An American Beauty by Shana Abe

Read Time:3 Minute, 31 Second

Arabella, a stunning and determined young woman, catches the eye of railroad magnate Collis Huntington. Despite their age difference and his marriage, they begin an affair. With Collis’s help, Arabella becomes a wealthy investor in New York high society. Their marriage is not without scandal, and Arabella must prove herself worthy of being part of the elite circle of The Four Hundred. An American Beauty is a captivating novel that brings to life the remarkable story of a woman who refused to let her background limit her success.

Book review of An American Beauty

An American Beauty by Shana Abe is a compelling historical romance set in the Gilded Age. The story follows Arabella (Belle) as she navigates post-Civil War South, New York, Texas, and Europe, using her wit, cunning, and charm to secure her family’s survival and amass her fortune. Despite her affair with Collis Huntington, a railroad baron and multimillionaire, Belle remains a strong and resourceful woman who defies social norms and earns her place in Society through taste, style, and impeccable behavior.

Abe’s prose is excellent, and her characters are brilliantly crafted, making the novel a page-turner with a satisfying ending. While based on a true story, Abe’s use of multiple voices, journal entries, letters, and newspaper articles can be somewhat disjointed and jarring, disrupting the flow of the story. Nevertheless, An American Beauty is an entertaining and well-crafted narrative of one of the earliest railroad barons and a remarkable woman who lived by her own rules.

Through Belle’s story, Abe immerses the reader in the opulence and depredations of Gilded Age New York Society, with all its snarkiness and lavishness. Belle, her family, and the Huntingtons are fascinating characters with compelling storylines that keep the reader engaged from start to finish. Despite being a mistress, there are no explicit sexual scenes in the book, making it a suitable read for all audiences.

An American Beauty is a testament to the power of women and their ability to hold up the world in any time period. Belle’s unyielding grit and resolve to escape her background of struggle and poverty, as well as her shrewd investing instincts, are inspiring and awe-inspiring. This book is highly recommended to historical fiction fans who want to immerse themselves in another era where money is no object.

Final verdict

Overall, An American Beauty is an interesting and captivating read that takes the reader back to a tumultuous 30 years in the country’s timeline, which changed the US forever. It is a book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in history, the Gilded Age, and the power of strong women to make their mark on the world. So grab a cup of tea, a glass of wine or your favorite beverage, settle into a comfy chair, and enjoy this fascinating journey into the past.

Our Score


  • Compelling story: An American Beauty tells the captivating story of Arabella, a poor Southern woman who rises to prominence and wealth during the Gilded Age. The narrative is engaging and keeps readers interested from start to finish.
  • Strong female character: Arabella is a remarkable woman who defies societal norms and makes a name for herself in a male-dominated world. Her determination, wit, and intelligence make her a fascinating character and a role model for women everywhere.
  • Historical accuracy: The book is based on true events and is well-researched, offering readers a glimpse into the opulence and excess of the Gilded Age and the lives of some of the most prominent figures of the era.


  • Disjointed narrative: The book uses different narrative devices, such as letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles, which can be jarring and disrupt the flow of the story.
  • Lack of character development: While the story is engaging, some characters, particularly Arabella’s family members, are underdeveloped and lack depth.
  • Limited exploration of societal issues: While the book touches on issues such as class and gender, it does not delve deeply into them and could have explored these topics more thoroughly.
An American BeautyPublisher ‏ : ‎ Kensington (April 25, 2023)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 384 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1496739426
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1496739421
Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.7 ounces
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.87 x 8.25 inches

About Article Author

Jenna Carter

Jenna Carter spends most of her time immersed in the imaginary worlds that authors construct. Her favorite place in the world is a library full of old books where she hopes to one day find a hidden door to the world of Narnia.
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