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. And in the middle of Season 4, our old book hit the New York Times best seller list at #8 for e-books.
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!
I am enjoying the book but find the layout a little confusing. It is quite imformative and sad in a way that some of these women had no idea how awful the heating etc., was. Even my own house in Stanmore did not have central heating. You just sat in front of a fire and roasted on one side.
Shirley, you are the first person to put together “Book Group of One” with “To Marry an English Lord!” I’m so glad you did. The chopped-up layout is popular with some readers and others find it confusing like you — I can see why. When “To Marry….” was published originally in 1985 there was quite a fashion for this sort of narrative broken up with boxes and sidebars and pictures. The benefit is that we were able to use a lot of that miscellaneous but delicious information that didn’t quite fit into the story line. As to the heating, I think most Americans truly cannot imagine what it’s like to live without radiators!
I will be seeing you at New Canaan Library on the 26th February.
Wonderful, I will look forward to that!
Now I’ll be buying your book. It looks great!
Oh, good, Kay, I hope you like it! And, as a Denise Mina fan, you might also like Manda Scott’s “No Good Deed.” Much the same territory, I think.
I made note of Scott’s book yesterday. Thanks!–Kay
This is so funny. When I saw the title in your banner, I thought “nah,” and then clicked through to this page. I still have the copy I bought back in 1989. I loved the layout, by the way. It was reminiscent of another book I have called Murder Ink by Dilys Wynn. I have to say that I like the cover on my edition a bit better than the cover of the new edition, but I am glad to see the book back in print.
Yes, and talk about funny, Denise — I used to work at Workman Publishing, which also put out “Murder Ink” and I knew Dilys Winn. Getting “Murder Ink” put together was a huge task, but wonderful fun. Nice to hear from you!
The connections between people are amazing. I think Workman also did a Christie companion, maybe? Or another related title to Murder Ink? I might just be thinking of something in Murder Ink related to Christie. Anyway, thank you for your book; it has given me a lot of pleasure.
I think there was a “Murder Ink” follow-up, Denise, not as successful. And thanks for the kind comment about “To Marry…” It was a real labor of love and its recent re-issue has been a totally charmed experience!
I just bought your book from Amazon. So happy to see that you’re alsoba fan of Edith Wharton and Henry James! I was so enamored by “Portrait of a Lady” when I was in high school. Even watched the movie with John Malkovich. Look forward to reading your book and perusing your blog. I just discovered it today on Amazon. It was suggested when I purchased, “What Would Mrs. Astor Do?”