The Paris Wife meets PBS’s Victoria in this enthralling novel of the life and loves of one of history’s most remarkable women: Winston Churchill’s scandalous American mother, Jennie Jerome.
Wealthy, privileged, and fiercely independent New Yorker Jennie Jerome took Victorian England by storm when she landed on its shores. As Lady Randolph Churchill, she gave birth to a man who defined the twentieth century: her son Winston. But Jennie—reared in the luxury of Gilded Age Newport and the Paris of the Second Empire—lived an outrageously modern life all her own, filled with controversy, passion, tragedy, and triumph.
When the nineteen-year-old beauty agrees to marry the son of a duke she has known only three days, she’s instantly swept up in a whirlwind of British politics and the breathless social climbing of the Marlborough House Set, the reckless men who surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Raised to think for herself and careless of English society rules, the new Lady Randolph Churchill quickly becomes a London sensation: adored by some, despised by others.
Artistically gifted and politically shrewd, she shapes her husband’s rise in Parliament and her young son’s difficult passage through boyhood. But as the family’s influence soars, scandals explode and tragedy befalls the Churchills. Jennie is inescapably drawn to the brilliant and seductive Count Charles Kinsky—diplomat, skilled horse-racer, deeply passionate lover. Their affair only intensifies as Randolph Churchill’s sanity frays, and Jennie—a woman whose every move on the public stage is judged—must walk a tightrope between duty and desire. Forced to decide where her heart truly belongs, Jennie risks everything—even her son—and disrupts lives, including her own, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Breathing new life into Jennie’s legacy and the glittering world over which she reigned, That Churchill Woman paints a portrait of the difficult—and sometimes impossible—balance among love, freedom, and obligation, while capturing the spirit of an unforgettable woman, one who altered the course of history.
Praise for That Churchill Woman
“The perfect confection of a novel . . . We’re introduced to Jennie in all of her passion and keen intelligence and beauty. While she is surrounded by a cast of late-Victorian celebrities, including Bertie, Prince of Wales, it’s always Jennie who shines and takes the center stage she was born to.”—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue
This finely researched, sumptuous novel from Barron (The Jane Austen Mysteries) follows the journey of American heiress Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill. Socialite Jennie marries Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill at age 20 and almost immediately becomes one of British society's most talked-about beauties. Despite their shared passion for politics and Jennie's staunch belief in Randolph's ability to shape Britain's future, it's clear that Randolph's sexual appetites don't include Jennie or any other woman, she begins to fear. In a society where homosexuality and divorce are taboo, and affairs are commonplace, Jennie falls for Charles Kinsky, an Austrian count and diplomat. Far from a fling, Jennie and Charles's love spans decades and weathers multiple stops and starts. Yet despite its powerful romanticism and eroticism, their relationship is complex and realistic. Barron's commitment to detail and scope allows for illuminating flashbacks and references to actual family letters, which serve to flesh out Jennie's story with realism and empathy. Though set in a world of transatlantic Victorian splendor, the story is more concerned with the harrowing aspects of the era war, social ostracism, classism, and the sad state of public health. Presenting a fiercely intelligent, independent version of Jennie, this satisfying book actively pushes back against her historical reputation as a scandalous woman to great, consuming effect.