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The American Heiress: A Novel Paperback – March 27, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Ms. Goodwin...writes deliciously. (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)

A propulsive story of love, manners, culture clash, and store-bought class from a time long past that proves altogether fresh. (Publishers Weekly)

Top-notch writing....will please fans of historical romance, including book club members. (Library Journal (starred review))

[An] exceptionally thoughtful and stunning historical novel that will leave you reeling and astonished...and give you the urge to re-read it the instant the last page is turned. (

Smart, emotional, entertaining writing....a delicious tale that captivates. (RT Book Reviews)

Deliciously classy. A story that gallops along, full of exquisite period detail. (Kate Mosse, New York Times bestselling author of Labyrinth)

Sparkling and thoroughly engaging...a highly enjoyable and intelligent read. (The Sunday Times (U.K.))

I was seduced by this book, rather as Cora was seduced by her duke: with great skill and confidence. Intriguing, atmospheric, and extremely stylish. (Penny Vincenzi, author of The Best of Times)

A wonderful, guilty pleasure of a read. The detailing is beautiful...and the relief of reading a novel that puts enjoyment first so rare and gratifying that I am ready for a sequel. (Amanda Foreman, New York Times bestselling author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and A World on Fire)

About the Author

DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University's film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London. The American Heiress is her first novel.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312658664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312658663
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (747 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

395 of 420 people found the following review helpful By FogCityBookGal VINE VOICE on June 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love and hate this book. It contains superb writing, but I'm sorry to say the story bummed me out. This is just as beautiful a book as the cover hints at, full of the lives of many different people of several classes. I enjoyed the first part of the book so much, I can barely bring myself to say that I didn't like it in the end.

Cora is a rich "new money" American girl who is pushed by her mother to find a titled husband in Europe. The time period and custom of classes seemed flawless and I really enjoyed seeing both the master and servant life. It has a sort of Titanic -like all encompassing view of life in the 1890's that explores much more than just Cora's life. Through the eyes of her black (but free) maid, Bertha, we get to see Cora from an outsiders viewpoint, which is rather fun.

The writer has an excellent command of language and style and I would give other works of hers a chance. Descriptive passages like, "The white limestone houses, clustered along the cliffs like a collection of wedding cakes..." are so beautiful, they really transport you into her scenes. Also, it is quite entertaining to see Cora's mother try to be the most extravagant but ultimately set herself ablaze at THE ball of the season.

In fact, there is nothing in the beginning of the book that would have warned me what I was getting into. By the middle of the book, I was so caught up in Cora's life that I felt protective of her and angry that she could not see the scandal being set up around her. With every comment Cora didn't catch and trick she fell for, I got angrier. I am not a fan of infidelity and this book seemed to say that no one could possibly live a life of monogamy. Every marriage is filled with deceit, flirtations with others, and unhappiness covered with plastic smiles.
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121 of 133 people found the following review helpful By Utah Mom VINE VOICE on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading Daisy Goodwin's novel American Heiress was a bit like reading a tabloid magazine about today's celebrities. In American Heiress, Cora Cash is one of the wealthiest American young women in the 1890's--the gilded age. Cora is already worth a fortune but her status-seeking mother schemes to marry her off to a titled but money-troubled English gentleman. Cora is OK with that plan if it means that she can escape her mother's control. The press and the admiring young fans crowd the streets for a glimpse of Cora at her elaborate wedding to Duke Wareham. Cora thrives on the attention but her wedding day is even more perfect because she has married for love.

However, is this highly educated and groomed young woman really ready for the stuffy and proper English gentility? And did her duke marry for love or money?

Goodwin's novel is a very entertaining read. I had a hard time putting it down to go to sleep each night this week. Reminding me of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence with it's decadence and moral themes, this novel is full of fresh plot twists and elegant but ultimately self-serving characters. Cora, while narcissistic and conceited, is so young and naive that I couldn't help but hope the best for her as she stumbles her way through the English protocol and the intrigue that awaits in her new life.

By turns romantic and tragic, American Heiress lured me in with details of the extravagant lifestyles of the extremely wealthy but captured and held my attention with a well-paced plot and fabulously delicious and devious characters. It's a "guilty pleasure" but not too guilty, because Goodwin is pretty good at keeping the details of the "bedroom" scenes brief and discreet.

This is one enthralling summer read.
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Rita Sydney on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't pick up this book expecting Henry James or Edith Wharton but really, for the most part this novel covers oh so familiar ground without any new twists.

Rich and unworldly, but outspoken American girl in England to marry a title. Mission accomplished but then she discovers qualities in M'Lord that leave her bewildered and unhappy.

Does the Duke love her or his ex-girlfriend? The plot revolves around this question.

There's an unstairs-downstairs element to the story as we watch the heiress' lady's maid (who is Black) experience the lack of color prejudice among her lower class peers.

The Duke is a totally cardboard character: His motivation at the beginning was not made clear and at the end it was tritely predictable. The heiress, then Duchess, is a bit more real though not very interesting. The lady's maid came off as the most fully realized and believable character.

I would have given this even fewer stars but there was at times some good dialogue between characters. Enough to keep me reading to the end.
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74 of 86 people found the following review helpful By The Kite on June 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For a full-length novel, I sure felt like a stranger to the characters by the end of the book. Of course, the fact that I made it to the end is something, because I am quite particular about my books and will NOT waste a minute on something I'm convinced has no potential. Turns out though, the "no potential" thing wasn't fully confirmed till the last page.
I found myself quite confused at Mrs. Daisy, our first time author. She is somehow simultaneously an excellent writer and painfully inadequate. Her attention to detail, the flow and rhythm of the book, setting the scene and overall mood were flawless. Unfortunately, the characters had little more depth, diversity or development than a paperback novel (think steamy cover, less than 150 pages and plenty of girly style porn - bleh). Sooooo we have a rich heiress, spoiled and wanting to be free. Ummm yep. That's pretty much all you ever learn about her. She honestly doesn't ever change or develop. She simply responds to what's around her. There is never a moment of introspection, never an added level to her personality. While we hear her thoughts constantly somehow she keeps us at arms length for the whole book - and not in an intriguing, mysterious way, just in a shallow, nope-that's-really-all-there-is-to-her way. Bertha is a cringe-worthy cliché. Steady, smart, flawless... yaaaaawn! When she decides to stay with Cora and not Jim at the end, her reasons are entirely out of character! She has not shown for a fraction of a second that she had any true connection or concern for Cora so it is quite bewildering that she suddenly, inexplicably thinks of her mistress as "her only family". Of course we have two one-dimensional mothers concerned only with themselves and their societies, not their children.
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