I'm delighted to welcome Karen Harper to the Word Wenches again! She is a wonderful, and wonderfully prolific, writer of historical novels, mysteries, and so much more, and she is here to tell us about her just released novel, American Duchess, the story of Consuelo Vanderbilt, which has been chosen by Women's Day Magazine as one of the 10 Most Anticipated Books of 2019.
Over to you, Karen!
“Everyone was calling it the wedding of the century. I was calling it the worst day of my life.”
This quote is not from a tabloid article or scandal mag but rather the opening lines of my historical novel AMERICAN DUCHESS, told by Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American Duchess of the Gilded Age. After reading about Consuelo in the fascinating non-fiction book To Marry An English Lord by MacColl and Wallace and visiting Blenheim Palace in England, I knew she would make a fabulous main character. I had earlier toured a massive so-called “cottage” of her family in Newport, Rhode Island.
Consuelo, Duchess of Marlborough, became the poster girl for the shocking practice of ‘Dollar Brides’ or ‘Dollar Princesses.’ These were young women from rich American families who were (forcibly, in her case) wed to titled Englishmen so that they could replenish dwindling fortunes to save their grand estates. Remember, Cora, Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey was a ‘dollar bride,’ albeit one with a happy marriage.
In 18-year-old Consuelo’s case, her social-climbing mother bargained with the 9th Duke of Marlborough to make her daughter his duchess in exchange for much Vanderbilt money so that he could repair and enhance his heritage of vast Blenheim Palace. It hardly mattered that the bride was in love with someone else and that the duke disliked America and Americans.
Consuelo’s New York City marriage was dubbed the wedding of the century. Perhaps the 60-piece orchestra, 54-voiced choir singing 'O Perfect Love' and 4000 guests did make it undisputedly that. Consuelo moved to her new home of 187 rooms under acres of roof on what was then still operated like a feudal estate. Talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous! Yet Consuelo found ways to live her own life and help others. And, fortunately for an author who also likes to write and read great love stories, she managed to find and wed (in a small, private but joyous wedding) the love of her life.
If the Dollar Brides fascinate you as much as they did me, the Smithsonian channel has an entire series, Million Dollar American Princesses, in which Consuelo is featured. A clip of her wedding as depicted in the show can be seen there.
And just Googling Consuelo Vanderbilt or the 9th Duchess of Marlborough brings up amazing paintings and photos of this fabulous woman. The one included here is of the duke, Consuelo and their heir and a spare which hangs at Blenheim. By the way, the photo of Blenheim below is from the guidebook I bought there. It has the center crease in it, but it’s the best overall pic I have.
Here's a longer excerpt of the book for you to enjoy.
Please comment before midnight Saturday for a chance to win an autographed copy of AMERICAN DUCHESS. (US only)
You can visit Karen at www.KarenHarperAuthor.com or www.facebook.com/KarenHarperAuthor
MJP: Thanks so much, Karen. I've read the book, and can testify that it is one terrific story! Here's the picture from Karen's guidebook. Truly it is a palace!