Genre: Historical fiction
Review in a word: Inspiring
The visiting hour was almost over, so the hummingbird man encountered only the occasional carriage as he pushed his cart along the narrow strip of road between the mansions of Newport and the Atlantic Ocean.
American heiress and renowned beauty Cora Cash goes to England to buy the only thing she doesn’t have: a title. She happens to be injured on the grounds of Duke Ivo Maltravers of Wareham, whose crumbling mansion is in desperate need of a rich heiress. Within a week, they are engaged. But is the marriage for love, as Cora believes? As Cora settles into the cold stone house and attempts to assimilate to the hostile British society, the secrets of the Duke’s past begin to surface and test the strength of their marriage.
I loved Cora. Her character development is beautiful—the reader sees her transform from a spoiled, naive belle into a truly majestic duchess. She reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara, with all of the gumption and spunk that Americans are known for, and which cause the British much chagrin. The humiliating mistakes she makes in front of the upper crust British are painful to watch, but endear you to her all the more. This is a case of epic cultural misunderstanding—and the British are not forgiving. But Cora triumphs anyway and wins their hearts.
The Duke is a much harder character to understand. His secretiveness goes beyond typical British reticence. I sympathized with Cora because it would be very hard to love and be faithful in her circumstances. I loved, though, that this book was one of the first I’ve read in a long time in which a marriage actually succeeds in spite of the outside forces trying to rip it apart.
One of my favorite parts was a secondary plot line, that of Bertha, Cora’s black maid. After the racism she experiences in America, Bertha finds love and equality for herself in the Duke’s valet, Jim, who falls breathlessly in love with her. Their whole romance is so incredibly sweet.
“Cash. I am Cora Cash. I am very rich. I have a flour fortune, not flower you can smell but flour you make bread with. Bread, you know, is the staff of life. Would you like to kiss me? Most men want to, but I am just too rich.” (40)
She saw with alarm that Cora’s shoulders were sagging. It was imperative that the girl kept her head. She must take charge of the situation now or take years to recover her position… And to her great relief, she saw the young woman pull herself upright, and with her head tilted at an angle calculated to charm, she rejoined the party. (300)
Yes, definitely. This story, with its upstairs/downstairs perspectives, will especially appeal to Downton Abbey fans. But overall, this book incorporates mystery, drama, and plain good storytelling.