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The Titled Americans


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In her first book, both a remarkable achievement and a real treat, Kehoe, who has a doctorate in history from the University of London, tells the tale of the Jerome sisters, three Americans who married into quasi-royalty in Britain and then led the way for their wealthy countrymen and women to cross the Atlantic and "marry up." Written with elegance, this story is also a close inspection of the heyday of British privilege. The life of Jennie (who would become Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston) is well recorded but never before so engagingly presented. Clara and Leonie's less colorful but fascinating lives-plus the bond these sisters developed through long years of dutiful marriages, propriety, "good works," affairs, tragedies, and humiliations-add up to a rollicking good read. Kehoe ferrets out obscure sources and alludes to them in a wry and careful addendum (even this part of the book is amusing). American and British readers interested in genealogy and the world of social connections will enjoy this work immensely, and it is bound to become a classic among biographies. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/04.]-Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines P.L., Ont. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Daughters of a wealthy Wall Street speculator and his heiress wife, all three Jerome sisters-Clara, Jennie and Leonie-married titled English husbands, setting a trend for upper-crust Anglo-American liaisons at a time when Britain's landed gentry were in dire need of cash. Jennie married first, in 1873, to Lord Randolph Churchill, in spite of opposition from his father, the Duke of Marlborough. Jennie became the best known of the sisters, not only as the mother of Sir Winston Churchill, but as a formidable personality in her own right. The more vapid Clara married the dashing Moreton Frewen, whose lack of business acumen brought him the nickname "Mortal Ruin." The youngest sister, Leonie, married Jack Leslie, son of one of the largest landowning families in Ireland. But neither Clara nor Leonie rivaled the beautiful and witty Jennie, who captivated Victorian and Edwardian high society. Although Kehoe devotes equal attention to all three sisters-their marriages, affairs and lifelong solidarity as outsiders in a world they didn't always understand-Jennie's magnetic charms dominate the narrative. Kehoe's readable book, her first, perfectly captures the decadence of the sisters' privileged world in its historical context of a British Empire just past its peak, the struggle for Irish Home Rule and the impact of WWI. 16 pages of color and b&w illus. not seen by PW. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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