If You Like….
July 2nd, 2012

I was recently taken on a tour of the New York Yacht Club, one of the great, Gilded Age clubhouses of New York. There are more of those than one would think left in the city, tucked away. It got me thinking about the era they represent– and, of course, books depicting that era.

If you like novels of Gilded Age New York, you’ll probably like….

— There’s no better place to start than with the contemporary chronicler of the Gilded Age, Edith Wharton. Her House of Mirth and Age of Innocence brilliantly portray the foibles and excesses of the era.

— The book I’ve read recently that reminds me the most of Wharton, in tone, in subject, in everything, is Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress. It’s more The Buccaneers than House of Mirth, as it involves an American heiress marrying into the English aristocracy, but it catches the tone perfectly.

— For a while, back in the 80s, there was a treasure trove of Gilded Age-set romance novels, including Meagan McKinney’s Lions and Lace, which was one of my favorites at the time. Brooding self-made outsider seeks revenge on Knickerbocker society that excluded him by marrying the old line socialite heroine– and, of course, is thwarted in his scheme by falling madly in love with her. You know, the usual.

— Flipping the paradigm a bit, both Catherine Coulter’s Sweet Surrender and Kristin Hannah’s The Enchantment featured heroines who had conquered Wall Street– Coulter’s after a rocky start, Hannah’s only to lose it all and set out on a tropical adventure.

— One of my favorite gilded age romances was Jill Barnett’s Carried Away, in which two very different Gilded Age debutantes– the one a shy but wealthy parvenu, the other imperious but impoverished– find themselves kidnapped by Scotsmen in want of brides.

— Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe and its sequels have brought the Gilded Age to the YA market.

As you can see, I’m petering out here. What are your favorite Gilded Age New York novels?



12 Responses to “If You Like….”

  1. Caroline W says:

    Two of my favorite novels spend time in Gilded Age New York. Jennifer Donnelly’s “The Tea Rose” is split between Victorian England and 1880s New York. And then Paula Cohen’s “Gramercy Park” is set in 1870s New York. Both are worth a read!

  2. Jessica S. says:

    Thanks to the magic of free classics on my Kindle, I’m working my way through Wharton’s oeuvres…and I’m delighted with them.

  3. Beth says:

    For Gilded Age *Boston*, P.B. Ryan’s Nell Sweeney Mysteries are pretty good, though not very long. They’re in the Kindle Store, and the first one is free.

  4. Beth says:

    OH! And I forgot to mention… Nell Sweeney is a GOVERNESS!!!! :)

  5. Patricia Gallagher’s books Castles in the Air and the sequel are early Gilded Age novels set in New York and Washington, DC. The heroine has an affair with a married man, before marrying a senator.

  6. Amy N. says:

    Wow! I just finished “House of Mirth” — finally I figured out what I was missing in the movie. Some parts just did not make sense to me. I have the Buccaneers on the TBR pile. “Age of Innocence” has yet to be obtained. How about Henry James – “Portrait of a Lady”?

  7. SusanN says:

    Jane Goodger has written many Gilded Age novels, including A Perfect Wife.

    Susan Wiggs’s Chicago Fire Trilogy is set in 1870s Chicago.

    Patricia Gaffney, including Another Eden.

    Brenda Joyce’s Francesca Cahill novels.

    It seems like there were more books set in this era put out in the 80s and 90s, maybe even a few by Danielle Steele, but I’m drawing a blank.

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