Three American Sisters and the English Aristocratic World into Which They Married
Age Range: 1854 - 1921
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Bubbly biography of the three effervescent Jerome sisters, each of whom married a titled Englishman who subsequently pricked a few of the bubbles.

The text begins grimly enough, at the 1894 deathbed of Lord Randolph Churchill, whose syphilis-induced madness gives wife Jennie (1854–1921) leisure to write to her sisters and thus provide first-time author Kehoe with a way to introduce Clara (1851–1935) and Leonie (1859–1943), along with some surprising data about the number of impecunious English peers who in the 19th century looked for relief across the Atlantic to fresh young faces with fresh new dollars. Jennie, Clara, and Leonie were the daughters of Wall Street speculator Leonard Jerome, who made and lost more than one fortune. As the mother of Winston Churchill, Jennie is the best known to history, but her sisters lived aristocratic lives as well, though all three had frightening brushes with bankruptcy and ostracism. Kehoe follows their individual trajectories from birth, youth, marriage (and sometimes remarriage), through extramarital affairs (sometimes serial) and motherhood to grandmotherhood, dotage, and death. The author undeniably did a lot of research. She visited archives, read the principals’ correspondence, and consulted many secondary sources, including memoirs and biographies. But Kehoe rarely ventures below the surface of these women’s lives—there is only the barest discussion, for example, of Jennie’s venture into intellectual journalism with the Anglo-Saxon Review—focusing instead on what they wore at the wedding and whom in addition to their husbands they bedded. She makes sure to tell us what those many lovers wore too. When Kehoe wishes to employ a metaphor, she rarely reaches farther than the readiest cliché (a list of them all would be formidable).

Opting consistently for romance and fashion instead of analysis and criticism, this would fit well in the Harlequin Historicals series. (16 pp. b&w and color illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-87113-924-3
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2004


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