My Favorite Duchess
By Jane Goodger, Author of The Reluctant Duchess, Book 4 in the Brides of St. Ives Series
The idea of being an ordinary person and becoming a duchess is always intriguing. One of my all-time favorite and true stories is that of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough.
At the time, Newport was the center of the Gilded Age, and the American “royalty,” the steel and railroad barons, had everything they wanted—flashy vehicles, massive mansions, and outrageous parties. The one thing they lacked, though, was true blue blood. Consuelo’s mother, Alva, was power hungry and dreamed of having her daughter make an advantageous and royal match.
While her mother was manipulating the duke into marrying her daughter, Consuelo was falling in love with another man, whom she would secretly meet and who had proposed. But once her mother heard of their romance, she threatened to have Consuelo’s love murdered and locked the girl in her room in their Newport Mansion until she came to her senses. Ultimately, Alva pretended to be dying of heartbreak over her daughter’s stubbornness, and Consuelo finally agreed to marry the duke.
I remember touring The Breakers in Newport and seeing the room poor Consuelo was kept in. Though large and opulent, the windows were so high she never could have escaped. They offered no view and no hope for the teenager who was so controlled by her mother. I recall the tour guide talking about her marriage to a duke as a wonderful event and had to bite my tongue not to set the record straight!
While her marriage to the Duke of Marlborough was a triumph for Consuelo’s mother, it was hardly the stuff of fairy tales for Consuelo. Charles Spencer was a cruel man who looked down upon his new wife for her humble bloodlines. He married her for her great fortune, of course, and never let her forget that she was less than he. An example of his cruelty, as chronicled by Consuelo later in life: He hid a valuable vase and then brought out the servants, demanding to know who had stolen it. The poor maids were terrified, and many started to cry.
Consuelo eventually divorced the duke and married a man she loved deeply, Lt. Col. Jacques Balzan, a French balloonist.
The idea of a forced marriage to a duke, no less, is always a fun romantic trope. In The Reluctant Duchess, my couple has a much happier life together than Consuelo and Charles.
About The Reluctant Duchess
The charming seaside town of St. Ives is hard to leave—but to save her family from ruin, one young woman must face a frightening unknown …
Orphaned young, Oliver Sterling, eleventh duke of Kendal, lives in seclusion in his massive home, Horncliffe Manor. Convinced since childhood that he is monstrous, his only company is his guardian, Mr. Winters—a man who perpetuates Oliver’s self-loathing. Still, Oliver is only human. One day, he sees a beautiful young woman in a painting titled St. Ives Girl. Captivated, he asks Mr. Winters to find her, marry her by proxy, and bring her back as his bride.
Rebecca Kane is shocked that her squire father has agreed to marry her off to a duke in exchange for payment of his gambling debts. But with no option, she submits. Rebecca fears this husband she has never seen in the light of day—yet in the marriage bed, her husband is kind and gentle. And though they remain in darkness, she detects nothing odd about him. She wonders what he is hiding and soon finds there are more mysteries to uncover—about the unsettling noises coming from deep within the manor, about Mr. Winters, and about love—of oneself and one’s beloved.
Jane Goodger lives in Rhode Island with her husband and three children. Jane, a former journalist, has written numerous historical romances. When she isn’t writing, she’s reading, walking, playing with her kids, or anything else completely unrelated to cleaning a house. You can visit her website at JaneGoodger.com or on the social media platforms below.