Though you’d think money smoothes away all obstacles, it seems in the lives of these heiresses to be the thing that stands between them and happiness. Using the examples of individual heiresses to make her case, Thompson shows how the lives of heiresses evolved with the times, and what they may need to achieve happiness in their different ways.
The book is broken down into four sections which deal with different eras of heiresses, from the heiress abductions of the Georgian times to the American invasion in Regency and Victorian, the freedom and hedonism of the World Wars, and finally the politically-minded ‘anti-heiresses’ of the mid-century period. Except from Patty Hearst and Barbara Hutton, both discussed in this last section, the women covered by Thompson were mostly unfamiliar to me, so it was very interesting to learn about these figures who were pivotal in their own times but quite obscure today.
Though we learn about insane excesses, unhappy marriages, and scandals galore, the tone of the writing was quite academic – no recklessly unsubstantiated rumors here! I know this disappointed some readers who were expecting more salacious stories, but I thought the lives of the heiresses were wild enough without. I also really enjoyed the razor-sharp style of writing, which in turn lauded and lambasted the various players in the dramas and held an arch but sympathetic view of most heiresses.
Overall, this was a fascinating read, and I think I will check out this author’s other work on the Mitford sisters sometime.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is my honest and voluntary review.