1. The Corona typewriter was given to me by my husband when I secured the book deal for The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau. It’s actually a travel typewriter, so it comes with its own case, which it sits neatly inside. I have tentatively tried it out but I’m mainly too scared that I’ll break it, so it sits proudly for me to look at and dream that I am one of the first female foreign correspondents firing off important dispatches back to the news room!
2. When I was conducting the research for The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau I developed an index card system to keep myself organised. The book has so many different characters and locations that these cards became a lifeline when I was trying to find a quote or a piece of information quickly.
3. This illustration is of my wedding dress, which I bought in Melbourne when we were living in Australia for a year. The designer, Mariana Hardwick, gave me this drawing with the finished gown and I’ve always treasured it. I love fashion illustrations, so this picture really indulges that passion, as well as being a constant reminder of a special day.
4. I read Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion when I was studying English Literature at A Level. The language that Winterson uses throughout spoke to me in a way I’d never experienced before. It moved me. I found myself highlighting passages and coming back to them again and again over the next few years. I still revisit The Passion often, its words lift me up and make me ready to face the world again.
5. I’ve always loved non-fiction books and find myself buying them more than novels. I love non-fiction that illuminates those areas of history that might have been forgotten or not given much attention for one reason or another, or books that offer a different take on a familiar story.
6. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson is the book that haunts me from my bookshelves. It was the book that I was supposed to read at university and didn’t and it is the book that every year I resolve to read, yet don’t quite seem to get around to. Maybe this year?
Julie Ferry is a freelance journalist who has written for the Guardian, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and the Independent, among others. She writes on subjects ranging from protecting women’s rights to discovering Paris alone.
She graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in English Literature and then upped sticks and moved to a tiny island between Japan and South Korea to teach English, where she quickly got used to being followed around the supermarket by her inquisitive students. It was in Japan that she got her first byline for an English language newspaper and was quickly hooked.
Since then, she’s been fortunate to write for most of her favourite publications, but always harboured dreams of seeing her name on the front of a book. Now, she’s managing to combine her love of writing and an obsession with interesting and largely unknown women from history, with the school run in Bristol, where she lives with her husband and two children.
“I always have shelf space for a good and gossipy historical tome and The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau doesn’t disappoint.”
Available from Amazon and independent bookshops
The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau
Husband Hunting in the Gilded Age:
How American heiresses conquered the aristocracy
Fame, money, power, prestige, perhaps even love – the fascinating story of the marriages that took place in 1895 between American heiresses and the English aristocracy.
On 6 November 1895 Consuelo Vanderbilt married Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. Though the preceding months had included spurned loves, unexpected deaths, scandal and illicit affairs, the wedding was the crowning moment for the unofficial marriage brokers, Lady Minnie Paget and Consuelo Yzanga, Dowager Duchess of Manchester, the original buccaneers who had instructed, cajoled and manipulated wealthy young heiresses into making the perfect match.
The year had seen a crop of American heiresses travelling across the Atlantic, using their fortunes to procure themselves husbands and titles. For those families who had plenty of new money but were barred from the drawing rooms of the American upper classes, the increasingly broke English aristocracy provided the perfect opportunity to achieve the social acceptance they craved. And who better to help them attain it? The American women who had conquered the aristocracy a generation before and who would now use every social trick in the book to secure the right husband for their compatriots.
Featuring a captivating cast of characters including the beautiful Consuelo Vanderbilt, in love with a dashing older man but thwarted by her controlling mother, Washington society heiress Mary Leiter who married the pompous Lord Curzon and became the Vicereine of India, Maud Burke, a vivacious San Francisco belle with a questionable background and Lily Hamersley who found herself marrying once for money, twice for a title and a third time for love, The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau dashes through the year to tell their stories – the seasons, the parties, the money and the titles - always with one eye on the remarkable women who made it happen behind the scenes.
“Hugely entertaining and like reading a very well researched, detailed and high-brow gossip column.”
“This engaging new book chronicles the true stories of a group of American heiresses who came to England in 1895 in search of husbands and titles. A fascinating read.”
“History mixed with a wonderful aspect of storytelling which brings the book, and indeed the lives of its characters, to life.”
“The author does a good job of capturing the nuances, bringing to life the “gilded age” and telling it in a very accessible and interesting way.”
The MILLION DOLLAR DUCHESSES
How America's heiresses seduced the aristocracy
The Million Dollar Duchesses will be published in paperback on 3 May 2018. The book (published in hardback under the title The Transatlantic Marriage Bureau) is the story of the American heiresses that married into the aristocracy in 1895. Brimful of scandal, illicit affairs, spurned loves and unexpected tragedy, The Million Dollar Duchesses reveals the closed-door bargaining which led to these most influential matches and how America’s young heiresses shook-up British high society for ever.