About the Book
On 6th November 1895, the beautiful and brilliant heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt was wedded to the near-insolvent Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough in a dazzling yet miserable match – it glittered above all others for high society’s marriage brokers who, in this single year, forged a series of spectacular, and lucrative, transatlantic unions.
The bankrupt and ailing British aristocracy was suddenly injected with all the wealth and glamour of America’s newest dynasties. Millions of dollars changed hands as fame, money, power and privilege were all at play.
I hadn’t heard of The Million Dollar Duchesses before I was invited to take part in the blog tour but as soon as I read the synopsis I just knew this was going to be a book I enjoyed and I’m so pleased to say that I was right.
The Million Dollar Duchesses is such a wonderful and interesting look at the transatlantic marriage market in the late 1800s. It looks at how rich young American women, whose family wanted to be part of New York high society, were moulded to be wives for British aristocrats who had land and status but needed money to keep their family estates running. It also looks at the enterprising women who made a business out of teaching these young women and making sure they were introduced to the right people.
The level of research that the families of the American debutantes did about British aristocracy was staggering. It was all so carefully calculated to make sure their daughters made the best match in order to assure the family status. ‘… if she decreed it, the Vanderbilt millions would purchase a duke for their daughter. That was the least they could do’. This despite the knowledge that her daughter was already in love with an untitled man and wished to be married to him.
I loved reading about the parties and the fashions, although the amount of money spent was eye-watering at times! The detailed planning that went into organising an occasion was unfathomable to me but it was fabulous to read about. It was lovely to see some photos in the book too to really get a sense of the people and the locations.
I found it really interesting to read all the references to Edith Wharton’s novels and how she was inspired by some of the women written about in The Million Dollar Duchesses. I’m now keen to re-read some of her novels to see how much she borrowed from the real women featured in this book.
The Million Dollar Duchesses is an utterly fascinating look at the upper echelons of American society in the latter part of the 19th century. I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading this book and I highly recommend it!
I received a copy of the book from the author via Anne Cater of Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.
The Million Dollar Duchesses is out now and available here.
About the Author
Julie Ferry is the author of The Million Dollar Duchesses, a non-fiction book following he American heiresses that into the aristocracy in 1895. She graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in English Literature and then upped sticks and moved to a tiny island between Japan and South Korea to teach English, where she quickly got used to being followed around the supermarket by her students. It was in Japan that she got her first byline and was quickly hooked. She was a freelance journalist writing for The Guardian and most of her favourite publications but always harboured dreams of seeing her name on the front of a book. Now, she’s managing to combine her love of writing and an obsession with interesting and largely unknown women from history, with the school run in Bristol, where she lives with her husband and two children.
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