That Churchill Woman
Shortlisted in the New York Times Book Review
“This finely researched, sumptuous novel from Barron follows the journey of American heiress Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill…. Barron’s commitment to detail and scope allows for illuminating flashbacks and references to actual family letters, which serve to flesh out Jennie’s story with realism and empathy…. Presenting a fiercely intelligent, independent version of Jennie, this satisfying book actively pushes back against her historical reputation as a scandalous woman to great, consuming effect.”
“Most people know that Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American who married a British lord, but there’s much more to Lady Randolph Churchill than her talent for painting and that she had a famous son…Barron vividly portrays Jennie against the backdrop of the Gilded Age—glamourous aspects and the strict societal mores that constrained the upper classes, especially women. Scandal, notoriety, and passionate affairs may have been the hallmarks of Jennie’s life, but this novel shows her as a modern woman before her time: politically in tune, faithful in her own way, and a loving if distant mother…Sure to be a book club favorite.”
—Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“Luminous, passionate, rebellious Jennie Churchill, Winston’s glamorous mother, has inspired many biographies and novels. The latest, by Stephanie Barron, author of the wildly successful Jane Austen mystery series, is a delicious blend of Victoria, Downton Abbey, and Gossip Girls. Barron skips back and forth in time to give us a sense of Jennie’s memories and interior life and includes a few point-of-view chapters featuring the men who she loved best—her son Winston and her longtime lover, Prince Karl Kinsky. “She had known love was a terrible thing. Love destroyed families and happiness,” Jennie Jerome reflects early in her story, and her sympathetic intelligence allows her to view her privileged world in Gilded Age America and England with a realism that never degrades into cynicism.
Barron captures her devotion to the arts, her sons, and her tormented, syphilitic husband, Lord Randolph Churchill, wisely focusing on these qualities more than on her sexual liaisons with a large portion of the great and near-great in England’s upper crust. The exception is her on-again, off-again affair with Kinsky, and Barron depicts them as intensely principled people whose romance the reader can’t help but root for.
This is a wonderful vacation read, never too ponderous, and full of satisfying details about clothing, art, music, and social gamesmanship. It’s a deep dive into the pleasures of the upper crust, but by the end of the novel, it’s impossible not to think of Jennie as a friend, and as an exception to the cliché that the privileged Victorians were self-absorbed snobs.”
—Historical Novels Society
“Jennie has long been an appealing subject for both social historians and novelists. She was not only beautiful, spirited, and the mother of one of the 20th century’s most important figures. But she was also wildly promiscuous and married twice after Randolph died — to men young enough to be her sons. What more is there to say about her? Plenty, it turns out, if you are as skilled a writer as Denver’s Stephanie Barron. Barron, who writes thrillers under her real name, Francine Mathews, is a superb researcher…. Barron is also an adept storyteller who brings to life one of the era’s most fascinating women.”
“For fans of ‘Downton Abbey’ and the Gilded Age, Stephanie Barron’s That Churchill Woman is the perfect confection of a novel. We’re introduced to Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill and the mother of Winston, in all of her passion and keen intelligence and beauty. While she is surrounded by a cast of late Victorian celebrities, including Bertie, Prince of Wales, it’s always Jennie who shines and takes the center stage she was born to. A rollicking good read, highly recommended!”
—Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife
“Barron cuts through the scandal and rumors surrounding Lady Randolph Churchill to bring us the woman herself in all her complexity: caught between worlds as an American in England, an intimate of princes, a favorite target of the scandal sheets, and, yet, intensely private and fiercely loyal. Barron brings us with Jennie to a world seething with secrets behind a facade of intricate etiquette and elaborate gowns. An immense accomplishment from a seasoned author.”
—Lauren Willig, New York Times bestselling author of The English Wife and The Glass Ocean