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American Duchess: A Novel of Consuelo Vanderbilt

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  6,433 ratings  ·  712 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 Ci
Paperback, 357 pages
Published February 26th 2019 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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Linda Wolfe I wondered the same thing, and the scarcity of research info in this book was its main downfall (for me). I found an article online (…moreI wondered the same thing, and the scarcity of research info in this book was its main downfall (for me). I found an article online ( that stated that once Gladys brought a revolver to dinner and set it on the table. When someone inquired why she had brought the gun she replied, "Oh, I don't know. I thought I might shoot Marborough." The same article said that as she mentally deteriorated, she threatened to shoot those who stole apples from her orchard (in France). I suspect the incident in the book with Consuelo was fabricated from those details. Since Harper doesn't give more info, that is just my speculation.(less)

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Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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 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
Jessica Johnson
Sep 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Her story was interesting but I felt like there was something missing. I still advise reading it if you love history novels. (Listened via Scribd)
The Lit Bitch
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What kinds of troubles can a young rich American beauty have? Well, young Consuelo Vanderbilt did not want to marry the English Duke her mother handpicked for her. Oh, the horror! She was rich and he had the title, so in the end, she was bullied into it even though she loved another man. Oh boy, the problems the rich have dont seem to be too awful to me but I guess everything is relative. In the end, as the feminist movement gained steamed, Consuelo asserted herself and lived the life she wanted ...more
Stephanie Anze
Apr 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
“The beauty here was luring but deceptive.”

Consuelo Vanderbilt is a beautiful bride. She is marrying Charles (Sunny) Spencer Churchill, the ninth Duke of Malborough. Their wedding is the event of the year. Behind her veil, Consuelo is shedding tears, but they are not tears of happiness. This is a marriage of convenience, not love: Consuelo will gain the title of Duchess while her new husband will earn the money he needs to fix his indebted Blenheim Palace. With no other choice, Consuelo becomes
Alison Brennan
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
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
Dallas Jo
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like it. I really did. It was rather predictable for the era and unfortunately read like a boring tabloid or Page 6. I did, however, learn some interesting tidbits about the Vanderbilts. 3 stars may be a bit harsh ... 3 3/4 seems more realistic.

There was one character who only played a minor role in the story but nevertheless has piqued my interest: the all too real Gladys Deacon. Thanks to this book, I do intend to look further into her long, convoluted story.
An enjoyable fictionalized account of the life of Consuelo Vanderbilt
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"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
Racine Zackula
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
Maureen Timerman
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 10, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Seems like every book I've tried to read this past week has not been very good. I'm a sucker for historical fiction, but this was too fluffy for me. The characters were weakly written and fairly flat, and the plot skimmed along without much substance to it. ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
2019; William Morrow Paperbacks/HarperCollins Canada

After the recent whirlwind romance of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the TV series, The Crown this novel seems to be published at the right time. The gorgeous cover drew me to this one, and I figured a Vanderbilt marrying a British royalty would at least be fun! I tried reading this one last month (eBook) and I didn't get beyond page 25. I then turned to audio and it helped me finish the novel.

One of my biggest concerns with
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I found this on my library’s “new” shelf at the same time as A Well-Behaved Woman, a novel about the life of Consuelo’s mother, Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont. Curiously, they have slightly different versions of the same stock photograph on the cover.

This book is lighter and less substantive than A Well-Behaved Woman, reading much like a romance novel. Perhaps this is partly because Consuelo was (or at least is portrayed here) as romantic by nature—she was, after all, so young when paraded aroun
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Saturday's Child
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
With a modern American Duchess awaiting the arrival of an heir, I waited patiently for my local library to advise me that this novel was ready for me to borrow. As with previous novels I have read by Karen Harper it took me no time at all to finish this one. From beginning to end I really enjoyed this fictional visit into the life of an interesting woman.
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

Guess my desire to have scads of wealth is over.

So sorry Consuelo Vanderbilt that your mother attempted to keep you in high society circles by purchasing a title for you via an unhappy marriage, and that your husband received an annual stipend for marrying you.

I am glad that your marriage of 15(?) years ended as an annulment so you could marry someone else -- good thing you had 2 children/heirs from that first marriage because but that doesn't matter when an annulmen
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Earlier this year I took my dream trip with my father to England and Scotland. We visited Blenheim Palace and I learned of Consuelo Vanderbilt and her life there. We also visited many sites telling of Winston Churchill's life. He too had ties to Blenheim Palace. So, reading this book was very fun as it is all about Consuelo's life and her accomplishments and of course her relationship with Winston is in here too! I enjoyed the book immensely and highly recommend it! ...more
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun read. It's a bit fluffed up as historical fiction but it was a lovely engrossing story. I hope the author stuck to the historical truth because it read much more like a autobiography than a novel, that said, it was a lovely quick read. ...more
Margaret Crampton
I really enjoyed this book and it provided insight into the the aristocracy: Churchill’s, Marlborough’s and Blenheim Palace and the mixed fortunes of Consuelo Vanderbilt who married the 9th Lord Marlborough and latterly remarried and lived in France during the Nazi occupation.
Ruth Chatlien
I wanted to like this. I wanted more of Consuelo’s inner life and transformation. Instead, fifty years was covered in a too-rushed fashion like one of those “see all of Europe in ten days” tours.

I blame the publisher more than the author because I know they have strict upper limits for books.
3.5 star
Mar 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
After reading a few chapters I was ready to lay this book aside. It seemed like some of the phrases used weren't consistent with the time period (e.g. "...he said in his usual effort to buck me up.") There were also repeated phrases like "I squared my shoulders as we sat." There were a lot of characters "squaring their shoulders!" So I went back to Goodreads reviews and was encouraged to keep reading.

I'm glad I did. Despite a mixture of older time period phrases like "He said naught else" and mo
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
Leslie Goddard
Dec 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really really really wanted to like this book. And I kept at it long after realizing it wasn’t working for me. But I finally gave up. At about 80% of the way through, I realized it was better to just read the Wikipedia article about her life.

The thing is, Consuelo Vanderbilt’s story is amazing. This incredibly wealthy young woman who was literally forced into a marriage that made her a real life Duchess. It’s an incredible story.

And I didn’t think it was possible to make her story flat and bo
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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

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