"The American Heiress" Book and Tea Club
The Duke was also changing throughout the book, he felt such guilt about his brother that he could face the awful truth: he and Charlotte killed Guy. Charlotte was a huge part of his guilt and yet he did not think she would befriend Cora. He should have warned Cora, but that meant he would have to face Guy’s death and the part he had played. I think he just wanted it all to go away, but Charlotte was relentless. Cora provided someone that the Duke needed to begin the healing/grieving process, his son. His guilt almost cost him Cora and his son.
I remember the first time his brother was mentioned in this book. I thought it was odd how the duke reacted to Cora’s comment when they were talking about the bow and arrows.
I feel alone in not liking the Duke! I feel like no matter what he was going through, the months of neglect when she was pregnant were just awful and cruel. I felt so bad for Cora, all alone in that big house. I understand it was part of his upbringing to keep her at arm’s length about his emotions but if I were in the same position I don’t know if I would have forgiven him.
I wonder if it was realistic that Cora & Ivo could truly start over, but… lots of motivation in having a little baby, and the weight of all the familial expectations, too. I can’t help imagining a parallel world story where Cora and Teddy ended up together, living a more free and bohemian lifestyle with the baby.
Sometimes I dislike when book has many differing points of views throughout the book, but I wonder if this novel would not have benefitted from that type of structure. If there were some diary entries from the Duke while he was away, while Cora was pregnant, showing how tormented he was, how he was struggling with what to do… I’m just thinking aloud.
i wonder myself…i mean, i know that marriage requires one to think beyond one’s own needs but i’m not sure if i can be as kind after such abandonment…still, there are a lot of women who are able to stand much more ^^ could i be like that when time comes?
I would find it hard to forgive my husband if he abandoned me during a pregnancy.
I agree, I found it completely unforgivable that the Duke left Cora for months and months when she needed him most. And she didn’t even do anything wrong! He should’ve known that Charlotte was behind the whole portrait fiasco. It also angered me that Cora was still sitting there simpering over him, instead of being angry that he had left her for so long! I think that was out of character for her, when at the the beginning of the book she was obviously so used to getting her way.
hmmm…she did seem too sheltered to have had any experience in love though yeah, it would be a drastic change if she was spoiled.
I think the first time it was evident Cora was maturing was when she started spending time with the duke. I think her fall may have had something to do with this. :) I found it interesting she realized how Teddy must have felt when she wanted him to run off with her, but now the duke was offering freedom to her, instead of her begging for it. Her thinking of other people’s feelings (even though this example is small) shows she is starting to change in the slightest.
Also, I found it difficult to follow at first when the author kept switching titles for the Duke. I think I had missed something, but in the first two chapters of the book (contianing the Duke) I thought Ivo and the Duke were two different people. I read the same two pages twice trying to figure out why it went suddenly from the Duke who was talking about Cora’s learning from him to Ivo kissing her and proposing. I finally decided to read on an extra paragraph and realized they were the same person. I fell a little dumb for not realizing this at first. :)
I got confused at first by the Duke’s titles—I feel like this was a book that would have benefited from a character list due to all the titles and names and nicknames along with their family connections.
I agree, a character list should have come with the book. Would have made it so much easier. I felt like some of the characters came out of nowhere.
i think it was a lil bit rushed..i knew she wanted out asap and didnt mind the guy being penniless but i felt that she didn’t get to know him enough before jumping in.
he did seem like a very nice person at the start though, patient and considerate. so i guess that was enough for her..or she was really so desperate, lol.
I think that’s more a sign of the times, that she jumped into the engagement so quickly. Our modern notion of romance is quite new and not at all what happened then: there was no place in society for year-long courtships and slow “getting to know you” time. Especially for the upper echelons of society!
Cora’s relationship was a really interesting counterpoint to Bertha’s, I think. Bertha had “true” love but gave it up for Cora, this part made me sad because I really wanted her (Bertha) to be happy…
I loved the character of Bertha. There were so many details about her life that I found so touching.
Bertha was an interesting character. I didn’t care for her at the beginning either, but it made sense that she would give up seeing her dying mother to pursue her career, given that she didn’t have a lot of options. I felt for her being an outsider no matter where she went, and I did feel like her love was stronger than Cora’s relationship, but that she would give it away to protect Cora showed a lot about her character. I wonder if Cora would protect Bertha nearly as well?
Had Bertha not given Cora the pearl, how much would have been different?
I felt very sad for Cora. In other novels that I’ve read, the relationship between the lady and her maid was very concrete and they were pretty much devoted to each other. I hated how Cora was completely oblivious to what was going on in Bertha’s life throughout the entire story. I kept hoping that it would change once they moved to England because they were pretty much each other’s only allies in that big house, but it never got better. I think if the Duke had insisted, Cora would’ve let Bertha go, even though Bertha had given up so much to continue to work for Cora out of a sense of loyalty to her.
i think that pretty accurately describes the relationship between servants and masters. the servants tend to love the masters more…those that know how to care, anyhows.
We’re on vacation this weekend, and it’s driving me nuts that I can’t sit at my laptop and pour out all my thoughts about this book RIGHT NOW! Haha, but I am enjoying reading all of your comments on my phone in the meantime and will have plenty to say about the book on Monday when we get home. :)
About the ending, did anyone else think she was going to jump off a cliff? They had mentioned the ghost many times (and also her swimming scenes, looking at the cliff) and I got the feeling it was foreshadowing. I was not at all expecting the Duke to be the one to “attempt” it (though I felt that was more a show of his devotion to Cora than him actually being suicidal). I was surprised the ending was “happy”—not really a fairytale ending or anything, but it was certainly more cheerful than I expected!
I definitely felt a sense of foreshadowing! Of what, I was not sure, but definitely danger…
Looking back, I do felt like the author built up to the ending a little much. I was thinking something more drastic would happen! The ending really did fit the book but I think all the buildup made it a bit of a letdown.
I thought it was a little too built up too. :| I suppose that was the happier ever after ending though, especially with the baby. I doubt that if she had ran away that the Duke would have allowed her to take his heir and that would have been messy.
jumping off? i mustve missed that! what page did the Duke attempt it?
Towards the end the Duke stands at the edge of the cliff and looks down ominously. It’s not explicitly stated like “I am going to jump off!” but given how distressed he was at the moment over Cora leaving and the fact that his brother killed himself in the same spot, it seemed heavily implied that would be the route he’d take if Cora did leave.
I was thinking that the Duke was going to jump off the cliff during that part. He had such a secretive personality and unpredictable personality throughout the book that I thought he might just do it!
I read it on my Kindle so I don’t have an exact page number, but it’s the scene where Cora is about to run away and the Duke confronts her.
do they really have those spine straighteners nowadays?
Yup! Though, interestingly enough, that whole style is now a subculture in the US (it’s called Corseting, girls do it willingly and for fun/style). Good counterpoint to how miserable that stuff made Cora!
Wow…they wear corsets under their clothes?! I sense a bizarre googling is in my future, down the rabbit hole I go…
i had tried out a corset before but i dont think i’d go as far as get clamped to a machine, lol.
im wondering what was the purpose of allowing her mom’s accident to happen? it does not seem like an important part of the story…
I think the mother’s accident was demonstrating to Cora that her actions had consequences. While it was hardly her fault that it happened, I think she’d lived such a sheltered, idealistic life that nothing like that had gone wrong for her before. It kind of shocked her out of her “I need to rebel against my mother” phase and is the reason she went to Europe.
Personally I see the accident as the universe teaching Cora’s mom a bit of humility.
I totally agree with Terri about the accident teaching the mom a bittersweet lesson.
I agree too, with Terri and threewhales, that it was teaching the mother the stupidity of her going to such lengths for a party and to impress others. So silly!
Has anyone been to Newport, R.I. where the mansions are? I have been in that area, as I grew up not too far from R.I., but my husband played at many parties and events there when he was in a certain band. The opulence he observed, while being a humble guitar player, astounded him.
hmmmmmm….idk whether to want to see it or avoid it for fear of being dismayed at the excess, haha.
been to the Hearst Mansion tho somewhere near Paso Robles (CA) and they had an indoor pool that was dotted with 20+ karat of gold tiles :)
I’ve never been, but I would love to take a stroll though the area just to sightsee all the pretty homes!
When I was 10 we lived in RI for 6 months, & moms favorite thing to do was to do mansion drive bys. We spent whole Sunday afternoons riding around, having a picnic in the station wagon.
Well, guess the reply button to individual people isn’t working, so going to reply to a couple of people’s points from here.
Alphakitty: Don’t feel too alone, I started disliking the Duke somewhere between the first time him and Cora met and the wedding. At first I found him charming and sweet, but then he just became distant, and the sweet and charming self went away. I remeber really disliking him when he threw the brush at his helper.
Serenity: I also did not like the several points of view the book had. It made it a little confusing for me. I felt like I was reading the same page over and over again because I felt like I had missed something, but I had not, it was just the point of view changing.
Yssah: I also thought it was a bit rushed. I didn’t like how the Duke purposed to Cora after only the day before ignoring her. Like it was pointed out, maybe it was because of the times, but I still didn’t like it.
Also, I think the purpose of allowing the mom’s accident to happen was mainly for symbolism. I think the biggest symbolic part of that was the change that was about to happen. I also think it represented two sides. The bad side of the mother’s face represented depression and fear, while the other side represented love and youthfulness. Maybe I am thinking too much into that, but that’s just me thinking I guess.
I felt like the Duke had a very likeable veneer but underneath he had some serious temper issues along with his weird relationship with his mother. He clearly hated her but also enabled her crazy behavior by keeping on her old staff (who really could have been replaced) and letting said staff mistreat his new wife.
I feel like he also didn’t really take any time to prepare Cora for society life: he expected her to adapt in nearly every way. His one allowance was hot running water, and he seemed to think that this alone was enough of a gesture to appease her. I wish he was a more likeable character: I wanted to like him, to see why Cora loved him. But his behavior (especially the aforementioned India trip and his actions right before the wedding) seemed so offhandedly cruel. Did he really care for Cora? Was it just his upbringing that made him act that way, or was it is true colors showing? Was he fighting against his nature or letting it control him?
In the end for me more questions were answered than asked but I suppose that’s both a good and a bad thing. I think some of the loose ends were tied up, though I felt frustrated with the Teddy situation—I wanted more of a resolve on that end, even if she was going to leave him I wish he’d confronted the Duke or some such. I wanted a better ending for Bertha too: in the end it seemed like the Duke was the only one who got everything he wanted, all the other characters (even Charlotte) had to give up something.
I think the ending was perfect. And would like to believe that everyone got what they wanted though yes, we usually have to give up something for that which we value most.
Bertha’s ending was open :) and Teddy’s – well, it could not be helped. And I agree, the Duke got the best deal of all.
I love how she tied the whole story up in the end.
I have to agree with LIT on this one. Call me a hopeless romantic…when the Duke came to confront Cora and the baby carraige, he made the comment that Jim had told him her plans because Jim did not want Bertha to leave. Jim told Ivo that he wanted to marry Bertha. Here is a peek at the next chapter:
Cora and Ivo walked hand in hand back to their son. The days that followed were the most joyous for both Cora and Bertha. Plans were made for a simple ceremony to join Jim and Bertha in matrimony. The stuffy servants were let go and the dog days of summer prevailed on the mansion as Cora and Ivo built upon their happiness. Bertha had everything she could have hoped for…a loving husband and the job security that comes from working for Miss Cora and the Duke. No more secrets, no more gossiping servants, only true happiness. I can hear the laughter of Guy in the background as Cora and Ivo play the piano.
I love, love, LOVE happy romantic endings. If, to me, the ending feels a bit rushed or incomplete, I’ll express dissatisfaction with that, but I love when characters get their happy endings! Thank you for sharing that peek at the next chapter, threewhales!
I have just finished another book, The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer. If you enjoy reading historical novels, I recommend this one. Imagine Downton Abbey…told from the perspective of a someone working within the big house, way down the ranks… in the laundry. The main character, Susan Rose, is someone I immediately loved, and reading her adventurous tale kept me turning those pages! It was a really nice counterpoint to The Last Heiress and my Downton Abbey love!
Yes, I like that it is a happy ending too albeit open – but the openness as well as the abruptness adds the element that it needs to make me continue thinking about it way after i have finished reading.
It is all the more loveable for me because a marriage was kept against all odds. It gives hope for marriages in trouble somehow ^^
Thanks for choosing this book, guys! Idk why but books like this strengthen me :)
I wanted to like the Duke too, and while I could see that some of his actions were because of the way he was raised, I felt like that wasn’t an excuse for the way he treated Cora. I thought that he should’ve prepared her more for English society and kind of showed her the ropes since there was so much going on behind the scenes that she was unaware of. It did seem like he had a temper to me, also, and I hated the part of him lashing out at his valet. Also, I thought it was unforgivable when he went hunting and was so late for the wedding rehearsal and then when he also left Cora while she was pregnant. I also thought he should’ve allowed her to bring in new servants, since the other ones were sort of slack in their work and didn’t respond to Cora’s wishes at all.
yeah, that sucked! i admired Cora for her bold decision to make the changes needed despite the constricting traditions
This makes me so sad….Bertha and Jim. I feel like I’m reading a totaly different book when I’m reading a chapter about the two of them. I honestly wouldn’t mind reading a book all about them. I wish the author would have incorperated them more into the story, by themselves and together. I feel like the author kept me on the edge everytime it went from Bertha and/or Jim back to Cora or whoever. The lack of them in the story made me think it was pointless to really have them in the story to the extent it was. I really liked Bertha and Jim, especially the first time they were introduced together.
The details about Bertha’s quilt, her memories of her mother— broke my heart, but so glad this lovely character found happiness…
yes…she sacrificed so much. and it was kinda sad how she clung to Cora not so much out of loyalty but for the comfort of the familiar. but she is extremely blessed to have her cake and eat it too!
Bertha was my favorite character, I loved her relationship with Jim—so sweet! They were like the opposite of the Duke & Cora for me, in love but having to hide it, whereas especially towards the end Cora was in a way falling out of love (or at least becoming disenchanted with the lifestyle while he was in India) but had to put on a happy face.
Bertha and Jim’s story made me a little sad also. I would love to see what happened to them, since they had such differences in opinion about staying in service, or leaving to start a new life. And Bertha feels such loyalty towards Cora. . .