Title: The American Heiress
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publisher/Price: St. Martin's Griffin / $9.53 here
Genre: Historical Romance
Number of pages: 496
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Overview: Be careful what you wish for. 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 Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.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.
My thoughts: So, I don't read much from the historical romance genre. I tend to go for more historical fiction with a tiny bit of romance type stuff, and this book reminded me why. My thoughts can be quite easily summed up: ugh. I don't regret buying it – it was like 50 cents at a library book sale – and I don't really regret reading it, if only because it took so little time and reminded me why I don't read historical romance. But I did read it, and I promised to review it, so prepare yourselves for a slightly rant-y, mostly negative review.
I wasn't expecting much at all going into this, but I wasn't expecting to dislike it as much as I did. However, before I go into all of that, I will say that this book is a page-turner, and was kind of hard to put down, and I finished it pretty quickly (which did not surprise me). But it did keep me interested and hooked (albeit annoyed) through the end – I will give it that. Now we'd better just dive in, or this will take forever.
First of all, I will admit that I enjoyed this book kind of a lot right up until she met the duke guy. He was a jerk – but I'm getting ahead of myself. I enjoyed the main character, Cora, and thought she was pretty cool. She was in America, waiting for the rest of her life to unfold (which hinged on her getting hitched to a rich dude with a title), and she was a bit sassy and fairly unconventional for her time and place in history – though she retained her ridiculous obsession with vast amounts of ridiculous-sounding clothing. She was filthy rich throughout the book – like the richest girl in New York City, and that's saying a lot for turn of the twentieth century NYC high society – and I got a little tired of hearing about her clothes. Like come on, already! But I enjoyed her character up until she met the duke and actually kind of liked her. But now I don't because of what happened after she met the duke. (FYI, he ruined everything) Also, before we move on, I want to make the point that I wouldn't have and still wouldn't like to read a book all about Cora only – she was far too annoying and spoiled (even when I did like her) – to endure an entire novel solely about her.
And then, because I was destined not to like this book, we meet the duke. From the outset, this guy just sends off so many bells and whistles and alarms and red lights and all of that. He's that weird/creepy/totally untrustworthy combination of mysterious and moody and secretive and rich and sensitive and intriguing and he also has a title, so of course our "not totally awful" heroine has to go and fall in love with him because yeah. And then he proceeds to ruin the rest of the book. Basically. But seriously, any sensible girl without a mother who wants nothing more in life than for her daughter to become the richest girl ever with a title so she can live vicariously through her, would turn and run. But alas, our heroine is not sensible and her mom doesn't actually care about Cora at all, but about what Cora could be and how that would make her mother look. If you haven't figured it out already, Cora has a very messed up family situation. But that doesn't excuse her lack of sensibility.
Okay, so let's move onto the duke and why he ruined everything. Well, if all the attributes of him I mentioned earlier don't convince you of that, I will proceed to talk you through all of the ways.
First of all, he is the most hormonal man I have ever met in fiction or in real life. Ever. Like, what is even happening? He has mood swings like a woman and he is ridiculously sensitive. Whenever Cora tried to do something nice for him, he would inevitably be crazy offended because she overlooked or didn't know about some British tradition or something. That got suuuuuper old. Dude, she is a rich American girl who is just trying to be kind and doesn't know the first thing about British tradition – give her a break. He would be all moody and distant and cold for a few days after each incident and then come back and be all like in love with Cora and brush it off before she offended him again. He reminded me of a whiny two-year-old. Second, right from the beginning of their relationship, there was such a heavy hinting that he had some "dark secret" that you end up expecting it to be a huge thing that totally makes sense of his total awfulness – except that it doesn't. The ending was kind of a sad reward for dealing with him the entire book. I wanted it to redeem him somehow, but it didn't really. It just made him seem more pathetic.
Problem #3 that the duke caused has to be the ruining of Cora's character, because he did that too. Very soon after their marriage, she starts catering to him like I couldn't believe. She is in love with him, even if he's not in love with her (he totally married her for money, even though he claimed he didn't – we aren't dumb), and so she gives up her independence and her happiness because she feels like she's not making him happy or that he has these dark secrets and because he always seems to be angry with her. And eventually, the Cora we met in New York fades away and she becomes super uninteresting and pathetic and we kind of stop caring about her because we can't pity her or empathize with her. By the end of the book, I no longer cared what happened to her. And so the duke ruins the one character I actually cared about. Which is a shame, because if she had retained her strong personality and individuality, I would have disliked this book less.
Also, I already talked about their relationship a little bit, but by halfway through the book, I was so tired of the back and forth between them. The totally in love parts, and then a lot of selfishness, pride, and non-openness. And I'm sorry, but not only will those things ruin a marriage, but no one wants to read about that. Sorry.
Finally, I want to touch on the writing. I felt like the writing was appropriate for the book. It wasn't anything special or noteworthy, but it wasn't bad and I even noticed some really nice phrases and descriptions and metaphors here and there. Don't read this book for the writing, but it wasn't bad at all.
And one more thing. If you are a fan of historical romance, and enjoy this time period (there are quite a few period bits in here if you care to look) and don't mind guys who are annoying, then this might just be the book for you. It's a crazy-easy read: really light and fluffy (which is not my thing at all), but if that's your thing or you're on the hunt for a fluffy book, then you might just like this one. It would probably make a good beach read because it's a page-turner and because it takes minimal brain power.
And I could say a lot more about this book, but I won't because this is very long and I have already ranted a lot.
Overall, this book wasn't horrible, I just didn't enjoy the characters and they got pretty annoying. But hey, it might just be the book for you. And I totally think this author knows how to write historical romance – I don't doubt that – but this just wasn't the book (or the genre) for me.
And that concludes this month's reviews! Stay tuned for a slightly different posting routine for May and thanks for reading! xo, Ella