C. W. GortnerDec 8, 2022
The American Adventuress
William Morrow 2022
From Lucrezia Borgia to Marlene Dietrich, Empress Marie Fyodorovna of Russia, and most recently the actress Sarah Bernhardt, C. W. Gortner has made a career out of finding strong, fascinating, real-life heroines for his novels. In The American Adventuress (William Morrow, 2022), he focuses his attention on Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill.
From the moment we first meet her as a sassy and defiant twelve-year-old schoolgirl, Jennie charts her own course—to the consternation of her more conventional but in some ways wiser mother. Her father—an entrepreneur hovering on the edge of elite New York society—adores and supports this second daughter whose character so resembles his own, but some shady business dealings and a long-term affair with Jennie’s piano teacher eventually undermine his marriage. Jennie’s mother flees with her three daughters to Paris, where the girls complete their education. Then the Franco-Prussian War begins, and the family moves to London and safety.
There Jennie makes the acquaintance of an odd-looking but charming and intelligent young man, Lord Randolph Churchill, who proposes marriage almost right away. Jennie falls madly in love, and soon they are courting in earnest despite opposition from both their families.
A gifted pianist, a beauty, a free spirit, and a loving if often-distant mother, Jennie lives life to the hilt: spending extravagantly, flirting outrageously, neglecting her children, and breaking convention in ways that defy our views of the constraints placed on Victorian women. But whatever her faults, Jennie herself is unforgettable, and it is Gortner’s achievement that he brings her so vividly to life.
C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. From an original focus on the Tudors, the range of his bestselling fiction has expanded to include the lives of Coco Chanel, Catherine de Medici, and Isabella of Castile. The American Adventuress is his twelfth novel.
C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her next novel, Song of the Storyteller, will appear in January 2023.