The Second Mrs. Astor
A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic
"One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. A gorgeous, phenomenal novel I won’t soon forget.” —Ellen Marie Wiseman New York Times bestselling Author of The Orphan Collector
Perfect for fans of Jennifer Chiaverini and Marie Benedict, this riveting novel takes you inside the scandalous courtship and catastrophic honeymoon aboard the Titanic of the most famous couple of their time—John Jacob Astor and Madeleine Force. Told in rich detail, this novel of sweeping historical fiction will stay with readers long after turning the last page.
Madeleine Talmage Force is just seventeen when she attracts the attention of John Jacob “Jack” Astor. Madeleine is beautiful, intelligent, and solidly upper-class, but the Astors are in a league apart. Jack’s mother was the Mrs. Astor, American royalty and New York’s most formidable socialite. Jack is dashing and industrious—a hero of the Spanish-American war, an inventor, and a canny businessman. Despite their twenty-nine-year age difference, and the scandal of Jack’s recent divorce, Madeleine falls headlong into love—and becomes the press’s favorite target.
On their extended honeymoon in Egypt, the newlyweds finally find a measure of peace from photographers and journalists. Madeleine feels truly alive for the first time—and is happily pregnant. The couple plans to return home in the spring of 1912, aboard an opulent new ocean liner. When the ship hits an iceberg close to midnight on April 14th, there is no immediate panic. The swift, state-of-the-art RMS Titanic seems unsinkable. As Jack helps Madeleine into a lifeboat, he assures her that he’ll see her soon in New York…
Four months later, at the Astors’ Fifth Avenue mansion, a widowed Madeleine gives birth to their son. In the wake of the disaster, the press has elevated her to the status of virtuous, tragic heroine. But Madeleine’s most important decision still lies ahead: whether to accept the role assigned to her, or carve out her own remarkable path…
“A touching, compelling, and haunting love story that will delight fans of historical fiction and enthrall those of us for whom the Titanic will always fascinate.” –Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of When We Were Young and Brave
“An engaging novel told with both heartbreaking care and vivid detail. The Second Mrs. Astor is historical fiction at its gripping and irresistible best.” –Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Praise For The Second Mrs. Astor: A Heartbreaking Historical Novel of the Titanic…
“An engaging tale. Abé richly describes the scenery. Everything is opulent, decadent, rich. We’re taken from the shores of Maine to bustling New York City, Egypt, and eventually, aboard the Titanic where their romance meets a tragic end in the icy waters. As the story crescendos to that fateful night, readers will remain captivated by both the imagery and the plot… This is more than another tale about the Titanic, it’s a love story, a drama, and a fine historical novel. Recommended.”
—Historical Novels Review on The Second Mrs. Astor
"Abé is an exquisite storyteller, gracefully transporting the reader from Newport to Egypt to the cold seas of the Atlantic. Rich in detail and deeply moving."
—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
"One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, THE SECOND MRS. ASTOR brings to glittering life the romantic love story between John Jacob Astor and his young bride, Madeleine. You’ll find yourself glued to every page, falling in love with this dazzling couple, and despite knowing better, hoping against hope that they avoid the tragedy that awaits them on the ill-fated Titanic. A gorgeous, phenomenal novel I won’t soon forget.”
—Ellen Marie Wiseman New York Times bestselling Author of The Orphan Collector
“Through Madeleine, we see a young woman fall in love with America's wealthiest man, the society scandal that follows, a level of media intrusion not dissimilar to that endured by a young Princess Diana, and, of course, the tragic events that unfold during Titanic's maiden voyage... A touching, compelling, and haunting love story that will delight fans of historical fiction and enthrall those of us for whom the Titanic will always fascinate.”
—Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of When We Were Young and Brave
“The Second Mrs. Astor is an engaging novel told with both heartbreaking care and vivid detail. Shana Abé introduces us to the extraordinary Madeleine Astor and her profound love for the enigmatic and famous Jack Astor. Abé's intimate prose brings to life a fascinating and heartbreaking piece of history. A harrowing and yet ultimately hopeful tale of survival and courage, fate and love, and the ultimate question of who do we become after great loss. The Second Mrs. Astor is historical fiction at its gripping and irresistible best.”
—Patti Callahan , New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis
Kensington, 9781496732040, 336pp.
Publication Date: August 31, 2021
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. At the beginning of the story, Madeleine is a sheltered seventeen-year-old socialite who has just graduated from fin¬ishing school. By the end of the novel, just two years later, her world is radically different. Do you think she handled the transition from relative obscurity to fame well? What would you have done differently?
2. Jack Astor was a man far more complex than the press por¬trayed, yet he was still incredibly wealthy, powerful, and renowned. Was he walking a morally ambiguous line by courting a teenaged girl nearly thirty years his junior? Do you believe he actually loved her, or was it just libido? Does the time period help excuse the age difference between them?
3. Their wedding ceremony took place just over a month after their engagement was publicly announced. Were Madeleine and Jack right to insist upon a swift, small wedding, instead of the huge social blowout that was more typical of their time and station? Do you think the primary motivator behind it all was their growing love for each other, or more a fear of the escalating scandal?
4. Madeleine’s relationship with the press evolves over the course of the story. Do you think how she treated them was justified? Do you think how she was treated by them was justified?
5. As Titanic was sinking, no one in the Astor party had any way of knowing that Lifeboat Four was going to be one of the last to leave the ship. Should Madeleine have argued more forcibly to stay with Jack once it was clear he would not be allowed in the lifeboat? Or was she right to leave him behind?
6. Madeleine’s interaction with Vincent was contentious from the beginning. As his future stepmother, should she have tried harder to befriend him? Or do you think it was always a hopeless cause?
7. Did Madeleine’s grief force her to grow as a human being, as a soul, or did she perhaps shrink? Or both?