This is the sort of book you can and probably should read in bits and pieces. There are lots of photos and tons of gossip re: Victorian, and later Edwardian excesses. Also included are intriguing explanations of rank, title and society do's and dont's. It's all in the name of 19th and early 20th century American heiresses, marrying well and adding to the depleted coffers of the English aristocracy.
Always a fun thing to read about, especially for Americans. Think of the swooning popularity of DOWNTON ABBEY. (The author of which has a blurb on the cover.) And this is NON-fiction. Though it often reads as just the opposite.
In all, more than 100 American heiresses invaded Britain and swapped dollars for titles. Filled with a wealth of historical personalities, grand houses, gossipy anecdotes, and a feature called comme il faut - the very finest points of etiquette that ruled Victorian and Edwardian society - TO MARRY AN ENGLISH LORD is their story.
Best read, as I mentioned, in bits and pieces - at least that's how I'm doing it - this is a grand book to dip into when life gets you down. No, I mean it. Think of the sheer bloody-mindedness that was an entrenched part of the day to day drama of these 'poor little rich girls'. (It was a life where if a woman simply bent over to adjust the buckle of her shoe - it was seen as untoward behavior.) Oh yeah, they were indescribably rich in an era before taxes and they had titles (I mean, who wouldn't want to be a Duchess? or even a plain old Lady something or other?) and tons of servants to cater to their every whim and lived in glorious mansions and had gorgeous fashions to wear....hmmm.
Okay, so maybe I don't feel that sorry for them. But you have to admit that some of these bright young things were practically sold by their doting mamas into the kind of rigidly structured 'societal slavery' that did not augur well for happily ever after. (Not that it should have come as any surprise after having experienced the cold-blooded rigors of New York society.) Love appears to have been the first casualty in most instances - many of these marriages were a misery for both bride and groom. But hey, you can't have everything. (Not for lack of trying, though.)
An aside: it remains (for me, at least) hard to fathom how the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) was able to amass such a stable of lovely mistresses, given his homely looks and rather rotund appearance. (He had inherited his mother's baggy pop-eyes.) I know a liaison with a future King meant great influence and could be considered a social coup, but really...Maybe he had a great personality? You think?
My only quibble with the book is that it is confusing to follow one direct story straight through. Chapters are broken up by boxed 'asides,' photos and other intrusions containing info not always pertaining to what you're reading about.
But really, who cares? It's not rocket science. This is still a fun book to have on hand when DOWNTON ABBEY closes shop for the season.