Sisters of Fortune: The First American Heiresses to Take Europe by Storm

USA Reviews

“Sisters of Fortune is a fabulous parade through the best drawing rooms of 19th Century Europe. Rich, beautiful, and utterly fascinating, the Caton sisters deserve to be celebrated just like the Langhornes and the Mitfords."  - Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, and A World on Fire 

“a fascinating tale. … Wake's truly remarkable accomplishment is to succeed in tracing 'the filmy threads of women's influence’ in high society on both sides of the Atlantic through more than six decades”. Megan Marshall, The New York Times Book Review  

‘The paperback edition of Wake’s history of the Caton sisters takes full advantage of Downton Abbey mania … but the book certainly stands on its own merits. In fact, it’s a remarkable and well-researched account of four sisters from a prominent Maryland family’ John Lewis, Read It, Baltimore Magazine

“Wake's Sisters of Fortune is a groundbreaking, feminist biography that demonstrates how the Caton sisters capitalized on their fortune, spinning it into political and social influence on both sides of the Atlantic.”  The Daily Beast Hot Reads 

“In Wake's hands, the sisters still dazzle, blending continental influences with their enviable but heartbreaking adventures in England and France.”  Publishers Weekly

“this fascinating book yields rich insights into a world where wealth gave certain women unprecedented access to power and influence. Intended and recommended for readers interested in history and the romantic world of 19th-century European aristocracy.”  Marie M Mullaney, Library Journal Review

“Sisters of Fortune by Jehanne Wake, is a stylish piece of scholarship that revivifies the nineteenth-century blue-blooded world of the Maryland-born Caton siblings…illuminating these educated, well-traveled women’s flair for diplomacy, finance, fashion, and intriguing courtships.” ELLE

UK and Ireland Reviews

'Jehanne Wake's superbly researched Sisters of Fortune' The Guardian, Books of the Year, by David Kynaston

‘The story of the Caton sisters sounds like the plot of an Edwardian novel by Henry James or Edith Wharton, in which an innocent American heiress is seduced by an impoverished, corrupt, English milord. But as Jehanne Wake shows, one of the many remarkable things about the sisters is that their arrival in England preceded the reign of the famous “dollar princesses” by more than 50 years.

Sisters of Fortune, which is based on unpublished letters, is partly about what Wake describes as “the exhilarating freedom” experienced by three independent women “of deciding whom to love”. But, like the sisters themselves, Wake is less interested in sex than in money and her book is, at heart, a fascinating exploration of the attitude to money shown by two different cultures. The division, she suggests, between America and England is not, as George Bernard Shaw put it, our common language but our relationship to credit: rich Americans lived frugally and conserved their wealth; rich Englishmen lived on debt.

In a market currently dominated by “bodice biographies”, it is a rare pleasure to find a biography about the bodices who once dominated the market.'  The Sunday Times Frances Wilson

'With the splendid Sisters of Fortune .... Jehanne Wake has uncovered and animated a whole new lost world' The Independent, Tuesday Books, review by Christopher Hawtree

'outstanding biography'  Irish Times, review by Robert O'Byrne

'How the first Paris Hiltons seduced us' 'historian Jehanne Wake tells the story of the Caton sisters and how they conquered England with their wit, charm and cleverness.' Daily Express Paul Callan

‘Jehanne Wake has skilfully constructed the Catons’ story from their letters. Her book vividly paints a fascinating picture of a transatlantic world where rich women could achieve extraordinary social power by sticking with their sisters and being shrewd with their money.’ The Spectator Jane Ridley

‘This transatlantic celebration of sisterhood is a most gripping and fascinating tale, both scholarly and a page turner. Jehanne Wake handles a vast amount of material with confidence and even-handedness’ The Literary Review Anne Sebba

'a rollicking good read, told with verve and compassion' Country Life

'a fluent and lively study, which makes deceptively easy reading' ' – The Times Literary Supplement Gillian Sutherland

Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4, Interview

Bookbound, Dublin Radio, Interview 

Princess Louise Queen Victoria’s Unconventional Daughter

Born in 1848 Princess Louise was the most unconventional of Queen Victoria's daughters. She was a talented artist and sculptor who attended art school at a time when such a thing was unheard of for a young royal woman.

She was a protofeminist who smoked, had a genuine impulse to help others, and possessed both a sharp tongue and a sense of humour.

She was also the first daughter of a sovereign to marry a commoner, the Marquess of Lorne.

What the critics and readers have to say

‘Well written and easy to read, not a book to dip into but to enjoy in a few lengthy sessions. Mrs Wakes writes with a gentle elegance: it is not unlike reading a Jane Austen novel. She remains loyally on the side of her heroine who emerges as a hater of petty convention and the instigator of many important charitable institutions and hospitals.’ Hugo Vickers The Times

‘Princess Louise is an excellent piece of work. By the excellence of her research and writing Ms Wake has shaped a very entertaining biography.’ Kate Saunders The Independent

‘The author proves to be a model biographer, literate, accurate and exceptionally well informed.’ Piers Brendon The Observer

‘This well researched, graceful volume is a double history illuminating the families both of the Princess and of her father in law the 8th Duke of Argyll.’ Kenneth Rose The Sunday Telegraph

‘This unusual royal biography is most diligently researched and told with great integrity. I recommend it to all who enjoy a right royal read.’ Elizabeth Longford

Kleinwort Benson: The History of Two families in Banking

This is the history of two business dynasties, the Kleinworts and the Bensons, whose partnership established one of the leading merchant banks of the twentieth century. Jehanne Wake tells the fascinating story of the building of a great business empire and reveals the personalities who played a part in the bank's often dramatic past.

What the critics and readers have to say

‘A fascinating comparison between the merchant classes of Britain and Germany.’ Howard Davies The Times

‘Fascinating for the way she shows how this uniquely English style of gentlemanly capitalism, epitomised by the stock broking firm of Robert Benson, co-existed in the City alongside the more austere German work ethic of Kleinworts bank.' Mark Archer, The Sunday Telegraph

‘Splendid new history of KB.’ Christopher Fildes, Daily Telegraph

‘Wake has taken the opportunity to provide an unparalleled insight into the development of Kleinwort & Sons and Robert Benson & Co., tracing the former from its roots as a gun-running operation in Cuba, and the latter from a Quaker family in Lancashire.’ 5 star review Amazon

‘Kleinwort Benson will enthrall those who are interested in how the formerly genteel world of merchant banking, wherein client poaching was an unforgivable transgression and bankers kept banker's hours, was transformed into the extirpative business it is today.' 5 star review Amazon

You are here: Reviews