An American Beauty

A Novel of the Gilded Age Inspired by the True Story of Arabella Huntington Who Became the Richest Woman in the Country

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Pub Date 25 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 02 May 2023

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"Abé is an exquisite storyteller." —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

The New York Times bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor returns with a spellbinding new book perfect for fans of HBO’s The Gilded Age and readers of Marie Benedict, Karen Harper, and Allison Pataki. This sweeping novel of historical fiction is inspired by the true rags-to-riches story of Arabella Huntington—a woman whose great beauty was surpassed only by her exceptional business acumen, grit, and artistic eye, and who defied the constraints of her era to become the wealthiest self-made woman in America.

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 . . .

An American Beauty brings to vivid life the glitter and drama of a captivating chapter in history—and a remarkable woman who lived by her own rules.

“This story of one woman’s ascent offers a fascinating look at the choices she made to become a Gilded Age titan.”— Kirkus Reviews
"Abé is an exquisite storyteller." —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Magnolia Palace

The New York Times bestselling author of The Second Mrs. Astor returns with a spellbinding...

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Featured Reviews

Tremendously readable historical fiction! I was pulled into this one immediately and read it over two days.

Reading hangover followed - worth it.

Based on truth as well as rumors, the author wove An American Beauty together beautifully. You know when you’re reading a book that’s super interesting and you keep at it and at it because you need to - that’s how this one was for me. This was my first book by Ms. Abe and that needs to change; I’m really looking forward to reading more of her work.


Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the DRC!

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I absolutely adored this novel and was fully engrossed in the story, the characters and settings, and the lovely descriptions from the first page to the last.

I had greatly enjoyed Ms Abe’s previous historical novel, The Second Mrs Astor, and so jumped at the chance to read and review her upcoming release.

An American Beauty follows the remarkable rags-to-riches life of Arabella Huntington. We meet seventeen-year-old Arabella – Belle – in Richmond, Virginian in 1867 where she works in a less than reputable gambling saloon. But Belle is beautiful, talented, brave, and extremely clever, and if anyone is able to save her large family from starvation and destitution, Belle is the best placed to do so.

At the saloon, she meets the railway magnate and robber baron Collis Huntington, who quickly falls under her spell. Thirty years her senior and already married with a child, Huntington takes her as his mistress and, through Belle’s clever manipulations, moves not only Belle, but also her entire family up to New York and into a life of financial security.

What follows is a spectacular journey into the lives of the robber barons and Gilded Age New York, where the rapidly declining Knickerbocker class refuses to recognize the self-made men or the audacious women like Belle who accompany them on their journey. Belle Huntington would eventually become New York’s wealthiest woman, accumulating property and priceless art, but would never be accepted into “good” society.

This is a beautifully told story, rich in historical detail and larger-than-life characters. But at its heart, it is a tale of a brave and ambitious woman striving for more than the hand life has dealt her. A must-read novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy - all thoughts are my own.

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A stunning piece of American fiction!

The tumultuous life of Arabella Huntington from the end of the Civil War to the dawn of the 20th century.

Gorgeously written, elegantly plotted and blessed with an unforgettable cast of exquisitely drawn characters, this magnificent fictional tapestry of the American Gilded Age will definitively rank among the best novels of 2023.

Highly recommended and to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!

Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for this terrific ARC!

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