Back in the 1980s my friend Gail MacColl and I were reading a lot of Edith Wharton and Henry James (clearly my tastes have been pretty stable over the years). I believe it was Gail who suggested there might be a nonfiction book to be written about all those rich American women who married European aristocrats. Think of it: Portrait of a Lady’s Isabel Archer, The Golden Bowl’s Maggie Verver, Millie Theale from The Wings of the Dove, and “the Buccaneers,” the three protagonists of Edith Wharton’s last, unfinished novel. The fact that all of these novels spawned costume dramas in the 1990s tells me the interest in this historical phenomenon is durable.
Anyway, we wrote our book, called To Marry an English Lord, and Workman Publishing brought it out in 1989 as a paperback, with lots of boxes and sidebars. Gail and I had worked together on The Official Preppy Handbook, also a Workman book, so this format was comfortable for us. Reading To Marry an English Lord now, I think we took the spirit of detailed social inquiry you see in The Official Preppy Handbook and applied it to the story of American heiresses and English aristocrats. There was grandeur, and humor, and even some pathos to be found in their lives.
The book did nicely and remained in print until 2003. Then along came “Downton Abbey.” When Elizabeth McGovern, playing Lady Grantham, first opened her mouth and I heard that American accent, I thought, “Well! I know exactly who she is!” It turns out that Julian Fellowes had been reading To Marry an English Lord when he was first approached about writing “Downton Abbey.” He mentioned this in an interview in the UK Daily Telegraph. He has been very generous in his praise of To Marry an English Lord and even gave us a blurb which is front and center on the new, lovely cover. Because, friends, Workman has moved very briskly and put the book back in print.
So. Your options are numerous. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or IndieBound. You can check out the Facebook page. You can keep an eye peeled for more information on carolwallacebooks.com. You can visit the Pinterest board, which is full of the most marvelous images (clothes, castles, tiaras, beautiful women, handsome men). Or you can ignore the whole shooting match, but I think if you were inclined that way, you wouldn’t have read this far!