America’s wealthiest heiress, Cora Cash, is on the hunt for a titled husband in England. Though it seems not much will get in the way of her wealth, beauty or indomitable mother, the transition to English culture is not as easy as they thought.
A tempting cover and comparisons to Downton Abbey originally drew me to The American Heiress, a story set in the Gilded Age (late 1860’s-1896). It was an interesting era I had never read about before; when the United States had huge economic booms which resulted in some enormously rich people known for their ostentatious display of wealth. In England the restrictions of the Victorian Age were just beginning to loosen which served well for wealthy American girls searching for a titled man across the pond.
Cora was captivating, rising above the two-dimensional heroines all too common in historical fictions. She desires to be free of the restraints of a domineering mother, and sees marriage as her key to this future. While spoiled and reveling in her popularity, we still see the young lady underneath who wants nothing but to live her life to the fullest. But while she was an intriguing character, she fell short of the strong-female role author Daisy Goodwin intended her for.
Though this book was, of course, not on the same level as a Jane Austen, Goodwin was genuinely able to capture the time period and strict English customs in her debut novel. While Cora is the novel’s central character, Goodwin also explores some other POV’s which bring some added depth to the story. But despite Goodwin’s skill, the book had a poorly drawn plot that while somehow keeping your rapt attention, was continually disappointing. Though the characters were intriguing, their relationships were confusing, and the story seemed to drive towards an intense climax that was instead rather odd and stinted.
Cora’s love interest, the Duke, is a sort of perplexing character you never seem to get a hold of- which is where the book really fails. And it is such a shame because despite all the pitfalls, this book had so much potential. Goodwin had some lovely touches in this novel, but despite falling short of its mark, I’m still glad I wasn’t dragged through a thoughtless bodice-ripper.