My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin
I was originally attracted by the title because of the Robert Browning poem. He remains one of my all time favourite poets. Skilled at his craft, the man could also tell a damned good story and really bring characters to life. However, I was alarmed to read on the blurb that the rich, American heroine was called Cora. Here we go again, I thought: 'Downton Abbey' all over again. In fact, ever since Jenny Jerome married Sir Randolph Churchill and produced our greatest wartime leader, Sir Winston, the theme of rich American gals nabbing our impoverished aristos seems to have become very popular in fiction and drama.
On top of that, the novel also makes more than a passing nod at classical literary fiction. Cora is reading 'Emma' when we first meet her and, like Jane Eyre, she meets the hero through a horse riding accident. I am currently at the point were the impoverished Duke is about to show her around Lulworth, the family pile. Could this be Mandelay all over again, I wonder? Or has the secretive Duke got a mad woman stashed in the attic? There has been no demonic laughter in the middle of the night, or psychotic housekeepers to frighten Cora during the day. But despite the lack of Gothic elements, I am convinced that the course of their true love will not run smooth....and I'm looking forward to going back for more tonight. :)
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1st August 2011
Finally, finished My Last Duchess and it was pure Romantic fiction through and through; not a Gothic element in sight. By the end of the novel, the lovely Cora is a changed woman and eventually finds true love with her Duke, who of course, just like Mr. Rochester, does not really deserve his loving wife. However, he is not the monster of Browning's poem and quite frankly, the title of this book is misleading. He hasn't been married before and although cold to his own mother (the previous Duchess of Wareham) he is not a guy with 'mummy issues.' Quite simply, this is not the story of 'My Last Duchess.'
But all in all, Daisy Goodwin wrote a good piece of Romantic fiction - and used an excellent marketing strategy with the title - it made me buy it. I shall be passing my copy onto my own mother, who will adore it. 7/10