The Angel and the Cad by Geraldine Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At the age of sixteen, Catherine Tylney Long became the wealthiest heiress in England, and the public found their 'angel'. Witty, wealthy and beautiful, Catherine was the most eligible of young ladies and was courted by royalty but, ignoring the warnings of her closest confidantes, she married for love. Her choice of husband was the charming but feckless dandy William Wellesley Pole, nephew of the Duke of Wellington. The pair excited the public's interest on an unprecedented scale with gossip columns reporting every detail of their magnificent home in Wanstead, where they hosted glittering royal fetes, dinners and parties. But their happiness was short-lived; just a decade later William had frittered away Catherine's inheritance and the couple were forced to flee into exile. As they travelled across Europe, they became embroiled in a series of scandals that shocked the public and culminated in a landmark court case. Meticulously researched and rich with dazzling detail, The Angel and the Cad is a tale of love and betrayal that twists and turns until the final page.
I read this as a "historical" book for a book club challenge but also because of its link to where I live. It's the non fictional account of the marriage of Catherine Tylney Long to William Wellesley Pole who for some time resided in Wanstead House, which stood in what is now Wanstead Park, part of Britain's first public open space, managed by the Corporation of London and part of Epping Forest. I have enjoyed many a walk there.
It is not a happy story but the amount of detail included by the author is impressive. Catherine was an unusual woman in that having become the wealthiest heiress in England at the time, she married for love. But she lived to regret her decision.
The book follows her life and the awful behaviour of her husband and gives a clear view of what life was like in Regency England. Women did not have rights back then but Catherine was an intelligent woman and she came to pave the way for change by successfully fighting for the custody of her children.
The narrative of the book is very matter of fact (I would imagine in audible form it would sound like a documentary) but the details and the twists and turns of Catherine's life made it very interesting and kept me engrossed. It's an impressive debut novel.
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