kode adsense disini
Hot Best Seller

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts

Availability: Ready to download

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good n The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva's bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths--and elevated the Vanderbilts. From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball--no mere amusement--wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long. But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? --There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully. And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who's hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net? Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England's most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There's only one way to know for certain...


Compare
kode adsense disini

The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good n The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family in as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. In 1883, the New York Times prints a lengthy rave of Alva Vanderbilt's Fifth Ave. costume ball--a coup for the former Alva Smith, who not long before was destitute, her family's good name useless on its own. Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a union contrived by Alva's bestfriend and now-Duchess of Manchester, saved the Smiths--and elevated the Vanderbilts. From outside, Alva seems to have it all and want more. She does have a knack for getting all she tries for: the costume ball--no mere amusement--wrests acceptance from doyenne Caroline Astor. Denied abox at the Academy of Music, Alva founds The Met. No obstacle puts her off for long. But how much of ambition arises from insecurity? From despair? From refusal to play insipid games by absurd rules? --There are, however, consequences to breaking those rules. One must tread carefully. And what of her maddening sister-in-law, Alice? Her husband William, who's hiding a terrible betrayal? The not-entirely-unwelcome attentions of his friend Oliver Belmont, who is everything William is not? What of her own best friend, whose troubles cast a wide net? Alva will build mansions, push boundaries, test friendships, and marry her daughter to England's most eligible duke or die trying. She means to do right by all, but good behavior will only get a woman so far. What is the price of going further? What might be the rewards? There's only one way to know for certain...

30 review for A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    THE GILDED AGE, a time of unprecented economic growth, the robber barons and their new money. Huge mansions, larger than life balls, and over the top furnishings. I have read biographies of Rockefeller, The Vsnderbilts, watched documentaries, where their wives were often side notes. If I thought about them at all, I dismissed them as priviledged, money grubbers and ornemental. Now, after reading this book, which tells Alva's story, I admit to that maybe not being the case for all. Yes, she marrie THE GILDED AGE, a time of unprecented economic growth, the robber barons and their new money. Huge mansions, larger than life balls, and over the top furnishings. I have read biographies of Rockefeller, The Vsnderbilts, watched documentaries, where their wives were often side notes. If I thought about them at all, I dismissed them as priviledged, money grubbers and ornemental. Now, after reading this book, which tells Alva's story, I admit to that maybe not being the case for all. Yes, she marries money, she had the old lineage name, William Vanderbilt, the money. No, it was far from a love match, was advantageous to both parties. Yes, she built houses that were very large, set to outdo the Astor's, and others of that set. Her balls, the descriptions, an unbelievable display of wealth. Her three children afforded every advantage, and yet true happiness eluded her. One does get a sense of what this woman was, and she was much more than I had thought. She helped to design her houses architecturally, she gave and worked on committees to help those less fortunate, and not just by donating money, she actually visited the houses and hospitals. She refused to take her husband's infedility lying down, refused to look the other way as many in her set did. She did something many would not have done, but made sure she was taken care of monetarily through it all. She was a gutsy, strong women, and towards the end of her life she worked tirelessly for suffrage and equal rights. I think I would have enjoyed meeting her. Well written, descriptive, an insight into the family and life of the extremely wealthy, this was a joy to read. ARC from St. Martin's Press.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    4 gilded stars to a Well-Behaved Woman! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ A childhood visit to The Biltmore Estate will certainly add Vanderbilt intrigue to one’s list of interests, and I lapped up this story of Alva Smith Vanderbilt. Alva Smith’s family had once known prominence but lost it all; that is, until her best friend orchestrates her union with William Vanderbilt. The latter family is new money, but not well-accepted into society. Alva works hard for the acceptance in society she receives. If she finds a door c 4 gilded stars to a Well-Behaved Woman! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A childhood visit to The Biltmore Estate will certainly add Vanderbilt intrigue to one’s list of interests, and I lapped up this story of Alva Smith Vanderbilt. Alva Smith’s family had once known prominence but lost it all; that is, until her best friend orchestrates her union with William Vanderbilt. The latter family is new money, but not well-accepted into society. Alva works hard for the acceptance in society she receives. If she finds a door closed, she opens a window. She pushes the envelope and puts herself, and her family, out there. She is not constrained by the notion of “goodness” or good behavior. Alva is a hero is many senses. Because she takes a backseat to no man, certainly not her husband, she finds herself in roles women typically did not fill at the time. She helps design her mansions, she is on the front lines of the charities in which she works (not just handing over the money), and most of all, she does not turn a blind-eye to William’s infidelity. Alva is passionate about suffrage and women’s rights, and I’m grateful to have made her acquaintance through this book. A Well-Behaved Woman is the story of a strong woman before her time who pushed boundaries and broke through them. Beautifully-written, interesting, and insightful, historical fiction fans will enjoy Alva’s take on living during the Gilded Age as a Vanderbilt. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the complimentary ARC. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  3. 5 out of 5

    Therese Fowler

    Yes, I'm rating my own novel five stars. Would anyone expect an author to do otherwise? If you enjoy Jane Austen or Edith Wharton novels, if reading fiction about real figures from history interests you, or if you share a fascination with the Gilded Age and/or the Vanderbilt family, this book is for you.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    3.5 stars, rounded up I’ve often thanked my lucky stars I was born when I was. The idea of one’s sole goal in life being to manage a “good” marriage is soul deadening. And when that prospect is hampered by a loss of fortune by one’s father… Alva Smith is looking for a husband in the years after the Civil War. “The young men, who were outnumbered three to one...watched and smiled and nodded like eager buyers at a thoroughbred market.” Alva’s straight forward, strong willed for her time. As she thi 3.5 stars, rounded up I’ve often thanked my lucky stars I was born when I was. The idea of one’s sole goal in life being to manage a “good” marriage is soul deadening. And when that prospect is hampered by a loss of fortune by one’s father… Alva Smith is looking for a husband in the years after the Civil War. “The young men, who were outnumbered three to one...watched and smiled and nodded like eager buyers at a thoroughbred market.” Alva’s straight forward, strong willed for her time. As she thinks to herself “she was never one to wallpaper a water stain.” It doesn’t take her long to start taking her own approach. I thoroughly enjoyed her taking on the old society way of doing things, not to mention the men. This isn’t the liveliest of stories, but then, a lady’s life wasn’t. In fact, there are parts that dragged as much as a lady’s skirts. Part of the problem is that she is so fixated on being accepted by the Old Guard, specifically Mrs. Astor. A little social climbing goes a long way. And even after she’s gotten what she wanted status wise, history repeats itself as she tries to make a suitable match for her daughter. Fowler would have us be sympathetic towards Alva. But at times it is a struggle, such as when she calls the poor who write her “begging letters” heartless and presumptuous. But she does things other women won’t even contemplate, such as divorcing her philandering husband even though it temporarily makes her a pariah. This was an interesting book but not an engrossing one. My thanks to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advance copy of this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Burnett

    4.5 stars A Well-Behaved Woman is a fabulous story about Alva Vanderbilt and her determination to succeed in cut-throat, Gilded-Age New York. Fowler humanizes Alva and presents her in a way that will have the reader viewing Alva through a more sympathetic lens. The Gilded Age is a fascinating time period to me, and I loved viewing the era through Alva Vanderbilt’s eyes. I very much enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for anyone who loves that time period. I received this book to read and re 4.5 stars A Well-Behaved Woman is a fabulous story about Alva Vanderbilt and her determination to succeed in cut-throat, Gilded-Age New York. Fowler humanizes Alva and presents her in a way that will have the reader viewing Alva through a more sympathetic lens. The Gilded Age is a fascinating time period to me, and I loved viewing the era through Alva Vanderbilt’s eyes. I very much enjoyed this book and highly recommend it for anyone who loves that time period. I received this book to read and review; all opinions are my own.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    The blurb describes Alva Vanderbilt as 'outspoken, brave, brilliant, fierce': what a shame, then, that the book portrays her as conventional, proper, limited by her attention to social mores and desperate to fit in - in fact, she's written as a generic rich woman who just wants to be queen bee of Gilded Age Manhattan. After her family lose their Southern cotton plantation wealth (er, money made on the back of slavery - though Fowler is at some pains to show Alva treating her black maid as an equ The blurb describes Alva Vanderbilt as 'outspoken, brave, brilliant, fierce': what a shame, then, that the book portrays her as conventional, proper, limited by her attention to social mores and desperate to fit in - in fact, she's written as a generic rich woman who just wants to be queen bee of Gilded Age Manhattan. After her family lose their Southern cotton plantation wealth (er, money made on the back of slavery - though Fowler is at some pains to show Alva treating her black maid as an equal: modern liberal consciousness on show?) Alva determines to marry into the super-rich Vanderbilt family and pulls off her social coup despite feeling nothing for her amiable nonentity of a husband. Par for the course at the time, of course, but hardly 'brave' or 'brilliant' behaviour. Once married, she produces the required heirs, plots the social supremacy of the Vanderbilts via ostentatious houses, extravagant jewellery (a peacock brooch that costs the obscene equivalent of 10 years salary for a working man and which can only be worn once) and costumed balls - shunned by the Astors at the opera? No problem, just build your own new musical venue! It's hard to buy into Alva's materialistic values, and even her concerns for female suffrage and charitable works feel superficially treated, painted over the top of a wooden cut-out named Alva. It's disconcerting that more radical models of femalehood for the time are passed over in the margins: Alva's sister Armide decides not to marry and to dedicate herself to social work; and her childhood friend Consuelo makes the required wealthy marriage then uses it to break out of the 'proper' mould of American upper-class women: she smokes, she uses words like 'whore', she talks of enjoying sex and taking lovers - and Alva is so deeply conventional that she is offended by her friend's boldness and doesn't talk to her for some time! It's not just the characterisation which feels shallow, the mode of story-telling is superficial: big things happen (Alva has children, the man she's in love with elopes with another woman) and they just drift by with no emotional impact. This is a mono-tonal book - no peaks or troughs, just an even, measured progress where nothing really touches either Alva or us. There's an obvious comparison to be made with Edith Wharton's novels: but where Wharton interrogates and exposes all the values of Old New York society, Alva and her author participate in and perpetuate them; where a Lily Bart struggles with whether and how (how?) to sell herself in social marriage, Alva glories in her material wealth; where Wharton creates nuance and complexity and tragedy, Fowler settles for glamorous dresses and interior-decoration-porn. And it's the latter which makes this readable and where Fowler's research is most evident: things, all manner of things, are lavishly described. We may not have much sense of Alva's inner life, but we know all about the insides of her houses! ARC from Amazon Vine.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    A fascinating and fabulous story of a strong, independent woman well ahead of her time. SUMMARY Alva Smith’s mother was deceased, her father was ailing and her family was quickly becoming destitute. Her family‘s good name was useless on its own. She needed to quickly marry someone with money. Alva, with the help of her best friend Consuelo Yznaga, was able to secure a proposal from the young William K. Vanderbilt. The hope from the Vanderbilts was that Alva, because of her name, would put the Van A fascinating and fabulous story of a strong, independent woman well ahead of her time. SUMMARY Alva Smith’s mother was deceased, her father was ailing and her family was quickly becoming destitute. Her family‘s good name was useless on its own. She needed to quickly marry someone with money. Alva, with the help of her best friend Consuelo Yznaga, was able to secure a proposal from the young William K. Vanderbilt. The hope from the Vanderbilts was that Alva, because of her name, would put the Vanderbilt’s in good stead with the Astor’s. The matriarch of the Astor family, Caroline, known as the “queen of the elite” turned a cold shoulder to Alva upon their first introduction. After their marriage in 1875, Alva worked tirelessly on recognition and acceptance by the Astor’s. Her success came at a 1883 costume ball, at Alva’s newly constructed Fifth Avenue Mansion. Caroline Astor acquiesces to attending for her daughter’s sake. It was a huge coup for Alva Vanderbilt, who was raising three children and involved in countless good causes. Alva built a second mansion at Newport, while William was off playing at being rich. Alva was determined to marry her only daughter to England’s most eligible duke and stops at nothing to make it possible. Alva means to do right by all, but sometimes a well-behaved woman has had enough. Sometimes being well-behaved is just not the right thing to do. “A person might easily come to think that this ball, this house, Alva’s efforts to improve culture and to beautify New York, were only about Alva wanting to elevate herself, with the Vanderbilt family getting the secondary benefits of her rise. One might conclude that she put personal ambition above all else in order to feed an insatiable vanity. Well, let them, she thought. And intelligent woman in this world takes her chances where she finds them.” REVIEW A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN is a fascinating and fabulous historical fiction read. Both the writing and the story are delightful. Alva Smith Vanderbilt was portrayed as the epitome of a strong, independent woman well ahead of her time. Her ability to make things happen and her vulnerabilities were both evident in the book, making her come alive on the page. My favorite part of the story was when Alva confronted the Vanderbilts at a family dinner and proposed they each build a new mansion on Fifth Avenue with the design of their choice that will stand as a work of art that can be admired by all. She argued with the Vanderbilt men that the benefit would be beautifying New York and employing hundreds of artisans, stonemasons, and carpenters, at a time when unemployment was at an all time high. It was a brilliant strategy. Author THERESE ANNE FOWLER descriptions were vivid and I felt as if I was in the receiving line with Alva at her 1883 Costume Ball as the various guests ascended the red carpet entry and discussed their costumes with the hostess. The most outrageous costume was a woman dressed as a cat. With rows of white cat tails made into a overskirt and an actual cat’s pelt, head and all fashioned into a hat. Overall A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN is an enlightening and entertaining read, one that may even have you researching historical pictures as you read. I just had to see what Alva’s glorious mansions of the gilded-age looked like. If you enjoy reading books about strong, independent, forward-thinking, cause-oriented women, Alva Vanderbilt’s story should not be missed. She did so much for so many. Fowler is a New York Times best selling author of numerous novels including Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. “Yet she understood a truth she could never say aloud: this ideal life was still deficient. She was not wholly content. Perhaps she should be, but contentment, she had learned, lay beyond money’s considerable reach.” Publisher St. Martin’s Press Published October 16, 2018 Review www.bluestockingreviews.com

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Alva did not need to love William Vanderbilt; she needed only to marry him. In the years after the American Civil War, New York's Astors, Roosevelt's, Rothschilds' and Vanderbilts were the cream of high society and advantageous marriages were at the very heart of the papers. Enter Alva Smith, her father ailing, her mother dead, it's up to Alva to elevate her sisters and her husband's family to the stature of leading New York families. But Alva wasn't just a mere trophy wife. She was a woman who Alva did not need to love William Vanderbilt; she needed only to marry him. In the years after the American Civil War, New York's Astors, Roosevelt's, Rothschilds' and Vanderbilts were the cream of high society and advantageous marriages were at the very heart of the papers. Enter Alva Smith, her father ailing, her mother dead, it's up to Alva to elevate her sisters and her husband's family to the stature of leading New York families. But Alva wasn't just a mere trophy wife. She was a woman who wanted the Vanderbilt millions to help the poor, the sick, and the orphans. She was a woman, unlike many in her society that believed in civil rights for both black and white citizens, and she advocated for women's right to vote. If only the book had shown more about this, instead of the endless parties and other frivolities of that time period, my rating would have been higher. BUT. I loved the author's note and acknowledgements at the end and I felt this was a good introduction to a woman and a family I knew very little about. Thanks to Netgalley for an e- Arc in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Terrible, I must dump this. This was a huge disappointment. I have read six chapters. I rarely dump any book and I only do it when I am sure the book is not for me. Both this book and the last book I have just read, Edith Wharton's False Dawn, are set in the Gilded Age. Side by side, the comparison between the two was shocking. I have not come far enough to say anything about plot composition; I am criticizing the prose and the inability of the author to authentically capture how people of diffe Terrible, I must dump this. This was a huge disappointment. I have read six chapters. I rarely dump any book and I only do it when I am sure the book is not for me. Both this book and the last book I have just read, Edith Wharton's False Dawn, are set in the Gilded Age. Side by side, the comparison between the two was shocking. I have not come far enough to say anything about plot composition; I am criticizing the prose and the inability of the author to authentically capture how people of different social classes spoke to each other during the Gilded Age. This reads as a (poor) romance novel for a young adult. Chick lit, fluff, a beach-read, not quality historical fiction. I am not disparaging these genres. I am merely placing the book in the genre it belongs. I am writing this as a word of warning to those of you interested in credible, well written historical fiction.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    “A Well-Behaved Woman is a gem: a fascinating tale of Gilded Age manners and mores, and one remarkable woman’s attempts to transcend them. Therese Anne Fowler, the immensely gifted writer who gave us all new insights into Zelda Fitzgerald in her novel, Z, has done it again for Alva Vanderbilt Belmont.” -- Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of The Flight Attendant

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    4.5 stars. I enjoyed Therese Anne Fowler’s ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ and looked forward to reading her latest story of Alva Belmont Vanderbilt, her rise in social status and that of the Vanderbilt family as seen through Alva's eyes. Alva is introduced as a dynamic young woman in the courting stage who catches the eye of William Vanderbilt, marrying him in 1875. I had no knowledge of her prior to picking up the book but could tell early on that this woman clearly had more purpose than that 4.5 stars. I enjoyed Therese Anne Fowler’s ‘Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ and looked forward to reading her latest story of Alva Belmont Vanderbilt, her rise in social status and that of the Vanderbilt family as seen through Alva's eyes. Alva is introduced as a dynamic young woman in the courting stage who catches the eye of William Vanderbilt, marrying him in 1875. I had no knowledge of her prior to picking up the book but could tell early on that this woman clearly had more purpose than that of being arm candy for her husband, hosting and attending fancy dress balls and raising well-behaved children. She puts her smarts, wealth and connections to work not only to keep the Vanderbilts in the limelight but to help those less fortunate and by becoming a prominent figure in women’s suffrage. Her story is remarkable and I found myself quickly and completely submerged in the glamour and glitter of the Golden Age. The care and research Fowler’s has put into this book is impressive. I loved Alva’s associations with some recognizable characters, the well-heeled who enter her vortex. I especially enjoyed her growing/changing friendship with best friend Consuela and the written letters sent between them. One quite memorable moment relates to Caroline Aster, the New York socialite known as the “queen of the elite” who snubbed Alva. Alva’s crafty way of bringing Aster around was brilliant. An entertaining and enlightening read that I highly recommend to those who enjoy historical fiction.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Find this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs... Knowing something about the history that inspired a story is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’re dying for a creative mind to fictionalize the material, but on the other, you want to see it done a certain way and you get intensely frustrated when the author fails to deliver your private expectations. It is, of course, ridiculous to expect anyone to read your mind, but the disappointment exists just the same. This phenom Find this and other reviews at: https://historicalfictionreader.blogs... Knowing something about the history that inspired a story is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you’re dying for a creative mind to fictionalize the material, but on the other, you want to see it done a certain way and you get intensely frustrated when the author fails to deliver your private expectations. It is, of course, ridiculous to expect anyone to read your mind, but the disappointment exists just the same. This phenomenon inspired my negative and obscenely biased response to Daisy Goodwin’s The Fortune Hunter and Allison Pataki’s Sisi series, The Accidental Empress and Sisi: Empress on Her Own. It’s the reason I’ve avoided Susan Appleyard’s In a Gilded Cage and Danny Saunder’s Sissi: The Last Empress and it is the root cause of my delay in reviewing Kerri Maher’s The Kennedy Debutante and Therese Anne Fowler’s A Well-Behaved Woman. I’m sharing this because I want to be very clear that my review of this book is slanted by perspective and hope anyone reading it understands that. If you choose to proceed, please try to keep context in mind and be aware of potential spoilers. I wanted A Well-Behaved Woman to highlight a figure whose drive pushed her to the very height of society, whose blind ambition required sacrifice, who only realized the collateral damage of her decisions late in life, and in an act of redemption used that revelation to reconnect with her daughter and empower the Women’s Suffrage Movement. What I got was an endless parade of parties and cotillions, marital infidelities and society gossips, topped off with the frills and fuss of keeping up with Mrs. Astor’s four hundred. Call me crazy but the themes I’d envisioned simply weren’t part of this story. The subject matter had so much potential, but Fowler honed in on emotional and social repression. She wrote a poor little rich girl where there might have been a phoenix rising from the ashes to wage a personal war on the institutions and policies that held her back, a war that in many ways continues through the present day. Reviews and ratings are subjective and my commentary is no exception. I found no flaw in Fowler’s writing or style, I appreciate the author’s ability to recognize good material, and think a lot of people will really enjoy this piece. It wasn’t a good fit for me, but that doesn’t mean the story put forth is without merit.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN is a story about the notorious Alva Vanderbilt who married a rich man to save herself and her sisters from destitution. Once Alva Smith lived a prosperous life, but that was until their fortune was lost. She has to wed really well and she catches the eye of William Vanderbilt from the very rich, but socially outcast Vanderbilts. Alva is hell-bent on getting herself and the Vanderbilts everything they want, no matter the cost. But, can all the money in the world buy her the h A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN is a story about the notorious Alva Vanderbilt who married a rich man to save herself and her sisters from destitution. Once Alva Smith lived a prosperous life, but that was until their fortune was lost. She has to wed really well and she catches the eye of William Vanderbilt from the very rich, but socially outcast Vanderbilts. Alva is hell-bent on getting herself and the Vanderbilts everything they want, no matter the cost. But, can all the money in the world buy her the happiness she wants? READ THE REST OF THE REVIEW OVER AT FRESH FICTION!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    “Alva did not need to love William Vanderbilt; she needed only to marry him.” I was a huge fan of Fowler’s Z and jumped at the chance to read this, but found the first couple of chapters utterly boring. Alva is one of four sisters and has an invalid father. She’s desperate not to become a spinster or a caregiver, so she goes along with her best friend Consuelo Yznaga’s plan to set her up with W.K. Vanderbilt, even if they share some lingering snobbism about his nouveau riche background. There’s “Alva did not need to love William Vanderbilt; she needed only to marry him.” I was a huge fan of Fowler’s Z and jumped at the chance to read this, but found the first couple of chapters utterly boring. Alva is one of four sisters and has an invalid father. She’s desperate not to become a spinster or a caregiver, so she goes along with her best friend Consuelo Yznaga’s plan to set her up with W.K. Vanderbilt, even if they share some lingering snobbism about his nouveau riche background. There’s always a danger of historical fiction devolving into a biography-lite information dump about social history (manners, fashion, etc.), and unfortunately that felt like the case here. Alva is a dull character; I might have been able to stomach her as part of a group biography, but she wasn’t promising as the focus of a novel.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pam Jenoff

    Fowler previously wowed readers with Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. She now takes on another remarkable woman in history Alva Smith, who came from a destitute southern family after the Civil War and married into the Vanderbilt dynasty. In the story, Smith struggles to win social status among New York's old money family, and goes on to become a leader in the women's suffrage movement. I loved this well-research and vividly rendered tale of unconventional and little known strength, set against th Fowler previously wowed readers with Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. She now takes on another remarkable woman in history Alva Smith, who came from a destitute southern family after the Civil War and married into the Vanderbilt dynasty. In the story, Smith struggles to win social status among New York's old money family, and goes on to become a leader in the women's suffrage movement. I loved this well-research and vividly rendered tale of unconventional and little known strength, set against the backdrop of New York's Gilded Age.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rae

    A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler centers around the life story of Alva Smith, a well-connected woman who married (and later divorced) William Vanderbilt. I really enjoyed this book! It's technically a biographical historical fiction novel, so while the the conversations and meetings are mostly works of fiction, the events and timeline are all biographical. I don't consider myself a history buff, but I do enjoy reading books about women in history, since thei A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler centers around the life story of Alva Smith, a well-connected woman who married (and later divorced) William Vanderbilt. 
I really enjoyed this book! It's technically a biographical historical fiction novel, so while the the conversations and meetings are mostly works of fiction, the events and timeline are all biographical. I don't consider myself a history buff, but I do enjoy reading books about women in history, since their stories often go untold.
 A Well-Behaved Woman was beautifully written and well-paced. Alva's life was utterly fascinating. It's utterly horrifying to think about how little power women had in the late 1800s. All the power rested with the man, and a woman's role was to marry well, have children, and oversee the household. Alva was no ordinary woman, and she did not marry an ordinary man. She married a powerhouse who in later life was the second richest man in the United States. Her life was servants, balls, and societal niceties. That said, she found happiness in circumventing the norms. She had a knack for architecture and later took up the cause of the suffrage movement. 
Alva was no wilting flower. She lived a life that others could only dream of, and she believed she deserved respect and status. When her husband cheated on her, she did not look the other way. She divorced him, which was something practically unheard of at the time. She pursued happiness and equal rights for herself and others. Not only was she an advocate for women, she was an advocate for newly freed slaves. She truly was a really cool woman!
 The execution of this novel was spot on. The biographical history was woven neatly into the storyline, and it felt so realistic. In the late 1800s, the Vanderbilts were rich by today's standards, which means they were swimming in money during that time period. Learning about their lives was a fantastic treat.
 The book ended as Alva decidedly took up the mantle of women's suffrage. I plan to study her life further, as this book completely endeared me to her. 
If you enjoy history or stories about women who were ahead of their times, this book is well-worth the read! 
Thank you to NetGalley for providing the Kindle version of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Smith Writes

    ‘The wealthy have a responsibility to avoid decadence and corruption.’ A Well-Behaved Woman is the second novel in recent times that I’ve read covering the so-called ‘Gilded Age’ in America. This one was definitely the superior of the two, and in hindsight, I can’t help but ponder on the similarities between them. This one is based on the life of Alva Vanderbilt, while the other one was entirely fictitious, however that author did say it was inspired by well-known families of the Gilded Age, of w ‘The wealthy have a responsibility to avoid decadence and corruption.’ A Well-Behaved Woman is the second novel in recent times that I’ve read covering the so-called ‘Gilded Age’ in America. This one was definitely the superior of the two, and in hindsight, I can’t help but ponder on the similarities between them. This one is based on the life of Alva Vanderbilt, while the other one was entirely fictitious, however that author did say it was inspired by well-known families of the Gilded Age, of which the Vanderbilts were one, so I’m thinking this is where the similarities have stemmed from. I have to say, I don’t think I need to read anymore novels set in the Gilded Age to sway my opinion that the ‘society set’ were the most ludicrous bunch of human beings to have ever existed. ‘A most ingenious lady costumed as Cat, with rows of white cats’ tails made into an overskirt, and an actual cat’s pelt – head and all – fashioned into a hat.’ ‘All conversation ceased at the sight of the first group of eight dancers in the wide, arched doorway, done up as lords and ladies riding life-size hobbyhorses, each rider dressed in a red coat as if ready for the hunt. The horses had taken two months to construct. Covered in real horsehide, each one had big bright eyes and a horsehair mane and tail.’ Too much money being spent on outrageous (and as cited in the above quotes, at times inhumane) extravagance with only a very few of them devoting time and money to charity, improvement of public works and philanthropy. And the never-ending judgement and conceit; where did these ‘rules’ even come from, anyway? Therese Anne Fowler does a really great job at conveying the intricacies of New York ‘society’ and it was interesting how she framed Alva, a woman who knew she needed to be a part of it while still regarding it with a level of realistic disdain all the same. ‘A person might easily come to think that this ball, this house, Alva’s efforts to improve culture and to beautify New York, were only about Alva wanting to elevate herself, with the Vanderbilt family getting the secondary benefits of her rise. One might conclude that she’d put personal ambition above all else in order to feed an insatiable vanity. Well, let them, she thought. An intelligent woman in this world takes her chances where she finds them.’ I really did like Alva, from the beginning right through to the end. She’s not a woman I knew anything about before reading this novel but since doing so, I’m grateful to the author for her thorough and sympathetic account of Alva’s life. This is an entertaining novel, witty and smart, emotionally wrenching at times and highly captivating. I really had to drag myself away from it. Of late, this style of novel, biographical historical fiction, has become one of my favourites, particularly when it’s about the ‘forgotten’ achievements of women from the past. In her real life, Alva very much was a ‘well-behaved woman’, until the point where she realised that it had only gotten her so far. It was at this point that she really came into her own. ‘This life! What had she done, bringing a daughter into such a trap as every man laid for women like them? Good, dutiful women, women who could be counted on, who could be trusted. Even they could be horribly misused.’ Despite spending twenty years clawing her way to the top of society and working to maintain her status, I absolutely loved her for standing firm and divorcing her husband for adultery, for not accepting that she turn the other way, for showing her daughter, and other women, that being treated with respect within a marriage should be the rule, not the exception. For being smart enough to know that society, and indeed, even the economy, would not collapse just because women began to divorce their husbands. ‘I would like gentlemen to stop provoking in their wives the desire to divorce them! Perhaps that is the lesson our esteemed friends will take away from this parting of one of our ‘great men’ from so much of his money.’ My only disappointment with this novel comes from it finishing too soon with Alva. When we leave her, she is just beginning to assert her place on the women’s suffrage stage. The author note gives us details on Alva’s achievements: She formed her own women’s suffrage organisation, the Political Equality Association (PEA) and was one of just a few suffragists who deliberately encouraged and included African American women’s involvement in the fight for the vote. Alva’s association sponsored lectures on a variety of subjects, all aimed at educating women so that they could be empowered to make good choices for themselves and their children. It also operated a Department of Hygiene, wherein women took classes about health that included information on reproduction and contraception, which they could not get from most physicians in that era. They even sold devices for treating uterine prolapse, a common problem for women who’d had multiple pregnancies over a short span of time. She worked tirelessly in so many ways for passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, and beyond this, campaigning for equal rights. This is the sort of Alva I wanted to read more about, and I can’t help but wish in hindsight for a thinning down of the earlier parts focusing on the frivolity of society in preference of the addition of another part to the novel focusing solely on these later achievements. It just seemed like Alva’s story, her real story, was only just beginning at the end of the novel. All in all, A Well-Behaved Woman is a fine novel and will please those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly biographical, and it provides plenty of incentive for further reading. Alva was certainly a daring and inspirational woman. As so often is proving the case as I read more and more about such women from history, they rarely got to spend enough time with their true soulmates. ‘Yet it was always there. An affinity. A kind of chemistry between us. The tether of gravity, I would say, no less powerful than the moon to the earth or the earth to the sun.’ Alva was no exception to this, but I guess a little bit of happily ever after is still better than none at all. Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of A Well-Behaved Woman for review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jaksen

    A dnf for me. I won the audio book through the Goodreads giveaway program, which I very much appreciate. However... Can't listen for much longer. Exaggerated, stereotypical 'rich folks,' and the opposite for the downtrodden. Stilted language where the obvious is often (over)expressed. I think that's often the problem with historical novels (for me): too much explaining; real people don't talk that way; it's not necessary to give a history lesson on every page. And so, because I didn't finish - bu A dnf for me. I won the audio book through the Goodreads giveaway program, which I very much appreciate. However... Can't listen for much longer. Exaggerated, stereotypical 'rich folks,' and the opposite for the downtrodden. Stilted language where the obvious is often (over)expressed. I think that's often the problem with historical novels (for me): too much explaining; real people don't talk that way; it's not necessary to give a history lesson on every page. And so, because I didn't finish - but read or listened long enough to know this wasn't for me - no rating. No stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition

    An interesting and beautifully written historic novel with just enough romance for emotional impact. Therese Anna Fowler has a magical way of weaving famous people and historical facts together to make all her characters come to life in a timeless and engrossing story of the life and times of socialite and social activist, Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont. As with "Z", her novel about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, this book is meticulously researched and highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    This was okay. I mean really, just okay. I think I skipped around a lot. BUT. I now know everything about the Vanderbilt family and other swanky 19th century families in NYC. So, I wasn’t a huge fan, but it did instigate further research.* Whatever. I love research. This book was kind of a win on that front. *starts planning summer trip to Newport so I can pretend to be a distant relation.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This covered the expectations on Alva Smith, eldest daughter, to find a suitably wealthy husband for the survival of her sisters and father after financial setbacks. The 1800's society of New York as well as Europe figure into the life experiences of this young woman who manages to marry William Vanderbilt. But, then... : -( So, unfaithful after fathering a few children, William is surprised by Alva's determination to divorce and seek compensation despite scandal of it all. (these uppity women!) This covered the expectations on Alva Smith, eldest daughter, to find a suitably wealthy husband for the survival of her sisters and father after financial setbacks. The 1800's society of New York as well as Europe figure into the life experiences of this young woman who manages to marry William Vanderbilt. But, then... : -( So, unfaithful after fathering a few children, William is surprised by Alva's determination to divorce and seek compensation despite scandal of it all. (these uppity women!) She does maintain a position in society and manages to remarry, but after husband #2 dies after appendectomy she becomes more socially active, lending her support to various causes seeking justice for women. This is attractive book and well written, but it did bore me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda Quinn

    4.5 stars to this wonderful novel about the life of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. I’ve been in Marble House in Newport and the tours and history there don’t begin to cover what a unique and determined woman she was for her time. Well written and really great to listen to on audiobook, I’ll be recommending this to friends for years.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves

    [3.5 stars] Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book. I absolutely adored Fowler’s 2013 novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald…so, A Well-Behaved Woman had big shoes to fill. While I liked A Well-Behaved Woman, it was a lukewarm like and it didn’t come close to filling Z‘s shoes. Alva is interesting, but not nearly as dynamic a character as Zelda. I liked that Alva was a modern woman in some ways (i.e. her desire to have a hobby beyond social obligations, her [3.5 stars] Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book. I absolutely adored Fowler’s 2013 novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald…so, A Well-Behaved Woman had big shoes to fill. While I liked A Well-Behaved Woman, it was a lukewarm like and it didn’t come close to filling Z‘s shoes. Alva is interesting, but not nearly as dynamic a character as Zelda. I liked that Alva was a modern woman in some ways (i.e. her desire to have a hobby beyond social obligations, her belief that husbands shouldn’t be allowed to treat their wives badly, etc) and had a sassy side. I liked the fact that it made me think about class, the working rich vs. the inherited money rich, and women’s roles in society and the household. But, I got tired of all the rules of society and machinations people went through to rise to the top. I just didn’t care all that much and couldn’t understand why they did. Overall, it’s a decent read, but it just didn’t knock my socks off like I expected. Visit https://www.sarahsbookshelves.com for more reviews.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by N I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- The riveting novel of iron-willed Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family as they rule Gilded-Age New York, from the New York Times bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Alva Smith, her southern family destitute after the Civil War, married into one of America’s great Gilded Age dynasties: the newly wealthy but socially shunned Vanderbilts. Ignored by New York’s old-money circles and determined to win respect, she designed and built 9 mansions, hosted grand balls, and arranged for her daughter to marry a duke. But Alva also defied convention for women of her time, asserting power within her marriage and becoming a leader in the women's suffrage movement. With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, in "A Well-Behaved Woman", Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted against desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman. Meet Alva Smith Vanderbilt Belmont, living proof that history is made by those who know the rules—and how to break them. From dirt-poor gentility to NINE mansions? Oy. I love historical fiction and Alva was a fascinating person to read about even if this is not-100% fact-based fiction. Alva had what my dad would call “lady balls of steel” and she is a fascinating person who I would like to learn more about. This would be an excellent book club pick for the ladies/gents to discuss how things have changed in 150 or so years…I am in eight clubs and I can see this working for every group of them. Five shiny fascinating stars!!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Alva Smith’s family could trace their bloodline to royalty of France and Scotland, but their fortune was gone. William K. Vanderbilt is the third Manhattan generation of a wealthy family, but their bloodline has no connection to any royalty, no title or lands, nothing in history to claim glory, not even by extension. The Knickerbockers of Manhattan closely guard their tight high society and will not let the Vanderbilts in. Alva is so poor that she needs to marry into money soon or she’ll be looking Alva Smith’s family could trace their bloodline to royalty of France and Scotland, but their fortune was gone. William K. Vanderbilt is the third Manhattan generation of a wealthy family, but their bloodline has no connection to any royalty, no title or lands, nothing in history to claim glory, not even by extension. The Knickerbockers of Manhattan closely guard their tight high society and will not let the Vanderbilts in. Alva is so poor that she needs to marry into money soon or she’ll be looking for a job and living in tenements. So she considers her options. And she tries to convince herself that the Vanderbilts are at least influential in politics and policy. “The Vanderbilt’s bread was already half buttered.” Once married to William, she turns out to be a lady of action: writing letters for her father to sign to admit Vanderbilts to the Union Club. Instead of joining charity where money is just handed to agency, she goes to hospitals and places where charity is needed and investigates herself where the money needs to be directed. She encourages Vanderbilts to take action in elevating themselves to its rightful place in society by investing in building mansions that make statement in architecture. The first half of the book is very interesting. However, once Alva achieves the status she was looking for, the second part of the book falls pretty flat. @FB/BestHistoricalFiction

  26. 4 out of 5

    Donna Hines

    How can you portray a woman in a favorable light when all she wants is money and fame? That's the problem with Alva as she is desperate for love, for attention, for wealth, for the elite status that comes with marrying into money for the family name and royalties. Once married to a 'Vanderbilt' she plots and plans using materialistic values rather than standing on her own moral compass and values. Nothing really called out to me of interest as there was no peaks or valleys just a steady progression How can you portray a woman in a favorable light when all she wants is money and fame? That's the problem with Alva as she is desperate for love, for attention, for wealth, for the elite status that comes with marrying into money for the family name and royalties. Once married to a 'Vanderbilt' she plots and plans using materialistic values rather than standing on her own moral compass and values. Nothing really called out to me of interest as there was no peaks or valleys just a steady progression of the story. Perhaps if there was more New York Societal values, a better glimpse into who Alva was rather than her style of dress or home furnishings would've been a better comfort zone for readers, along with the fact that she was so poor she had to marry to remove the thought of living in tenements which for me was just unbearable. She did attempt to excite readers with the building of mansions and achieving a purpose but it fell too flat in the second half to be useful. The pace was quite slow but steady and the author does note she wrote in the narrative style appropriate to the Gilded Age so keep that in mind when reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura Rash

    Another great history story from the Gilded Age from TF! Alva is a woman way ahead of her time and shows the men how it’s done. I love the way TF can bring history to life with amazing characters so you learn a few things you didn’t know at the same time as being highly entertained! Thanks to St. Martins Press for this copy:)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    For years, I thought Gilded Age New York socialite Alva Vanderbilt's ferocious ambition was only rivaled by Jane Austen's Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice as the most grasping, husband hunting mother imaginable, however author Therese Anne Fowler has proved my assumptions totally unfounded. Through in-depth historical research and a thought provoking fictional characterization, we discover the back story of Alva's privileged but impoverished childhood, her desire to marry into wealth to save h For years, I thought Gilded Age New York socialite Alva Vanderbilt's ferocious ambition was only rivaled by Jane Austen's Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice as the most grasping, husband hunting mother imaginable, however author Therese Anne Fowler has proved my assumptions totally unfounded. Through in-depth historical research and a thought provoking fictional characterization, we discover the back story of Alva's privileged but impoverished childhood, her desire to marry into wealth to save her starving family, her drive to raise the Vanderbilt's social standing, all culminating in her obsession of her daughter Consuelo's marriage to an English lord. History has not been kind to Alva on that front preferring to only remember the scandalous divorce that ensued, but there is much of her life that warrants the well-behaved woman that the title of this book teasingly professes. Awash in the decadence of an era in American history that created industrial tycoons and the women behind them, a Well-Behaved Woman is a well-deserved rediscovery of the life of a fascinating woman retold with sensitivity and spirit. Brava! Laurel Ann, Austenprose

  29. 5 out of 5

    fortuna.spinning

    During the late nineteenth century, the Vanderbilts were like royalty in the northeast United States. This is the story of Alva Vanderbilt, her accomplishments in high society, architecture, and women’s suffrage. It’s about her family and heartache. While I learned a few things of historical significance, it’s very slow-moving and, at times, tedious. In the Author’s Note, Fowler mentions that she wrote this in the form of a nineteenth-century novel with characters and narrative style appropriate During the late nineteenth century, the Vanderbilts were like royalty in the northeast United States. This is the story of Alva Vanderbilt, her accomplishments in high society, architecture, and women’s suffrage. It’s about her family and heartache. While I learned a few things of historical significance, it’s very slow-moving and, at times, tedious. In the Author’s Note, Fowler mentions that she wrote this in the form of a nineteenth-century novel with characters and narrative style appropriate to the Gilded Age. Keep this in mind. PUB DATE: 16 OCT 2018 Thanks for the ARC, NetGalley!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ampersand Inc.

    From the author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald; I was super excited to read this when I heard about it…and it did not disappoint. This is the story of Alva Vanderbilt who went on to become an important person in the suffragette movement. For those are fans of Downtown Abby; this one’s for you. I love literary and historical fiction and this novel is both and does not disappoint. Based on true events and set in the Gilded-Age of New York City, Alva Smith is looking for a rich husband and she fin From the author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald; I was super excited to read this when I heard about it…and it did not disappoint. This is the story of Alva Vanderbilt who went on to become an important person in the suffragette movement. For those are fans of Downtown Abby; this one’s for you. I love literary and historical fiction and this novel is both and does not disappoint. Based on true events and set in the Gilded-Age of New York City, Alva Smith is looking for a rich husband and she finds him in William K. Vanderbilt. Life changes dramatically for the ambitious Mrs. Vanderbilt but it’s a hard fought acceptance. Feisty Alva takes on the snobby New York elite one project at a time.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.