REVIEW: The American Duchess by Joan Wolf

The American Duchess by Joan Wolf

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!


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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15 Responses to REVIEW: The American Duchess by Joan Wolf

  1. sarai says:

    See I thought I had an oldie but you beat me by 10 years LOL! I have to say most novels before 1995 are not something I am interested in reading any more but Dang you make it sound like a sweet read. Nice review.

    PS mine is up for the month!

  2. Li says:

    Hmm… I saw this on Fictionwise and was tempted. I remember loving some of her older books. From a quick look at, I think they were The Deception, The Guardian, The Arrangement, and The Gamble – completely unrelated despite the similar titles.

  3. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Li – I read The Arrangement several years ago and fairly enjoyed it. She’s not an author whose work has yet to grab me and make me search and read more of her backlist.

  4. AAR Rachel says:

    I love this book! It’s my favorite of all of Wolf’s regences. I should ask my sister for recommendations for you. She has a bunch and has read them many times.

  5. Jan says:

    Great review! I have quite a few of Wolf’s older books and have enjoyed them. I haven’t read this one though so I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of it.

    I’ve finally managed to post my review–it seemed to take me forever!

  6. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Rachel – that would be great 😉 I need to tackle Carla Kelly next.

  7. Janine says:

    I recommend A London Season, which I reviewed here, and His Lordship’s Mistress, which I read a while back and remember liking a lot. Both good books. The hero and heroine of A London Season are really interesting and different.

    One that I don’t recommend is The Counterfeit Marriage. The hero rapes the heroine when he is drunk due to mistaken identity. She is very young and when she becomes pregnant, they are forced to marry. Then they fall in love. IMO there is not enough fallout from the rape — the heroine’s pain and suffering is somewhat glossed over, and she never gets really angry with the hero, who is portrayed (pretty unrealistically) as a nice guy without a dark side.

  8. Avid Reader says:

    Hey Janine, I added the link to the site of the review. I didn’t know you had reviewed The London Season. Sounds good and thanks!

  9. Janine says:

    Thanks for adding the link, Keishon. I forgot to say it earlier, but I enjoyed your review.

  10. vanessa jaye says:

    I know I’ve read an enjoyed JW in the past. But I think it was her work in the longer Historical Romance format that I’m familiar with, rather than the regency stuff. She writes them in first person, doesn’t she? Although it’s been years since I read anything by her, I’m pretty sure they were all keepers.

    When you say ‘unsecured’ to you mean it’s not locked with DRM?

  11. Avid Reader says:

    Hi Vanessa – The American Duchess was written in third person. If I remember correctly when I read, The Arrangement, which is one of her longer historical novels, it was written in first person.

    And yes, the ebook version is in non-DRM format.

  12. Amie Stuart says:

    >>but they are remembered with fondness

    Yup, they are 🙂 God I loved those old regencies!

  13. ag says:

    hey keishon,

    This sounds like a good one to try. I’ve never heard of Joan Wolf, but since she sounds like an old-style romance writer, and I do like such simply told stories. Am going to look for her books in the UBS.

  14. Janet W says:

    Golden Girl is quite similar to American Duchess — both keepers imo. But if you haven’t read His Lordship’s Mistress, I like it better than either book. It’s really wonderful. Very stronge, private, unusual heroine — well for one thing, she’s really the earl’s mistress.

    The Arrangement is very good too.

  15. Avid Reader says:

    Janet W: Golden Girl is quite sim­i­lar to Amer­i­can Duchess — both keep­ers imo. But if you haven’t read His Lordship’s Mis­tress, I like it bet­ter than either book. It’s really won­der­ful. Very stronge, pri­vate, unusual hero­ine — well for one thing, she’s really the earl’s mistress. The Arrange­ment is very good too.

    Yep, read both. Agree with you. I also liked The Pretenders. Haven’t read Lord Richard’s Daughter yet and it’s in ebook I think. Will give it a try, thanks !

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