American Duchess! An Interview with Karen Harper

Amer Duch final coverby Mary Jo

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 Karen's Mira photoPalace 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.

Consuelo portraitIn 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.

 

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