Book Review: An American Beauty, by Shana Abe

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Title: An American Beauty     
Author: Shana Abe    
Genre: Historical fiction     
Rating:  4 out of 5

1867, Richmond, Virginia: Though she wears the same low-cut purple gown that is the uniform of all the girls who work at Worsham’s gambling parlor, Arabella stands apart. It’s not merely her statuesque beauty and practiced charm. Even at seventeen, Arabella possesses an unyielding grit, and a resolve to escape her background of struggle and poverty.

Collis Huntington, railroad baron and self-made multimillionaire, is drawn to Arabella from their first meeting. Collis is married and thirty years her senior, yet they are well-matched in temperament, and flirtation rapidly escalates into an affair. With Collis’s help, Arabella eventually moves to New York, posing as a genteel, well-to-do Southern widow. Using Collis’s seed money and her own shrewd investing instincts, she begins to amass a fortune.

Their relationship is an open secret, and no one is surprised when Collis marries Arabella after his wife’s death. But “The Four Hundred”—the elite circle that includes the Astors and Vanderbilts—have their rules. Arabella must earn her place in Society—not just through her vast wealth, but with taste, style, and impeccable behavior. There are some who suspect the scandalous truth, and will blackmail her for it. And then there is another threat—an unexpected, impossible romance that will test her ambition, her loyalties, and her heart . . .

The first 20% of this was a bit slow, and I almost put it down, but it did pick up. Arabella is an interesting character:  she’s very distant and manipulative, and sometimes comes across as cold. She even felt distant towards her family to me, except towards her son. I had to admire all that she accomplished, but using people came as second nature to her, so she’s not the type of person I like. I did like how the author managed to not give away her complete history until towards the end of the book.

Shana Abe is a bestselling author. An American Beauty is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)


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