That Churchill Woman

That Churchill Woman

by Stephanie Barron

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524799564
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/29/2019
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 46,535
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Stephanie Barron studied history at Princeton and Stanford, where she was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow in the Humanities. She is the author of the historical suspense novels A Flaw in the Blood and The White Garden, as well as the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling Jane Austen Mystery series. A former intelligence analyst for the CIA, Barron—who also writes under the name Francine Mathews—drew on her experience in espionage for such novels as Jack 1939, which The New Yorker described as “one of the most deliciously high-concept thrillers imaginable.” She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

M

She was the last woman to enter the drawing room at Sandringham that Thursday night, hurrying down the stairs in her black satin slippers, one slim hand adjusting a glove. She’d kept the Prince of Wales’s guests waiting a full quarter hour while her maid, Gentry, finished dressing her hair. The cream-­and-­gold room was filled with the chatter of her most intriguing enemies and friends. The men were elegant in black evening dress and the ladies like a bouquet of tulips in their draped pastel gowns. Every head turned as Jennie Churchill swept through the doorway. The genteel chatter ceased. More than one gentleman ran his eyes the length of her figure; a few women gasped. Was her appearance that spectacular?

She glanced at her reflection in the towering looking glass over the mantel. She had ordered the blood-­red damask from Worth in Paris, and it was the very latest fashion: skirt gathered flat against her pelvis and flared at the rear in a half bustle, with a demi-­train that flirted across Sandringham’s Aubusson carpets. Falls of black lace and jet graced the plunging neckline. Gentry had piled her thick black hair high on her head and left a few curls trailing at the nape. A seven-­pointed Cartier star glittered with diamonds on her brow. It was the only jewel Jennie owned, but she was famous for it.

Yes. That spectacular.

She smiled secretly at her reflection and sank into a curtsey deep enough to encompass the entire room.

Consuelo, Viscountess Mandeville, winked back at her. Minnie Paget, another old friend, turned away and redoubled her efforts to charm Harry Cust. But it was Jennie he was staring at over Minnie’s shoulder.

“You’re looking well, Jane.” The Marquess of Hartington came toward her with a glass of sherry. “That color suits you. Matches the flush in your cheek.”

Hart always called her Jane; it was a mark of affection. As he was old enough to be her father and in love with another woman, she laughed at him and said, “I’ve been squabbling with my maid. She made me scandalously late. How was the shoot today, Hart?”

“Damnably wet.” He handed her the glass. “You should have come out with us. Fresh air and mud would do you good.”

Spring storms had deluged Sandringham all week. The gentlemen played billiards and potted rabbits when the weather was bad. The ladies gathered in the library and the morning room, writing letters and trading gossip and making faint gestures at needlework none of them gave a fig about. Jennie was used to riding in London nearly every morning and she longed to tear through the Norfolk fields. Her body ached tonight with restlessness.

“Nothing will keep me indoors tomorrow,” she confided, smiling up at Hart, “if I have to scrape the mud from my boots with a chisel. Are you taking me into dinner?”

“I believe that honor is mine,” Harry Cust broke in.

“You bounder!” George Curzon protested, with a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “You know we tossed for the privilege, and I won!”

“Gentlemen,” Hartington said warningly. “It does not do to make a prize of the lady. Particularly when your Prince is present.”

Jennie glanced swiftly toward the fire, where Bertie, the Prince of Wales, surveyed her with heavy-­lidded eyes and thumbs thrust in his waistcoat pockets. In most En­glish households, guests entered the dining room by order of social precedence. Not at Sandringham. Bertie liked to buck convention, and he loved women in Worth gowns. They were unabashedly feminine—­one reason Jennie had ordered the red damask. Bertie’s wife, Princess Alix, wasn’t allowed to patronize French dressmakers. Her mother-­in-­law, Queen Victoria, thought it unpatriotic.

“We shall draw lots for Lady Randolph,” Bertie said deliberately.

A titter of interest followed his words. The cluster of men around Jennie fell back. The Prince summoned a footman. A pen. A pad of paper. He jotted down the names of his male guests and dropped the twisted squibs into a silver ewer. Then he offered it to Jennie with a slight bow.

She reached into the ewer’s depths, twirling her fingertips among the possibilities. Her lips were parted, her long-­lashed eyes swooped lazily at half-­mast. Minnie Paget, her thin brows soaring to her hairline, was muttering behind her fan to the Duchess of Manchester. Jennie was pleased to note that Louise Manchester looked merely bored.

She withdrew a slip of paper and offered it triumphantly to the Prince.

He grunted, and passed it to Hartington.

“Count Charles Kinsky,” the Marquess read aloud, and turned his head to the far end of the double drawing room.

Jennie followed his gaze.

A dark-­haired young man whose face tugged at her memory was studying her in a way she recognized: both assessing and caressing at once. He had not been present at breakfast or tea.

“A new arrival,” she said, ignoring the leaping flame at her heart.

“He won the Grand National last month,” Hart told her. “I’ll take you over to him.”

Jennie had heard a good deal about Charles Kinsky—­or more accurately, about Count Karl Rudolf Ferdinand Andreas Fürst Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, as the Austrian peerage called him. He was the eldest son of Prince Ferdinand Kinsky, a knight of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles held a minor post at the Austrian embassy, but his job was far less important than his family pedigree, or his father’s palaces in Vienna and Prague, or the stud farms his dynasty cultivated in the pastures of Bohemia. The Equus Kinsky—­the Kinsky Horse breed—­supplied the Austro-­Hungarian imperial cavalry, and all of Europe knew it. Blue blood had run in Kinsky veins since the twelfth century.

He stood carelessly in the Prince’s drawing room as though it were the platform of a railway station and he had somewhere else to be. Kinsky was blue-­eyed and tall, with a straight nose and a dashing hussar mustache. His perfectly fitted evening clothes, Jennie guessed, had come from Henry Poole, the Prince’s Savile Row tailor. She found the contrast between him and Bertie almost painful. Queen Victoria’s son was forty-­two years old, bloated with self-­indulgence and incipient coronary disease. Kinsky was just twenty-­five: elegant, athletic, and whipcord-­lean. He had won the premier En­glish steeplechase a few weeks before at Aintree on his own horse, Zoedone, jumping her viciously round a field so muddy that it brought all but three contenders to their knees.

No amateur had ever won the Grand National. When Kinsky triumphed at Aintree, Jennie saw his face suddenly in all the sporting magazines and some of the ladies’ weeklies as well. Clubs concocted drinks they called “the Kinsky” and toasted him whenever he passed through their doors. Jennie’s friends begged for his presence at their balls and round their dining tables and, it was rumored, in their beds. He was chary with his time and attention. It had taken weeks for Alix, Princess of Wales, to lure him to Sandringham.

Jennie’s pulse quickened as the Marquess of Hartington led her to the Count. She had been a guest at Sandringham for three days already. She knew every single person wandering through the great house and had nearly exhausted her fund of trivial conversation. That must be why her heart leapt at the sight of Kinsky, she decided; he was a welcome diversion. He couldn’t be worse than the tedious spring weather. She dropped him the curtsey due to a minor royal.

“But we’ve met before,” Kinsky protested.

“Have we?”

“Ireland, County Meath,” he said immediately. “Lord Langford’s estate, Summerhill. Four years ago. Your husband’s family hosted the Empress Elisabeth. I was in her party.”

“I’m surprised you remember.” Jennie lifted her brows.

“How could I forget? You were the only woman in that wild country wearing a riding habit by Redfern.”

“Good Lord, how could you tell?” She had discovered the sporting tailor years before, in Cowes; now no lady in En­gland would hunt in anything else.

“Like you, my mother is a magnificent horsewoman. She taught me to recognize quality and elegance—­wherever I find it.”

Did he intend the compliment? Delighted, Jennie laughed at the Count and allowed him to carry her into the dining room.

It was an intimate space for a royal household, the walls lined with Madrid tapestries after the style of Goya, dark and vivid. A fire crackled at one end. Kinsky led Jennie around the long table, set for twenty, assessing the place cards. He found hers and without hesitation picked it up. “Do you know what I remember most from that time in Ireland?” he asked.

“The Empress’s leather riding habit? Or the fact that she was sewn into it each morning?”

“The sapphire-­blue gown you wore the night we danced together. You looked glorious. More like a panther than a woman.”

“A wild beast, Count? Should I be flattered or insulted?”

“Neither. I’m simply telling the truth.” He exchanged her place card for the one next to his own. “Indulge me, Lady Randolph. It’s long past time we got to know each other.”



Dinner at Sandringham never lasted more than an hour. That night Jennie found it far too short. The soup and fish and saddle of mutton passed in a blur; her wineglass was effortlessly refilled; she turned with regret from Kinsky on her right to the Earl on her left; and when the ladies rose to follow Princess Alix, leaving the men to their port, she paced alone before the great fireplace in Bertie’s saloon as the other women talked indolently among the velvet sofa cushions. She was frustrated with herself. What was so instantly dazzling, so absorbing and consuming, about Count Kinsky? She knew hundreds of men—­men of power, intelligence, fashion. Some of them had gone down on their knees, begging her to be their mistress. So why, suddenly, had this man caught her interest?

“I’m told you’re an American,” Kinsky had said over dessert, “but no one with your command of French grew up in New York. When did you live in Paris?”

“Mamma settled us there for her health when I was thirteen.” It was the standard explanation for her parents’ separation, but Mamma had never been ill a day in her life. She’d been sick of Papa’s opera singers.

“And suffered at the hands of a governess?” Kinsky guessed.

“I was sent to a convent school.” When she’d rather have gone riding each day with Papa back at Jerome Park. “I caused endless trouble for the nuns.”

“Of course you did.” His warm blue gaze met Jennie’s. Disconcerting; most dinner partners kept their eyes firmly on their plates. “That explains the French. You were young, and the young pick up languages effortlessly.”

“Your En­glish is just as good,” she countered.

“Thank you. My father was a diplomat before me. I was raised as much in London and Paris as on my own estates.”

My own estates. That was part of what made Charles fascinating—­he was one of those men who ruled the earth, or at least a good swath of it. He expected to have whatever he wanted. Her husband, Randolph, was similar—­a duke’s son, in the habit of ordering people around. But younger sons owned nothing.

“That’s when I first met Sisi—­your Empress Elizabeth,” Jennie observed. “I was fifteen, and we hunted together at Compiègne. She treated me like a daughter.”

“Don’t tell me you were in France during the Prussian invasion?” Kinsky asked suddenly, frowning. He must have hazarded her age and done a few sums. The invasion, a dozen years ago.

“Not quite. We caught the last train out of Paris,” Jennie supplied, “ahead of the cavalry. Our maid was supposed to follow. She never did.” Marie had simply pocketed the train fare and lived on in the empty house, selling the Jerome family’s belongings piece by piece to survive. “We managed to cross to Dover and install ourselves at Brown’s Hotel, like the other refugees.”

“So much for the convent.”

“Well . . .” Jennie flashed him a smile. “I was seventeen by that time, and straining at the leash. But poor Paris! The Prussian Siege was bad enough. The Commune that followed . . .”

“You saw that, too?”

“Mamma insisted on returning to France once the war was over.”

“For her health,” Kinsky suggested, amused.

“A mistake, Count, from which Mamma eventually recovered.”

The enchanting city in ruins. Sixty-­five thousand people buried in mass lime pits on the outskirts. The Bois de Boulogne, through which Jennie had galloped almost every day, cut to the ground for firewood. The Tuileries Palace a heap of smoking rubble.

“You have a gift for survival, Lady Randolph.”

She shrugged. “Americans are hard to kill.”

“And eventually you settled in En­gland ?”

Reading Group Guide

1. Jennie Jerome was one of the first American heiresses of the Gilded Age to cross the Atlantic in search of happiness. Do you think she found it?

2. Part of Jennie’s public persona was her Americanness. In English society, built on notions of birth and class, how was she different? Did she consciously use that difference to define herself? Did it liberate or entrap her?

3. The Dollar Princesses, as they were called, who traded American fortunes for European titles in the late nineteenth century, often married for social status more than love. Did the bargain guarantee unhappiness—or were there compensations?

4. A major influence in Jennie’s life was her father, Leonard Jerome. Was his impact on Jennie positive or negative?

5. Jennie’s parents separated when she was thirteen, and her mother moved the children permanently to Europe. Do you think that was a positive change in Jennie’s life, or an unfortunate one?

6. Randolph Churchill proposed to Jennie after knowing her only three days. Would you marry a person you’d known that briefly?

7. Jennie was a near-concert level pianist, a painter, a writer, and her husband’s chief political strategist, but her talents were limited by the roles accorded to women in the nineteenth century. Was she born too soon?

8. Some of us carry friends from childhood all the way through adult life, as Jennie did with Alva Vanderbilt; Minnie Stevens Paget; and Consuelo Yznaga Montagu, Duchess of Manchester. Do you have friends you’ve known since you were young? How have they, and you, changed through the years? What has affected your relationships most over time? If you had lived in her time, would you have wanted Jennie as a friend?

9. Was Randolph Churchill a victim of his marriage, or a villain? What feelings does he inspire?

10. Jennie was unfaithful to Randolph, and he to her, but they were fundamentally loyal to each other through twenty years of marriage. What is more important in a relationship: fidelity, or loyalty? Is it possible to be faithful to oneself, and yet loyal to others?

11. Charles Kinsky violated many of the rules of his royal upbringing and social position in his lengthy relationship with Jennie. Was his commitment to her difficult or easy? Is Charles an admirable figure, or a failed one?

12. A common criticism of Jennie Churchill is that she was a bad or neglectful mother. After reading THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, what do you think? What did it mean to be a parent in the Gilded Age, particularly in England, among the upper classes?

13. Who do you think had the greatest impact on Winston Churchill: his mother or his father?

14. How do you think Winston’s childhood affected his later life?

15. Winston nearly died at the age of twelve from pneumonia. Jennie lost her sister, Camille, to a virulent fever. Randolph Churchill went insane from a disease that is curable today. How would living with 19th-century medical standards alter your life?

16. Did Jennie Churchill have opportunities she squandered, or possibilities she wasted? If you were Jennie, would you have lived your life differently?

17. Have you ever been in a relationship affected by a hidden double life? How did that influence your behavior and commitment?

18. Is it possible to appreciate or fairly judge those who lived by the social rules of the past?

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That Churchill Woman 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 14 days ago
Dmaxtownsend 19 days ago
Strong, unconventional, beautiful, smart—Jennie Jerome Churchill, was this and more. Mother of Winston, daughter of a wealthy American businessman, wife of a syphilic member of Parliament, Jennie defied most of the rules imposed on the women of her era. While she feared being cut out of British society and her friendship with the Royals, she carried on numerous affairs yet remained fiercely loyal to her husband. This is a fascinating look at the life of a woman who was a child during the American Civil War who then spent most of her life in the palaces of Europe. It seems she was allowed her peccadillos because she was an American and could not be expected to act properly. Barron’s research was phenomenal and noteworthy. The story slides smoothly between the eras and the politics and social norms of the times. The book is a feast, a story to be enjoyed and savored. A not-to-miss read.
rendezvous_with_reading 5 months ago
Jenny Churchill : shrewd, unconventional and totally likeable Thank you Random House for this free copy to review! Jennie Jerome was one of those young American socialites that inspired Edith Wharton's novel, The Buccaneers. Born to wealthy parents that took her abroad to Paris, Jenny attracted the attention of many young noblemen due to her striking beauty and the fortune that would shore up her prospective husbands coffers. She married Lord Randolph Churchill, the 3rd son of the Duke of Marlborough, and they had 2 sons, one of whom was Sir Winston Churchill. Though she moved in the highest circles of British Society among the likes of Queen Victoria's heir, Bertie and his wife Alix, as an American, she stirred controversy. Jennie was raised privileged and taught to be independent, so when her she and Lord Churchill drifted apart, she discreetly became involved with other men, most notably, an Austrian diplomat, Count Charles Kinsky. Lord Churchill had health issues that put a strain on their marriage and his parliamentary career. Though their marriage was more of a business arrangement, Jenny was ever the supportive wife, assisting him politically and helping to manage his career. After reading about Alva Vanderbilt a few months ago in A Well Behaved Woman, this novel just furthered my interest in the women that influenced and shaped the Gilded Age. Alva and Jennie were childhood friends. Like Alva, Jennie had power and great influence over her contemporaries. I like how the author introduces some flash backs to Jenny's childhood and shows how her parent's marriage shaped her morals. Also, when you read how Winston was raised, its quite heartbreaking, even if it was a typical aristocratic childhood for the time period. I found this well researched and easy to read. Jenny Churchill was shrewd and unconventional but also likeable. This would appeal to those that love all things British and the Gilded Age; those years leading up to WWI. These Anglo-American marriages were valuable in linking the two countries together when the war arrived. I really found this peek into the Gilded Age quite fascinating!
Delphimo 6 months ago
I have always thought Jennie Jerome Churchill an interesting lady, but the novel by Stephanie Barron, That Churchill Woman, shows Jennie as tawdry and sordid. I felt that Barron centered the whole story on Jennie’s voracious sexual appetite and showed little of her intelligence. I must have forgotten the cause of Jennie’s death and the horror the injury to Jennie. Barron presents an English society intent on physical pleasure that follows strict guidelines. The running of the government seems to happen by chance as these people lead a life of leisure and pleasure. The novel does not delve into the personality of the characters. Too much emphasis is given to dialogue, and too little detail on the settings.
pemberlolly 7 months ago
Beautiful, stylish and an accomplished musician, when American heiress Jennie Jerome married Lord Randolph Churchill she aligned her family with one of England’s most noble families. Producing an heir and a spare, her homelife was run by servants while she partied with aristocrats and royalty. Lady Randolph appeared to have it all, yet like other bright shining stars in society, such as Emma Hamilton, Marie Antoinette, or Jennie’s childhood friend Alva Vanderbilt, we soon discover “varnish and gilding hide many stains.” Her husband Randolph, whom she accepted after a three-day courtship, and against her mother’s advice, has brought heavy baggage with him into the marriage. While she dutifully assists him in his career by re-writing his speeches for parliament, accompanying him to important social and political events, and entertaining royalty in their London home, his heedless actions and rash decisions cannot be offset by her social graces when he blunders and resigns his hard-earned government post in protest. As his career and health decline, Jennie is shocked to learn that he is a closeted homosexual and is seriously ill with syphilis, which will eventually rob him of his political aspirations and his life. His follies and vices have set a bad tone for their relationship slashing a whole in Jennie’s happiness. To survive her loveless marriage, she escapes to country manor houses for long weekends with the Prince of Wales’ set were gossip, hunting, feasting, and bedroom hopping is de rigueur. In her heart, and in her bed, is the dashing Austrian Count Charles Kinsky, diplomat, prominent horseman and the future Prince of Wchinitz and Tettauis. He is the one man in her life that she truly loves. Sadly, their romance is doomed. A divorce from her husband would result in a scandal that no one of her class could rebounded from, and he must marry royalty. Renowned by Jane Austen fans for her Being a Jane Austen Mystery Series, Stephanie Barron is also a best-selling author of thrillers as Francine Mathews (Jack 39, Too Bad to Die). That Churchill Woman, while resplendent with period detail and vivid characters, is as intricately plotted as one her mysteries or thrillers, cleverly moving between Jennie’s childhood and her present-day life, mirroring conflicts or recalling memories that help her through a crisis. What really resonated for me was Jennie herself. She was no saint, yet Barron shapes her choices with plausible instinct and solid reasoning. Reading about Jennie’s wild gallop on horseback through the English countryside with Count Kinsky, I recalled the advice of her father on cheating death by living two lives in the space of one. She did. What I thought would be a novel about a scandalous Victorian socialite honors a strong, fierce woman who embraced life and love, celebrating the indomitable human spirit. A remarkable achievement. Victorian Jennie Churchill is an inspiration for women today. Impassioned, brilliant and smashing. You will love her! Laurel Ann, Austenprose
marongm8 7 months ago
We are always on the lookout for Historical Fiction novels and this will definitely be the cream of the crop of our collection. Winston Churchill is known as one of the most powerful historical fiction throughout all American history and I was unfamiliar with the story of his mother...until now. It is mindblowing the history from just Jennie Jerome and how she married a duke at nineteen and all the mess she has gotten herself into being thrown into royalty and power. Fascinating read that will directly pull you in immediately. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
CherryPie0420 7 months ago
I'll admit that I do not know a lot about Winston Churchill except knowing that he was Britain's prime minister for awhile and was a brilliant man in his own right, so when I picked up That Churchill Woman I figured I would learn more about where Winston came from, and I learned that and so much more. Jennie Jerome, or Lady Randolph Churchill, lived a life not of her own choosing. Losing her sister at a very young age, who also happened to be her best friend, then marrying a man with deep, dark secrets; having to put her wants and needs aside to help her husband live out his dream, while trying to be the best mother that she can under the circumstances. Extramarital affairs were commonplace among the wealthy, which allowed Jennie to have her personal needs met, but this took her away from her two young sons, and gave her an unsavory reputation. Jennie's story is disturbing and heartbreaking. Stephanie Barron did an incredible job of describing every detail, pulling you into that world. There were scenes that were incredibly hard to read due to the graphic nature and unbelievable detail, yet fascinating that these horrific instances could've possibly happened. Stephanie Barron's years of research shines on every page and gave me a craving to know more about the Churchill family. Deeply thought provoking, this is a book that is hard to put down. The ending was especially gratifying and filled with sweet freedom on numerous levels, which leaves the reader with a sigh of relief. Though incredibly graphic at times, That Churchill Woman is a story about a woman who shined despite being in almost constant conflict and scandal, and worth knowing more about. She was more than Lady Randolph Churchill. She was Jennie, a woman who did what she could and never gave up. *I received a complimentary copy of this book from Ballantine Books through NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own.
Bookworm2Bookworm 7 months ago
Jeanette (Jennie) Jerome is the daughter of a very wealthy American family. As was the case with many wealthy American young women of the time period, she moved to Europe hoping to marry a man with a title. Thus, she married Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill, a younger son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough whose family home is Blenheim Palace in the Cotswolds. When Jennie and Randolph first met, she was impressed with his drive to stand for Parliament and he admired her athleticism. They had two sons, the oldest being the famous Winston Churchill. Jennie often wrote or rewrote Randolph’s speeches in the House and they were spectacular. As Randolph was not a strong man and as he did not like to leave London where he was so involved with Parliament, Jennie ended up going alone to attend house parties. At a house party, Jennie met Count Charles Kinsky with whom she fell in love. They had an affair but she tried to cut it off. It was not the first affair that she had had. They continued to meet up over the years and their love was true. We learn the truth about Randolph, his homosexuality, and resulting syphilis from which he suffered for many years. Randolph was not a warm father to his sons and never failed to criticize them. Winston was not a top student and this infuriated his father. Both Jennie and Randolph were not hands-on parents in any way. The children were sent off to school at a very young age and their nanny raised them the rest of the time. Even when Winston was very ill, Jennie’s presence at a dinner party was more important than being at her son’s side. This book covers lots of political debate of the time period which some readers may not care for, but I learned a lot from it. I have read other books about Jennie and her sisters. In addition, I am a huge fan of Winston Churchill and have read numerous books about him as well. So, when this book came along, I was very anxious to read it. I was not disappointed. It is terrific. I love English history and this book is tops. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.