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Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad

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Overview

Perfect for fans of the Emmy Award–winning series Downton Abbey, whose creator, Julian Fellowes, raved that Sisters of Fortune is “absolutely fascinating”—a real-life Jane Austen story, that follows the fabulous Caton sisters, the first American heiresses to take Europe by storm.

Based on intimate and previously unpublished letters written by the sisters, this is a portrait of four lively and fashionable women in early nineteenth century America. Much of it is told in their own ...

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Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad

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Overview

Perfect for fans of the Emmy Award–winning series Downton Abbey, whose creator, Julian Fellowes, raved that Sisters of Fortune is “absolutely fascinating”—a real-life Jane Austen story, that follows the fabulous Caton sisters, the first American heiresses to take Europe by storm.

Based on intimate and previously unpublished letters written by the sisters, this is a portrait of four lively and fashionable women in early nineteenth century America. Much of it is told in their own voices as they gossip about prominent people of their time, advise family members on political and financial strategy, soothe each other’s sorrows, and rejoice in each other’s triumphs.

Descended from one of the nation’s founding fathers and raised to be educated, independent, and opinionated young women, Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Emily Caton traveled to England in 1816 and won coveted places at the highest levels of Regency society by virtue of their charm, intelligence, and great beauty. An unusual, remarkable true story of money, love, and life at the top, Sisters of Fortune is a romantic family history and an inside look at the adventures of America’s original blue-blooded girls.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Young, beautiful, graceful, and well educated, the four Caton sisters enthralled all those who met them. Descended from the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, they moved in circles of both wealth and prominence on both sides of the Atlantic. Jehanne Wake's glittering collective biography shows how these three pretty plantation girls with fortunes captured the hearts of Regency high society after they arrived in London in 1816. (Youngest sister Emily stayed quite happily behind in Baltimore.) Painstakingly researched from personal documents, Jehanne Wake's Sisters of Fortune presents each of these energetic siblings as the distinct original she was.

Megan Mashall
Wake…has extracted a fascinating tale from her voluminous materials. The sisters' correspondence is thick with details of dress and décor, court gossip, family news and bulletins on health…Wake's truly remarkable accomplishment, however, is extra-biographical. She succeeds in tracing "the filmy threads of women's influence" in high society on both sides of the Atlantic through more than six decades, using the Caton sisters' lives as touchstones.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Marianne, Louisa, Bess, and Emily Caton were heiresses of the early 19th century with impeccable American breeding. Three of them sailed to England, married aristocrats, and left a legacy of public success, financial savvy, and an independence worthy of their family's heritage: their grandfather, a wealthy planter, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Wake (Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter) details the sisters' formative years with their grandfather Charles Carroll, their early favorable impression in England, and their high-status marriages. Although the sisters were sometimes labeled fortune seekers, Wade proves that their intelligence and diplomacy often improved the positions of their husbands, including Emily, who married a Canadian and eventually returned to Maryland. In between descriptions of parties in Regency England and post-Restoration France and intimate pre-Victorian royal relationships, the Catons' deep interest in financial ventures, improving acceptance of Catholicism, their founding of orphanages, and their intense familial relationships support Wake's assertion that these remarkable women successfully negotiated unpopular issues that might have ruined lesser women. In Wake's hands, the sisters still dazzle, blending continental influences with their enviable but heartbreaking adventures in England and France. 16 pages of color and 16 pages of b&w photos; 2 maps. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Sisters of Fortune is a fabulous parade through the best drawing rooms of 19th Century Europe. Rich, beautiful, and utterly fascinating, the Caton sisters deserve to be celebrated just like the Langhornes and the Mitfords.” —Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgiana

"A fascinating picture of a transatlantic world where rich women could achieve extraordinary social power by sticking with their sisters and being shrewd with their money." —Jane Ridley, Spectator UK

"The story of the Caton sisters sounds like the plot of an Edwardian novel by Henry James or Edith Wharton ... remarkable ... fascinating ... a rare pleasure." —Frances Wilson, The Sunday Times

"Enthralling ... This transatlantic celebration of sisterhood is a most gripping and fascinating tale, both scholarly and a page turner. Jehanne Wake handles a vast amount of material with confidence and even-handedness."Anne Sebba, The Literary Review

"A true story worthy of Henry James, Jehanne Wake’s Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad (Touchstone) follows the divergent fates of four strong-willed heiresses who, in the early nineteenth century, took European hearts by storm." —vogue.com

“The voice of each sister shines through. . . . Catnip for those who appreciate thorough research . . . If Masterpiece Theater or HBO has not grabbed this property, they should do so.” –The Washington Times

Library Journal
Covering 100 years, from America's Revolutionary beginnings to the death of the last surviving sister at the height of the Victorian age, Wake (Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter) tells the story of the four Caton sisters, granddaughters of the wealthy Charles Carroll of Maryland, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration. Based on unpublished archival sources, this is a meticulously researched, highly readable narrative. Born into a world of wealth and breeding, the sisters were unusually independent, financially savvy, and politically conscious. They traveled overseas and mixed in Europe with the best of post-Waterloo society. This engrossing biography focuses primarily on the three eldest sisters, who came to make their homes in England during a formative period in Anglo-American relations. Wake provides revealing glimpses into the anti-Catholic and anti-American biases of the period, with the sisters' lives challenging the era's stereotypical assumptions about women's lack of financial acumen. VERDICT Enhanced by illustrations revealing the homes, fashions, and personalities of the time, this fascinating book yields rich insights into a world where wealth gave certain women unprecedented access to power and influence. Intended and recommended for readers interested in history and the romantic world of 19th-century European aristocracy.—Marie M. Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451607635
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Edition description: Simon & Schuster
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 345,399
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Jehanne Wake graduated from Oxford University and is the author of the biography Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter. She lives in London. Visit her website at www.jehannewake.com.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations x

Maps

The Sisters' North America xiv

Maryland xv

The Carroll Family Tree xvi

Prologue xix

Part I North America 1770-1816

1 A Revolutionary Heritage 3

2 Miss Carroll's Choice 13

3 Plantation Girls 19

4 French Influences 31

5 Republican Girls 36

6 The Patterson Connection 47

7 Debutantes 53

8 In Washington City 59

9 The War of 1812 65

10 Emily's Canadian Adventure 74

11 Family Troubles 81

12 Mad About Europe 84

Part II Familiar Strangers 1816-24

13 In London Society 93

14 Anglo-American Differences 106

15 "We are all for Americans very well" 117

16 Dancing in Paris 124

17 Louisa in Love 132

18 Marianne and the Duke 140

19 Emily's Return 150

20 Unfulfilled Hopes 154

21 "Plunged in sorrow" 163

22 Afflicting Circumstances 175

Part III Anglo-American Wives 1824-34

23 Marianne's Return 183

24 His Delinquency 190

25 The Lady Lieutenant 203

26 Uncertain Futures 214

27 Perplexing Positions: Marianne 219

28 Perplexing Positions: Louisa 228

29 Petticoat Politics 238

30 The Reform Bill 247

31 The Last Signer 259

32 A Longed-for Reunion 268

Part IV Heiresses 1834-74

33 Lady Speculators 275

34 Plantagenet 295

35 Well Housed 303

36 "To be together" 312

37 "The desolate state of age" 329

Acknowledgments 340

Notes 343

Select Bibliography 364

Index 378

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

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(17)

4 Star

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a terrific historical biography

    Affluent Maryland planter Charles Carroll signed the declaration of Independence as the only Catholic to do so. Two score and one decade after he signed, three of his granddaughters (Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Caton) invaded London and took the country by storm in spite of being Catholic "colonists" and expected to wed the plantation owning crowd. Emily remained in North America where she married a Canadian heir to a large Montreal company John McTavish and managed the family Maryland properties. The trio quickly stormed the bastion of the Duke of Wellington who adored them and welcomed them into high society. He especially cherished Marianne who he could not marry so she wed his brother the Marquess Wellesley, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Louisa married and became the Duchess of Leeds and a favorite of Queen Victoria; while Bess married an aristocrat but also made a fortune on the stock market.

    This is a terrific historical biography that focuses on the four granddaughters of a little known Founding father. The quartet overcame bias by applying wit and intelligence that improved not just their lot but that of their families. Readers will enjoy attending the late upper crust soiree with the four Caton sisters as their guides. Photos and maps enhance a strong look at women who used their brains and beauty to make it in a man's world.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2012

    Excellent biography of the Caton sisters

    I am just about finished reading this book and found it to be a delightful story. It follows the 4 Catons sisters from their childhood in what is now exurban Baltimore, Maryland through their adult years and to their deaths. Mentored by their grandfather Charles Carroll of Carrolton, and raised in the Maryland plantocracy of the late 18th / early 19th centuries, three of the girls settled in England where they married into the British aristocracy. Charles Carroll influenced them to be independent minded and well educated. Because of this they handled themselves quite well in a male domnated world, to the point of becoming quite adept at investing and managing their money. Bess ( one of the sisters) could hold her own in any business setting.
    My guess is that this book would appeal to people who enjoy reading American history, strong willed women, or Maryland history ( That's the angle that got me to reading this book, I live about a mile from where these girls spent part of their childhood, and about 15 miles from the home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton)
    If you enjoy episodic tv such as Downton Abbey, or Upstairs Downstairs, this book will appeal to you. It is quite a human pagent lived across 5 or 6 decades, with 4 women, thier respective families.
    and richly lived lives. It leaves me wishing to know more about the sisters. If a good TV producer gets ahold o fthis book it could rival most episodic serials on TV , the story is that good

    Wow, great book!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2012

    Birthday gift

    This was a birthday gift for a friend so I cannot review it.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2012

    Good read

    It is a good interesting story. Parts can be a little confusing, but those parts are few and far between. Writer throws in alot of names and jumps around a little. Enjoyed it overall but wouldnt go out of my way to recommend it

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Lightning Dust

    Hey." A turquoise speckled cat with a gold pelt soars down and folds her wings. "Can I join?"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 29, 2013

    Twilight sparkle

    I wanna be twilight

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    Posted December 28, 2013

    Icy Heart

    "Winter, bring us the machine. Or YOU'RE going in it."<br>
    Icy Heart looked at Nightmare Moon. <br>
    "Imagine the fear of the ponies, as they are thrown into the metal jaws of the machine, have their bodies grinded down. They'll have to obey us."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 3, 2014

    Princess Luna

    Gracefully flies in.

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    Posted December 25, 2013

    Whisperwind

    Sup

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    Posted December 24, 2013

    Spike

    The cat version of spike raced in and sat on twilight sparkles shoulder.

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    Posted December 24, 2013

    Mintypaw

    Sits and waits.

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    Posted December 23, 2013

    Rainbow Dash

    She flys in oh yeah!!!!!!! She lands hey guys!! Can i join?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2013

    Twlight

    Nodded sure

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2013

    Misty

    Flies in

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    Posted January 3, 2014

    Darkmist

    Flys gracefully in, "Hi Fluttershy..."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2014

    Fluttershy

    Looks around

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    Posted January 12, 2014

    Pinkiepie

    *Rolls on her back.* Belly rubs?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2013

    Fluttershy

    Ok)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2013

    Brokenheart and Raritygem

    Brokenheart eats a mouse. <p> Raritygem pads over to Twilightsparkle and Spike. "Hello!"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2013

    Dragon Wing

    The frieny she cat waved with her tail to the new emembers. "Hullo!"

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