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American Duchess by Karen Harper Book Review

My Reasons for Reading this Book

My main reason for reading this book is that I am a ReadHead, a member of The ReadHeads podcast bookclub and the book of the month for June was American Duchess by Karen Harper. I was excited to read this book because it has been a long time since I read a book from this time period and I have never really read a Downton Abbey style book like this. 

Content of the Book

This book tells the life story of the American Duchess Consuelo Vanderbilt. Consuelo's mother, Alva is desperate for her daughter to marry someone with status. As a result of her mother's hard work Consuelo and the duke of Malborough put on her "Wedding of the Century" in New York City. The 18 year old bride arrives late and in tears to her big day. Even with her efforts to resist the marriage in hopes of being with someone else her mother's control wins. Following the wedding Consuelo moves to Blenheim Palace where she is to take on the role of duchess. This means she must produce and heir. Once in this role Consuelo fights for independence and finding her own identity. 

Themes of the Book

Fight for what you want. Stand up for what you believe in. People come in go in our lives and that is okay. 

What I Liked About the Book

I liked the section on the war. In my opinion this was the most entertaining and memorable section of the book. Something that I always look forward to when I read books about royals or people with money is to read the descriptions of their homes, parties, and outfits. Karen Harper did a nice job of writing visual descriptions of the grand dresses that Consuelo wore. The book did not disappoint when it came to the descriptions of the grand homes that were bought throughout the book. When it came to the format or organization of the book it was told in chronological order and only from the prescriptive of Consuelo. With the purpose of this book being her life it was only fitting that she was the only one telling the story. I found the choice chronological order to be the most helpful in following the progression of the story. The date stamps given at the beginning of chapters of sections was also helpful. I did not personally do this but some of the hosts of the podcast used these time frames to conduct research of the people discussed in this section or other events that we occurring during that time. Another aspect of the book that I liked to hear about and was glad it was discussed throughout the entire book was the fight for women's rights. Along with that I appreciated the inclusion of Consuelo's participation in her community as this showed the type of person she was without describing it. I also liked that her work for the community gave her a purpose. 

What I Disliked About the Book

My main complaint about this book is that it is forgettable. What I mean by that is that I would totally forgot what I read the day before because it was uneventful. When I told my mother I was reading this book she said I read that book too and I don't remember it at all because it was so forgettable. I also felt like there were so many characters introduced throughout the book that it was hard to keep track. I would learn a few things about them and then never hear about them again. I found this to be annoying and turned me off. I would have liked the end of the book to conclude with where everyone was at in life but I understand that could be too much to ask as the point of having missing pieces is because those people were no longer in her life at the end of the book. As discussed in the podcast that could be a theme for the book, people come and go. My biggest complaint about this book is that it was littered with passive voice. This is a tense that I learned about in my second to last semester of college. Through learning about this I found that it is the way I write. Since learning this I have worked to correct it. I read this book on my iPhone and there was not a single page in the book that did not use passive voice. Reading a book in all passive voice is annoying and irritating as it is very repetitive. I found the constant use of passive voice to be distracting and showed poor writing and editing in my opinion. The progression of the book was quite slow and very steady without much excitement and entertainment. After listening to the podcast I accepted and understood why I felt this way. Its because someone's life is not constantly entertaining and crazy interesting. After this was discussed in the podcast I was more understanding of this but still consider it a complaint.

Would I Recommend the Book

After listening to the podcast episode I liked it more than how I did right after I had finished it. This was true for one of the hosts as well. With that being said I would still not recommend this book. Even though I have not read other books from this time period and about real royalty, I feel like there has to be more entertaining and memorable books like this one. 

Check out my book reviews for 2021!!

Check out my book reviews for 2020!!

Check out my book reviews for 2019!!


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