AMERICAN DUCHESS - Karen Harper
A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt
United States, England, France - Early 20th Century
Consuelo Vanderbilt tells us her story in this intriguing, and poignant tale of a mother wanting the prestige of being related to royalty, and a poverty-stricken duke who only wants to save his heritage and produce an heir.
At the age of eighteen, Consuelo Vanderbilt, heiress to William K. Vanderbilt, American tycoon, was wed to the Duke of Marlborough, known to all as Sunny. It was Consuelo's mother, Alva, who forced the union. For Sunny, marrying an heiress was a way to save his beloved family home, Blenheim Palace. Consuelo was helpless to stop the wedding, even though she loved another man.
Even from their earliest meeting, it was clear to Consuelo that Sunny was only marrying her for the money her parents promised to give him. She was lost in the vast palace at Blenheim and struggled to be the duchess Sunny required. Thankfully, she had some of his relatives, including Winston Churchill, who became a life-long friend, to assist her in her duties. As far as Sunny was concerned, restoring Blenheim was more important than almost anything, except providing a male heir.
Consuelo worked hard to fit in, and soon she made friends with the royals, traveled, and began to devote herself to charity work in the small village surrounding Blenheim. She became known as the village angel for her down-to-earth and caring personality. Sunny could have cared less. They lived separate lives almost from the beginning, even after she produced "an heir and a spare" for him. Devoted to her sons, yet she yearned for a more fulfilling emotional life.
AMERICAN DUCHESS is a beautifully written, well researched tale of a by-gone day. Consuelo was well known to Newport and New York society, and her elevation to duchess was hailed by those who put class above all. But to Consuelo, it was a stepping stone to helping others, and to eventually find true love and happiness. I highly recommend this lovely book.