Jennie Jerome made a place for herself in history, rising through the British aristocracy via marriage and breaking social norms with her vivacious personality, fierce independence, and sexual escapades. And then she had a son, Winston Churchill.
Born into an elite New York family, Jennie travels to England in 1873 as a striking 19-year-old and proceeds to attract admiration from men of all stripes. She matches flirtatious chatter easily but is most intrigued by Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill and his stimulating intellectual conversation. After their impulsive marriage, she rises into high society as Randolph enters Parliament. We first meet the adult Jennie at a function at Sandringham. The men, including the Prince of Wales, vie for the honor of seating her at the table, but handsome Count Charles Kinsky makes sure she sits by him and thus begins a flirtation that morphs into more. Barron paints a picture of a beautiful woman with enough determination and animal magnetism to get what she wants, which is her husband’s (and later, her son’s) rise in politics...and the affections of men. Through the narrative, readers will see Jennie, watch her every move, and yet, maybe, not care very much. There is a subtle something lacking that leaves readers as spectators of, rather than vicarious participants in, Jennie’s life.
The story lacks forward momentum other than the passage of time, but the characters are captivating.