A rags-to-riches saga set in the Gilded Age.
When Eliza Chapman, a London ladies maid, learns that her real father is one of the richest men in New York City her whole world changes. He has sent a one-way ticket for her to join him, his mother and his two daughters at his palatial Manhattan mansion.
Eliza suddenly has her own ladies maid and learns that she is expected to find a husband. As the social season gets underway she is swept into a whirl of teas, luncheons, balls and other events.
But her sisters see her as unwelcome competition, which makes her feel even more like a fish out of water. And Eliza is in no rush to get married…to anyone.
As Eliza settles in she meets new people–among them Minnie–a brilliant married friend, who is a gifted and driven investor. Perhaps Eliza can aspire to more than just finding a husband?
A tragedy leads to a shocking turn of events and Eliza finds her world turned upside down, again.
Gilded Girl (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Audible) (AbeBooks)
One of the eras of United States history that fascinates me is the Gilded Age, when industrialists built massive fortunes and their families built palatial estates and there was the magical 400 club, a who’s who of New York society. That’s what drew me to the book, Gilded Girl. I’ve not seen HBO’s The Gilded Age but have heard many comparisons between the book and the TV show; some of the same characters from real life appear in both the book and the TV series.
If you love a good rags-to-riches story set during an opulent time, this book is for you. I’ve not read Pamela Kelley’s works before, but I may have to add her other works to my TBR list because I liked the way she wrote. The conversational style and great descriptions of everything from the rooms and the glorious feasts that were served added to the authenticity of the time period. However, this book is not as strict about the history as many other well-written historical fiction books. I’m not an expert, but there were a few things that jumped out to me that didn’t ring true to the time period, but I let it go because it’s not a non-fiction book.
Eliza Chapman grew up in London not knowing who her father was and is working as a lady’s maid. Her mother is ailing and sends a letter to the father, who turns out to be one of the richest men in New York. Following her mother’s death, her father sends for her, but for propriety’s sake, they tell everyone she’s his niece. He has two other daughters and his mother who don’t take kindly to this new edition to the family.
Everything is going well for Eliza. Her father works with her to learn about his real estate business, and also befriends a married woman who handles her own finances and is into investing in the stock market. Just when everything is going smoothly, the unthinkable happens: Eliza’s father dies of a heart attack. She’s not named in his will, and her grandmother and half-sisters gloat. They pay her a sum of money to return to London, which she has no intention of doing, and looks out to take care of herself.
The rest of the book shows Eliza’s determination to make it on her own, and in time, she does. In the author’s notes, I was surprised to read that this book was loosely based on one woman of the Gilded Age who had great success financially.
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