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The American Heiress    by Daisy Goodwin order for
American Heiress
by Daisy Goodwin
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

A beautifully written work, The American Heiress presents a very knowledgeable view of the inevitable clash when raw but rich Americans must interact with impoverished but self-assured British aristocracy in the 19th century.

Cora Cash's family is so rich they can hand out cigarettes made up of one hundred dollar bills as a party favor. Cora's mother will have her way: when Cora marries, the groom must be titled. So off to England they go, and reluctant though Cora is, she manages to become a duchess. How she does this and how she manages to survive despite many social blunders forms the heart of the story. There is also an interesting side story about Cora's maid, a mulatto, as she tries to get her bearings in the old world: 'Bertha wondered what she disliked most: to be noticed for her colour as in America or to be ignored for her class.'

Daisy Goodwin does a pitch-perfect job with the dialog throughout. She depicts the raw undercurrents of this particular British society, all the superficiality that masks the secrets that could be the social undoing of many of the characters, yet at the same time makes it possible for us to sympathize with each one. Above all, it is Cora who captivates. She rises above American caricature and British expectation by remaining true to herself and being willing to learn. As the Duke says at the end of a very satisfying story, 'Before you came I lived in a world of secrets and lies, but you aren't like that, you live in the light.'

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