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Sisters of Fortune: America's Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad    by Jehanne Wake order for
Sisters of Fortune
by Jehanne Wake
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

Jehanne Wake's Sisters of Fortune follows the lives of four sisters: Marianne, Bess, Louisa, and Emily Caton. The Caton sisters were granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. He signed the Declaration of Independence and was the first Catholic Senator for Maryland. Carroll was a wealthy landowner, and played a major role in the Catons' upbringing. Bess and Louisa enjoyed political discussion and spent much time in Washington, often attending congressional debates and Supreme Court hearings. Both sisters were in Washington when it was burned by the British in the War of 1812.

Marianne was the loveliest sister. Although she was blessed with great beauty, Marianne suffered from repeated episodes of asthma. She married Richard Patterson, the brother of Betsy Patterson, Jerome Bonaparte's American wife. It was advised that Marianne travel to England to regain her health. Emily stayed behind, having married John McTavish, a native of Scotland. McTavish lived in Montreal and was a partner in the North West Company, which specialized in furs. Although Emily loved John dearly, her life in Montreal was bleak and caused her much unhappiness. Her return to Maryland reunited her with her much missed grandfather. Emily was the only Caton sister to have children. She settled into a quiet life with her family while her sisters took Europe by storm.

Marianne, Bess, and Louisa's trip abroad changed the course of their lives. Marianne's stunning beauty caught the eye of the popular Duke of Wellington. Their friendship caused much gossip in Britain and the United States. After the death of her husband, Marianne married the brother of the Duke of Wellington, Marquess Richard Wellesley. She also became Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Adelaide. Marianne, an American and Catholic, was considered a dangerous influence on the Queen during the Reform Bill Crisis of 1830-1832.

Louisa, meanwhile, was fortunate enough to find love twice. She first married Colonel Felton Hervey, which created a family scandal due to Britain's harsh view of Americans in the early nineteenth century. After the death of her beloved Felton and a long period of mourning, Louisa married Lord Carmarthen, future Duke of Leeds. Bess was the last sister to marry. She married Plantagenet, who was actually named George William Stafford Jerningham. Although he was not wealthy, he was the seventh Baronet and eight Baron of Costessey Hall.

Sisters of Fortune not only provides an intimate view of four wealthy and independent nineteenth-century women, it also gives a glimpse of how Americans continued to be viewed in a negative light by the British years after the American Revolution. Although often criticized for being Americans, the Caton sisters mingled with British and French royalty. The Catons' powerful influence abroad reached new heights when Marianne's husband Wellesley became Viceroy of Ireland, ironically, the nation from which her ancestors fled. Although Sisters of Fortune is a biography, it is a highly engaging book that reads more like historical fiction.

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