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?