I read “The American Heiress” a few weeks ago, and I still can’t decide whether or not I really enjoyed it. On the one hand I did because it immersed me in the world of “Downton Abbey” again with its cast of upstairs and downstairs characters and talk of heiresses and the debate of marrying for love versus money. On the other hand, by the end of the book, most characters were still a mystery to me. I didn’t feel as if I got to know any of them well, and whether that was intentional on the part of the author, I don’t know. It makes for uncomfortable reading, though, because when you don’t know a character, it’s harder to trust them.
The story centers around a fabulously rich American girl who travels to England to find a titled husband and ends up almost literally landing in the lap of a Duke. They are quickly engaged, she for love, and he for what her money can do for his crumbling estate. Cora is passionate, headstrong, and very intelligent. These traits all stand her in good stead as she has to learn the customs of a society that is wholly different from her native one. This was one of the more interesting parts of the book. I was aware (especially after just having watched “Downton Abbey”) that American money was often looked down upon by the upper crust of British society, but I had no idea how much. It was difficult to read how much of a prisoner a young woman could be to the demands of society, a cold and unfeeling mother and mother-in-law, and a husband who doesn’t quite trust his wife. The servants also make Cora feel unwelcome, letting her know if she breaches protocol and blatantly disregarding her orders. I pitied Cora, but she was so often selfish and completely unaware of those around her that I never really rooted for her. In fact, there were really only one or two likable characters. The Duke remained a complete mystery, even at the end, and I never trusted him, even after hearing his story.
As this was a poor man’s version of “Downton Abbey,” I’m so glad season 2 has started! The wait is finally over.