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Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad Paperback – February 28, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Marianne, Louisa, Bess, and Emily Caton were heiresses of the early 19th century with impeccable American breeding. Three of them sailed to England, married aristocrats, and left a legacy of public success, financial savvy, and an independence worthy of their family's heritage: their grandfather, a wealthy planter, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Wake (Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter) details the sisters' formative years with their grandfather Charles Carroll, their early favorable impression in England, and their high-status marriages. Although the sisters were sometimes labeled fortune seekers, Wade proves that their intelligence and diplomacy often improved the positions of their husbands, including Emily, who married a Canadian and eventually returned to Maryland. In between descriptions of parties in Regency England and post-Restoration France and intimate pre-Victorian royal relationships, the Catons' deep interest in financial ventures, improving acceptance of Catholicism, their founding of orphanages, and their intense familial relationships support Wake's assertion that these remarkable women successfully negotiated unpopular issues that might have ruined lesser women. In Wake's hands, the sisters still dazzle, blending continental influences with their enviable but heartbreaking adventures in England and France. 16 pages of color and 16 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Sisters of Fortune ... is a stylish piece of scholarship that revivifies the nineteenth-century blue-blooded world of the Maryland-born Caton siblings ... illuminating these educated, well-traveled women’s flair for diplomacy, finance, fashion, and intriguing courtships.” --Elle

“In Wake's hands, the sisters still dazzle, blending continental influences with their enviable but heartbreaking adventures in England and France.” --Publishers Weekly

“A fascinating tale . . . [Wake] succeeds in tracing ‘the filmy threads of women’s influence’ in high society on both sides of the Atlantic through more than six decades, using the Caton sisters’ lives as touchstones.. . . [A] comprehensive account of four strong-willed sisters’ adventures in ‘another world’ they confidently made their own.” –New York Times Book Review

“An extraordinary tale of four wealthy, clever women who were ahead of their time. . . . A groundbreaking, feminist biography.” -The Daily Beast

“A meticulously researched, highly readable narrative ... This fascinating book yields rich insights into a world where wealth gave certain women unprecedented access to power and influence.” --Library Journal

“I found Sisters of Fortune absolutely fascinating . . . I could not have enjoyed it more. I envy the people who have still to read it." – Julian Fellowes
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (February 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451607636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451607635
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

This book looks very interesting, but it is a Christmas gift.
Martha E. R. Eamy
I enjoyed the book but found it too detailed with the many personalities involved in the story.
Sheilagh Hammond
I would recommend it to anyone interested in early Maryland history.
K. Wieman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Affluent Maryland planter Charles Carroll signed the declaration of Independence as the only Catholic to do so. Two score and one decade after he signed, three of his granddaughters (Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Caton) invaded London and took the country by storm in spite of being Catholic "colonists" and expected to wed the plantation owning crowd. Emily remained in North America where she married a Canadian heir to a large Montreal company John McTavish and managed the family Maryland properties. The trio quickly stormed the bastion of the Duke of Wellington who adored them and welcomed them into high society. He especially cherished Marianne who he could not marry so she wed his brother the Marquess Wellesley, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Louisa married and became the Duchess of Leeds and a favorite of Queen Victoria; while Bess married an aristocrat but also made a fortune on the stock market.

This is a terrific historical biography that focuses on the four granddaughters of a little known Founding father. The quartet overcame bias by applying wit and intelligence that improved not just their lot but that of their families. Readers will enjoy attending the late upper crust soiree with the four Caton sisters as their guides. Photos and maps enhance a strong look at women who used their brains and beauty to make it in a man's world.

Harriet Klausner
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robin Goeman on September 24, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found myself unable to put this down. I saw such parallels to our current political and economical climate, the feminist issues intrigued me, and the personal story and charm of the Caton sisters was very compelling. It did at times get bogged down in details of English parliamentary politics. Sometimes it was hard to keep the characters straight among those whose Caton gossip was used to flesh out the story. And, as always, reading something heavily annotated or with illustrations is a pain in the neck on my 1st Gen Kindle. Nevertheless, in primarily ignoring the footnotes, I didn't feel like I was missing out on much. If a reader were more familiar with their Brit history, I'm sure this would be particularly interesting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Novel Chatter on June 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Yes! Here's another non-fiction book that I am crazy about! Go figure. Sisters in Fortune author Jehanne Wake has beautifully sifted through the Caton sisters' private letters to mold a fascinatingly hypnotic true story of four women, Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Emily Caton, easily ahead of their time!

Wake's ability to craft a very readable story is evident from the first page. These were amazing women living in amazing times historically and Wake never lets their story drag or become dull. Just the opposite! Historical books can be fun! We read about the social mores and fashions of the time, we read about life inside Britain's royal enclave and we read about the sister who does something unheard of for the time...she speculates and succeeds in the stock market.

I loved this book and have shared it with friends, I'd love for everyone to know what these Caton sisters accomplished in the time way before women were allowed to vote. Wake has written an engaging and riveting book, I highly recommend this one! And just to remind women of what we are capable of doing...give it as a gift to everyone on your list!

4 1/2 of 5 stars!

This galley was provided to me by the publisher and in no way affected my review.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Cup of Tea Lady on July 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fabulous historical non-fiction novel of power, politics and money. While turning page after page, I was struck how much the political atmosphere of 200 years ago resembles the political atmosphere of today. The intrigues of yesteryear are no different to the scandals splashed across the internet 'newspapers' of today. Time, technology and fashion may change but people remain ever the same! Family dynamics are also the same -- this one felt jilted in the will and that one retained all the family money, this one was an alcoholic and that one made bad investments and lost money (apparently the worst affront of all). The laws regarding women, inheritance and marriage are of particular note since the girls' grandfather made sure to circumvent the standards of the time so the girls would be provided for directly. Still and yet, when they married, control over money changed. The beginning is a bit muddled -- figuring out the family tree when so many of the men were named Carroll but after that bit, when the grand-daughters appear, the fun begins. Enjoy! 5-stars for research and readability. Fascinating!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Curious Dame on April 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jehanne Wake's Sisters of Fortune is a biographical book about the lives of four sisters: Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Emily Caton. Granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton who signed the Declaration of Independence and a Senator Maryland, they were born into a world of wealth and politics.

Of the four sisters, Marianne was the most beautiful and is depicted foremost on the cover. Suffering with asthma, she travelled to the more humid climate of England for health reasons accompanied by her sisters Marianne, Bess, and Louisa. Their sister Emily remained behind.

Needless to say, the sisters took English society by storm and they soon found love, married, while causing a few scandals along the way. Marianne, the great beauty of the trio, married the Marquess Richard Wellesly and became Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Adelaide. Louisa married twice. Her first husband was Colonel Felton Hervey whom she deeply loved. When he died, she married Lord Carmarthen, a future Duke of Leeds. And last, but not least, Bess also found herself married to nobility - George Jerningham, Baron of Costessey Hall.

Beyond capturing the women's lives, the book does not shy away from depicting anti-American sentiments by the British. When reading the book, it becomes readily apparent that author Jeanne Wake did an incredible amount of research, much of it based on actual letters written amongst Caton family members. It is an incredible story of three educated American women who were able to influence European politics and managed handled financial affairs - rare indeed during the early 18th century. A fascinating, detailed, memoir about three women who reigned victorious under difficult social and gender-based restrictions!
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