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American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  318 ratings  ·  84 reviews
Before Meghan and Harry, another American ‘princess’ captured the hand of an English aristocrat. Now, Karen Harper tells the tale of Consuelo Vanderbilt, her “The Wedding of the Century” to the Duke of Marlborough, and her quest to find meaning behind “the glitter and the gold.”

On a cold November day in 1895, a carriage approaches St Thomas Episcopal Church on New York Cit
ebook, 368 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  318 ratings  ·  84 reviews

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Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
AMERICAN DUCHESS tales the fictional story of Consuelo Vanderbilt. In 1895 Consuelo wed the Duke of Marlborough. This was not a love match; she was already in love with another man. She only went to the altar after being bullied relentlessly by her mother, Alva. The marriage was a business deal— the Vanderbilt money for a title and the prestige that comes with the title. And, it could have all ended there. She could have stayed subdued like many other women in her class. However, Consuelo finds ...more
The Lit Bitch
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

This novel I happened to see on one of my friend’s Instagram and had immediate book envy! I absolutely love the cover and the novel itself sounded so intriguing!

Let me just rave about this cover art for just a moment. The orange hues are incredible and if I was walking thru a bookstore and saw this book, I would instantly grab it. The cover art is elegant and appealing, especially to a reader who loves this era (like me).

So, as it happened, I shamelessly begged for a copy of this book b
Dallas Jo
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been fascinated by the Vanderbilts and Blenheim Palace since the first time I visited Britain in the seventies. The American Duchess is entertaining and educational. I found myself searching for information to further my reading experience.

I strongly recommend this novel. I enjoyed The Royal Nanny, too and feel historical fiction is Karen Harper's forte. Can’t wait to share this novel.
Maureen Timerman
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I enjoyed this historical fiction story of Consuelo Vanderbilt and we walk in her shoes as she journeys her life, and although being born with the preverbal silver spoon, we see her trials and accomplishments up close through the eyes of the author.
Now I’ll admit I did Google Consuelo, and the story follows the time line, only we are with her and her thoughts.
What a life this woman lived, and loved how she was able to forgive those who had hurt her, and was always giving to those less fortunate.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
"American Duchess" is the fascinating story of Consuelo Vanderbilt of the American Vanderbilts (yes, those ones!) who already lives a fairy tale life in the United States as part of one of the storied families of the Gilded Age. When she marries the Duke of Marlborough, her star rises even higher on both sides of the Atlantic. But this rise also feels more like a gilded cage than a gilded opportunity and Consuelo will have to work hard to cut out the life that she desires for herself.

Consuelo i
The Library Lady
This author apparently has a wide following, and if you like fluffed up historical fiction, you'll probably be a fan.

If on the other hand you like a little more than cardboard characters and weak dialogue--if you like books that are based on REAL people that make you feel as if you'd met them, and want to read more about them, just leave this one alone and move on.

P.S. Edith Wharton makes a cameo appearance here, and talks about writing a book she will call "The Buccaneers." She never finished i
Racine Zackula
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
I am an Anglophile and love historical fiction, so this book description is right up my alley. Consuelo Vanderbilt was someone I had never read about and the "dollar brides" era is interesting as American heiresses went over to Europe to acquire the sheen of royalty. It was an okay read but after a while, the author's style of "telling" and not "showing" wore on me. Consuelo is in a loveless marriage, so show me how bad her husband was. Beauty surrounded her, but it was not vividly painted with ...more
MaryBeth's Bookshelf
Historical fiction is my favorite genre, especially when it contains The Gilded Age, family money, and England. American Duchess is the story of Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was forced (literally) by her mother Alva to marry the Duke of Marlborough. It was the "in" thing during this time for American Heiresses to jump the pond to find husbands with titles. I found the book interesting, but it went so fast, barely delving into the characters and their lives. It read a bit like a romance that had some ...more
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. It leads to learning more about the subject matter and characters after a fictional introduction. This books offers some interesting information about the practice of arranging marriages between British royalty and American wealth, in this case Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough. Blenheim Palace is often in the current news, and the descriptions of its interior were fascinating. I found the characters, however, to be one-dimensional a ...more
Shari Suarez
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story is pretty timely with Meghan Markle becoming an American duchess which will draw interest from readers. It will also draw interest because it's well-written and the subject is fascinating.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Summary: The settings and the main character were wonderful, but the writing was uneven.

Consuelo Vanderbilt's marriage to the Duke of Marlborough looked like a fairy tale from the outside. In reality, she was in love with someone else and apprehensive about moving to another country. She quickly decides to make the best of things though. Facing down her husband's disapproval, she uses her wealth and influence to give to charity and improve the lives of others. In the process, she gains many frie
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating fictionalized biography / memoir of Consuelo Vanderbilt, one of many American heiresses who were married to British (and European) aristocrats who slowly, or quickly, going broke in the late nineteenth century.

Karen Harper brings to life this charming and strong-willed woman, a woman of money and substance. She makes readers fall in love with Consuelo Vanderbilt through her passion for life and for others. Told in the first person, the reader feels as though Consuelo Vanderbilt is
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt
by Karen Harper

As the 19th century ended, the great aristocratic families of the UK began to struggle. A number disappeared, ruined by their expensive lifestyles, and the depression in agriculture – an estate’s lifeblood – while others such as the Churchill's hung on for dear life.

On a cold November day in 1895, a carriage approaches St Thomas Episcopal Church on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. Massive crowds surge forward, awaiting their glimpse of
#freebook Thank you @williammorrowbooks @harpercollinsus for this copy to review.

Perhaps Consuelo Vanderbilt was one of figures of the Gilded Age who deserved the most sympathy. Her mother Alva, famously married her off to the 9th Duke of Marlborough in exchange for a title. The Duke leapt at the chance to marry a rich American heiress to boost his sagging wealth and in order to maintain his estate Blenheim Palace. Consuelo, just 18 years old and in love with another man, was late to wedding and
Joan Happel
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Harper’s sweeping and engaging story of the life of Consuelo Vanderbilt will draw you in with the first lines. Consuela is forced by her mother, the ambitious Alva Vanderbilt, into a loveless marriage with Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill (known as Sunny to all), this biographical novel spans the dawn of the Gilded-Age to World War II. One of the so-called “Dollar Princesses”, Consuela’s marriage brings a fortune to Sunny for his beloved Blenheim and a title for Consuela to please her soci ...more
Lynn Horton
Since I finished A Well Behaved Woman (about Consuelo Vanderbilt's mother, Alva), I decided to follow up with American Duchess. I have to say that I strongly prefer Fowler's style of writing to Harper's, although it was nice to bookend the mother-daughter fictional accounts since many of the characters carried over. I realize that it's probably hard to create a viable story from a historic character, so cut Ms. Harper some slack. But I really couldn't engage with her writing style, or the charac ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the story of the real Consuelo Vanderbilt, one of the rich American heiresses matched or sold to titled money poor Brits. Her mother, Alva, forced her to marry the Duke of Marlborough, even though Consuelo was secretly engaged to Win, of a New York banking family. The book follows her story through 1943. She actually died in 1964 at the age of 87.
This was an interesting look at life of the Uber-wealthy in NY, Newport, England and France during both World Wars and the time in between. I f
Sandi *~The Pirate Wench~*
I really wanted to like this book, as I don't know too much about the Vanderbit's, but I couldn't connect whatsoever with Consuelo as the character nor her story.
It just seemed liked she never did anything wrong, and a lot of pieces of the story and time period seemed to be missing.
All of a sudden she has bobbed hair or this event or that situation happened without the how and why?
Her story read more like a "fluffed up" historical fiction.
With all these great reviews I had such high hopes..alas
Kathy Schlecht
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! I live in NC near the Biltmore House, which Consuelo's uncle built, so that made it even more interesting for me. I recommend this book to see what life was like during "The Gilded Age."
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting read, though I felt a little bored sometimes. I was intrigued by Consuelo Vanderbilt and her story, though. I finished it because I wanted to know what happened.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
American Duchess, A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt, by Karen harper
After reading Therese Fowler’s “A Well-Behaved Woman”, about Alma Vanderbilt, Consuelo’s overbearing mother, I eagerly awaited reading this book, which I hoped would fill in the spaces on the life of Consuelo.
Overall, I got the impression that Consuelo was immature, but since she was married in her teens, it was to be expected. Brought up with all the class money could buy, I found her to often be shallow and selfish, taking advan
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Consuelo Vanderbilt is a beautiful young girl in love during the springtime of her life. But her strong-willed mother, Alva, does not want Consuelo to marry her true love and has her sights set much higher. Alva has decided Consuelo must marry to build her family’s prestige using their wealth to entice a titled suitor. Alva takes Consuelo on a European tour and Consuelo meets the Duke of Marlborough, the only non-royal in England to own a palace. Consuelo is horrified to discover that her mother ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love learning about different aspects of history, whether they be important events or just about different people through time. I knew absolutely nothing about Consuelo Vanderbilt going into my reading of this book so it was exciting to be introduced to this tiny tidbit of American/English history.

Consuelo is the daughter of an overbearing mother and a very, very rich father. Her mother is determined that her daughter will marry well and to that end she takes her on a tour of Europe in search
Feb 27, 2019 rated it liked it
If you remember, a few months ago, I did a review of a book titled 'A Well Behaved Woman' by Therese Anne Fowler, which was about Alva Vanderbilt. This book sort of continues the story by focusing on Consuelo, Alva's daughter. Alva features heavily, of course, she and Consuelo were very close, even though some might say Alva was a bit of an over-domineering b*tch at times. Granted, she wanted the best for her daughter, but you definitely find yourself saying, "Girl, you have GOT to chill!" Yet, ...more
Victoria Colotta
Mar 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
My Highly Caffeinated Thought: A stunningly written tale of loss, love, and a bit of gumption seen through the eyes of one woman.

AMERICAN DUCHESS is the inside look into a world few can truly understand. Harper brings to life Consuelo Vanderbilt for her readers by melding together the historical elements of the 19th century with heart and drama fit for…well…a Duchess.

One of the things the author brings to the forefront is the place of women. She not only tackles their roles in both families as
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Consuelo Vanderbilt was brought up strict by her socialite mother, Alva. Taught all the things a society lady was supposed to know, and confined to a corset with a steel rod in the back to make sure her posture was perfect, she was expected to marry well and provide heirs to continue the line. When the Duke of Marlborough showed some interest, a deal- strictly a business deal- was made: Consuelo would get to be an English duchess, and the Duke would get the money he needed to save his palace and ...more
Connie Fischer
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Wedding of the Century - November 6, 1895

Miss Consuelo Vanderbilt, age 18, is miserable as she prepares for her wedding day to marry Sunderland (Sunny), the ninth Duke of Marlborough, age 24, of Blenheim Palace. Consuelo’s mother, Alva Vanderbilt, is currently divorcing her father and is insisting that she marry a titled man, thus providing him with money he desperately needs. As much as she does not want to go through with the wedding, she has no other choice.

Two Years Earlier

At age 16, Con
Alison Brennan
I really wanted to like this book as this time period fascinates me, and I have loved touring Blenheim and the Newport cottages. But I just couldn’t. There was so much left unexplained and presumably pivotal years jumped over. We all know the basic story of Consuelo Vanderbilt; one of the first of the American heiresses married into British aristocracy. We know the marriage was one she didn’t want and was forced on her by her ambitious mother. One of my main frustrations with the book is that it ...more
Robin Brennan
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle (Champ)
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I have seen photos of Consuelo and she was a vision of loveliness. I was super excited to get this book because of the photos I had seen because I knew nothing about her. When I read the book, I did not like the mother. A typical woman that pushes her child into something that she doesn't want to do (marriage) for status and a title. A common move in those times, but I still hate it. Time seemed to move at a regular pace after the marriage but escalated after that. I am not sure I ...more
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A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen and her husband Don divide their time between the midwest and the southeast, both locations she has used in her books. Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scott ...more