Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

30841109Over Thanksgiving last year, I went on a book buying spree with my family, picking up a few new releases, including this one. I was excited to read it in advance of the PBS airing of the ITV mini series. I’ve previously enjoyed books by this author and I knew that she was also the showrunner/head writer for the mini series. I gave it to my mom to read before I left and she enjoyed it as well, so I was ready to love it.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t very much. Perhaps it was because I saw a bit of The Young Victoria on cable as I started reading it, so this felt like a retread. Or it was just too slow going in the beginning. Once Victoria stopped behaving like a spoiled child, it was much easier to read. I mean, I get that she’s the Queen and like 17 when this all happens to her, but there was a little too much stamping her feet and having a crush on Melbourne for me. Or maybe it was Melbourne indulging her instead of being the adult that I couldn’t take.

In any case, it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I actually felt interested and/captivated. I’m also quite curious why the mini series appears to go way past the events of the book, if they were written at the same time. Regardless, I’m happy to finally catch up on the mini series and check this book off my list.

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The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

20856664While I enjoyed The American Heiress, I wasn’t as enthralled with this novel. Set in 1875, it’s the story of Captain Bay Middleton meeting the “Lennox Heiress,” Charlotte Baird and then meeting Sisi, Empress of Austria and trying to decide between the two. I mean, there’s a lot more to it (almost 500 pages worth) and all these folks did exist according to the author’s note at the end, but in the end, Captain Middleton is really trying to decide what kind of fortune he wants for himself.

Charlotte seems lovely, if stuck by the societal conventions of the day. The Empress of Austria is no gallant heroine, and though I suspect you’re supposed to feel some sympathy for her, married to a man she doesn’t love, she’s royalty, and her husband likes her enough to let her go off to England for hunting season, so it can’t be all bad. Given the state of women in 1875, simply being “bored” in Vienna doesn’t really seem like the human rights violation she purports it to be. Our Fortune Hunter is probably a nice guy, but it’s hard to tell most of the time and I’m not sure who to root for the further you get into the book. At one point, after a misplaced note causes a Three’s Company-level confusion for Bay and Charlotte, which leads Bay to just take up with the Empress without much thought or effort on his part to find Charlotte, I kinda gave up on him.

Everything works out in the end, or so it seems you’re supposed to feel it does, but it really feels unearned.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

9999107I picked this book up at library’s book sale a couple months ago and promptly forgot about it. I noticed it on my bookshelf and thought I’d read it while I wait for the Sophie Kinsella book to come through inter-library loan.

Being a obsessive fan of Downton Abbey, it was very easy for me to understand the world of American heiresses and the poor peers who need to use their cash on their estates. Set in 1890, Cora Cash is not Cora Levinson and Ivo is most definitely not Robert Crawley, but the world they inhabit is very much the same. Cora Cash starts out as such a naive, spoiled girl that it’s hard to root for her. However, having been an American in the UK not too long ago, I can definitely relate to her frustration at her ignorance of ingrained social protocols and mores in her peer group. And I wasn’t even close to rubbing elbows with anyone with a title, much less the Prince of Wales.

The big “twist” at the climax was pretty obvious from about 100 pages into the book, so it was less than satisfying to see that I was correct. I surprised to see some of the actions taken after that event, but then it all wraps up in a pretty bow way too quickly. Cora doesn’t really have many choices, so it’s not entirely surprising that she chooses what she does, but at the same time, one pretty speech does not ameliorate all of that deception in my 21st century opinion. There’s no such thing as happily ever after, even/especially when you marry into the British aristocracy, but there’s hope and that’s worth something.