Booklist Reviews 2018 December #1
Barron, author of the Jane Austen mysteries (Jane and the Waterloo Map, 2016) turns her able hand to biographical fiction in this absorbing volume that captures the life and charm of one of the American heiresses who crossed the Atlantic to catch a titled English husband in the late nineteenth century. Lady Randolph Churchill, née Jennie Jerome, was a wealthy and privileged American, her father's indulged favorite, when she married the second son of a duke with a brilliant political career ahead of him. She went on to rise in aristocratic Victorian society, to the delight of some and horror of others, and give birth to future prime minister Winston Churchill, maintaining appearances as a society matron while living a modern and independent life of her own making, complete with passionate liaisons and artistic pursuits. She wrote speeches for her husband, entertained his parliamentary colleagues in her home, and parented his sons while he shaped England and traveled for his health after his political career ended. Recommended for fans of Victorian England, Gilded Age New York, historical fiction populated with real people, and high society. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2018 November #2
Most people know that Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American who married a British lord, but there's much more to Lady Randolph Churchill than her talent for painting and that she had a famous son. Historical mystery and suspense author Barron ("Jane Austen Mystery" series; A Flaw in the Blood), who also writes espionage fiction as Francine Mathews, vividly portrays Jennie against the backdrop of the Gilded Age—glamorous aspects and the strict societal mores that constrained the upper classes of the time, especially women. Scandal, notoriety, and passionate affairs may have been the hallmarks of Jennie's life, but this novel shows her as a modern woman before her time: politically in tune, faithful in her own way, and a loving if distant mother. VERDICT Fans of historical fiction based on famous women, such as Paula McLain's The Paris Wife, will enjoy getting the inside story on Lady Randolph Churchill, the smart, politically savvy, independent-minded American mother of the not-yet-famous Winston. Sure to be a book club favorite.—Laurie Cavanaugh, Thayer P.L., Braintree, MA
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.
PW Reviews 2018 October #2
This finely researched, sumptuous novel from Barron (The Jane Austen Mysteries) follows the journey of American heiress Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill. Socialite Jennie marries Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill at age 20 and almost immediately becomes one of British society's most talked-about beauties. Despite their shared passion for politics and Jennie's staunch belief in Randolph's ability to shape Britain's future, it's clear that Randolph's sexual appetites don't include Jennie—or any other woman, she begins to fear. In a society where homosexuality and divorce are taboo, and affairs are commonplace, Jennie falls for Charles Kinsky, an Austrian count and diplomat. Far from a fling, Jennie and Charles's love spans decades and weathers multiple stops and starts. Yet despite its powerful romanticism and eroticism, their relationship is complex and realistic. Barron's commitment to detail and scope allows for illuminating flashbacks and references to actual family letters, which serve to flesh out Jennie's story with realism and empathy. Though set in a world of transatlantic Victorian splendor, the story is more concerned with the harrowing aspects of the era—war, social ostracism, classism, and the sad state of public health. Presenting a fiercely intelligent, independent version of Jennie, this satisfying book actively pushes back against her historical reputation as a scandalous woman to great, consuming effect. (Jan.)
Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.