The American Duchess by Joan Wolf (1983) is the tale of a penniless Duke who weds an American heiress. This is my second time reading a Joan Wolf book. Admittedly, I’ve collected her work for years but never took the time to just pick up another one and read it. Several readers have remarked upon how much they enjoyed this title and I can now add my voice to that chorus. It is a good story.
The Bodmins – William and his 18 year-old daughter Tracy, have left their New England home to mingle with the British aristocracy. An American minister friend of Tracy’s father has invited them to a political party in London to introduce them to the creme de la creme of English society. Little does Tracy know that her wealthy father has cooked up a scheme to marry her off to a proper English gentleman.
Enter Adrian, the Duke of Hastings, whose return from France after his father’s death has left his ducal coffers empty. Generations of gambling debts has finally taken its toll on the family finances . So, the Duke must marry for money in order to help him restore his home and maintain his standing in English society.
Tracy has a vastly different view of the English compared to that of her father. While he finds English life and living admirable, Tracy on the other hand finds the class conscious aristocracy contemptible. She has more respect for people who work hard to earn their fortunes versus those who live off of x,y and z-generations of family wealth and class standing. However, when she meets Adrian, the Duke of Hastings, he charms her despite her misgivings. Later on, during their stay in London, Tracy overhears disturbing news that forces her to wipe away her fears and doubts and thus she becomes the Duchess of Hastings.
As the title suggests, the story is mostly seen through the eyes of Tracy, who has now become an American Duchess; some portion of the story is told from Adrian’s POV, too. The author focuses much attention on the marriage and the challenges the couple is faced with in regards to their vastly different backgrounds and political views – especially since America has closed off trading with the British among other things. Anytime there is a political rift between America and Britain, this seems to put an additional strain on the marriage. Then there is the gentleman that Tracy left behind in Salem who comes calling. A self-made millionaire like her father, Adam Lancaster sails to London to visit with Tracy and to also cause mischief for the newly married couple.
The author spends much time exploring the weaknesses of this marriage. For starters, both are relative strangers to each other when they are first married. There are secrets that they both hold regretfully close to their sleeves out of fear of rejection or hurt. Both Tracy and Adrian have doubts about each other that they’ve never voiced aloud. She is worried that he married her only for money and he fears that her marriage to him was a result of her wanting to please her father. Faced with these challenges and more, the reader understands clearly that these two people – no matter how they started off – have come to love each other very much.
The American Duchess is a simply told love story. There really aren’t that many misunderstandings or superficial contrivances. It’s just a story about a marriage between a nobleman and a lowborn heiress. I didn’t expect this book to focus so much on politics but it was a nice surprise. Especially considering the fact that Adrian is a British diplomat who is often beset with the task of smoothing things over for the sake of his country and his marriage.
To wrap this up, this is a nice story but it is not a keeper for me. Such stories as these often are only a blip in the memory but they are remembered with fondness. I am glad to have read The American Duchess and hope to read more of Ms. Wolf’s regencies. If there are titles you’ve read and would like to suggest, please drop me a comment. My grade for this story is a B. The American Duchess is available as a non secure ebook and it is OOP in paper form. I must also mention that in the ebook version there were more than a few errors in punctuation and spelling.
This review is apart of the TBR Day 2008 Challenge that my fellow readers and I are participating in until December 2008. I am late with my review because I didn’t write it until early this morning. Anyway, please visit the other participants of this challenge and thank you all for participating!