Non-Fiction : To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace

   To Marry an English Lord is presented as a popular history style book that talks about the period of time during the Late Victorian era into the Edwardian era when it became common practice for rich Americans to attempt to net a title through marriage. My copy in particular had a large printed emblem that stated “An Inspiration for Downton Abbey”. I can’t testify to the relevancy of the book to Downton Abbey, having never seen more than a single episode, but viewers of the show may enjoy the book. Based on the size of the image on my cover alone the publishers are certainly trying to hook those readers. 

65905831_412005989420755_2460551072700170240_n    The book focuses on the known groups of girls who came over within the same time frames of each other to net a titled husband. It talks about how they needed to dress, who they needed to know, and how they needed to act. They also take apart why this became something that was relatively common and popularized. The most interesting part of the book goes into what I would call the fallout – the divorces, the life after marriage, and what life was like for a lot of these girls turned wives. 

     As someone with very little knowledge of the time period past what I’ve gleaned from context in novels or the very rare movie set in the period this was an interesting read. It didn’t manage to completely entrance me, especially in the beginning as a lot of people and names dropped rang hollow to me. In addition, a lot of these individuals are mentioned and then summarily left alone with no further mention or addressing. I think perhaps just a line or two to describe or follow up on those individuals would have helped me in those occasions. 

    Once the book hits the girl who I think is the main ‘star’ Consuelo Vanderbilt, it became much easier to follow and enjoy. This presented a single consistent thread of reference that made it easier for me, as a casual reader to follow. This meant that the latter half of the book was the richest to me. These were the sections that looked at life after the marriage, and on onto such events as divorce. 

   To Marry an English Lord is presented as a popular history style book that talks about the period of time during the Late Victorian era into the Edwardian era when it became common practice for rich Americans to attempt to net a title through marriage. My copy in particular had a large printed emblem that stated “An Inspiration for Downton Abbey”. I can’t testify to the relevancy of the book to Downton Abbey, having never seen more than a single episode, but viewers of the show may enjoy the book. Based on the size of the image on my cover alone the publishers are certainly trying to hook those readers. 

    The book focuses on the known groups of girls who came over within the same time frames of each other to net a titled husband. It talks about how they needed to dress, who they needed to know, and how they needed to act. They also take apart why this became something that was relatively common and popularized. The most interesting part of the book goes into what I would call the fallout – the divorces, the life after marriage, and what life was like for a lot of these girls turned wives. 

     As someone with very little knowledge of the time period past what I’ve gleaned from context in novels or the very rare movie set in the period this was an interesting read. It didn’t manage to completely entrance me, especially in the beginning as a lot of people and names dropped rang hollow to me. In addition, a lot of these individuals are mentioned and then summarily left alone with no further mention or addressing. I think perhaps just a line or two to describe or follow up on those individuals would have helped me in those occasions. 

    Once the book hits the girl who I think is the main ‘star’ Consuelo Vanderbilt, it became much easier to follow and enjoy. This presented a single consistent thread of reference that made it easier for me, as a casual reader to follow. This meant that the latter half of the book was the richest to me. These were the sections that looked at life after the marriage, and on onto such events as divorce. 

“The American heiress realized in a sudden, awful flash, that the county girl was what she was expected to become. Hers was the accent she must learn, the bearing she must assume, the values and the way of thinking she must make her own. By law she had, upon her marriage, lost her American citizenship. She was an Englishwoman now.”

    The book also has a lot of small, one page inserts that talk about people or context like gardens and parties. A lot of these I did enjoy but found a bit annoying as I’d often have to move on to the next page to finish a section or chapter, and then flip back and read the insert. If you don’t mind the constant back and forth, this will work for you. Because of this, the book is filled to the brim with quotes, images, and random facts that would make for great trivia nights for those inclined. For that I cannot fault it. I finished it with a strong desire to read more on the time period and people. I will likely pick up Glitter and Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt and learn more about her life from the source. 

     If the period interests you, this would probably be a fun book to dip in and out of. It has a slight sense of humor in the writing that doesn’t detract from the information presented and a great deal of that information was new to me. I do not regret the read at all.

    The book also has a lot of small, one page inserts that talk about people or context like gardens and parties. A lot of these I did enjoy but found a bit annoying as I’d often have to move on to the next page to finish a section or chapter, and then flip back and read the insert. If you don’t mind the constant back and forth, this will work for you. Because of this, the book is filled to the brim with quotes, images, and random facts that would make for great trivia nights for those inclined. For that I cannot fault it. I finished it with a strong desire to read more on the time period and people. I will likely pick up Glitter and Gold by Consuelo Vanderbilt and learn more about her life from the source. 

     If the period interests you, this would probably be a fun book to dip in and out of. It has a slight sense of humor in the writing that doesn’t detract from the information presented and a great deal of that information was new to me. I do not regret the read at all.

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