring a son, my favorite figure in history, who kept Western Civilization alive while England stood alone against Hitler.
I thank author Stephanie Barron for giving us Jennie in full resplendent glory!