13 Lavishly Indulgent Fiction and Non-Fiction Gilded Age Books

Fiction and Non-Fiction Gilded Ages Books
13 Lavishly Indulgent Fiction and Non-Fiction Gilded Age Books 15

When I heard that Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, was creating a show about the Gilded Age, I squealed with delight. Gilded Age books have long been a favorite Historical Fiction sub-genre of mine.

The fantastical dresses, the unbelievable architecture, The Vanderbilts, The Astors, the 400, societies rules, the nouveau riche… there are so many parts of this time period worth exploring.

The gilded age books below included both fiction and non-fiction books. There are romances, murder mysteries, and stories about the staffs of the big houses for you to enjoy. Let us know if we missed any of your favorites!

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When was the Gilded Age?

The Gilded Age took place between the 1870s and 1900s and was a time of great prosperity in American History. It was a time when fortunes were made and social classes were in flux with the “Old Money” set against the “New Money.”

Gilded Age Books Set in New York City

Our Kinds of People and more fiction Gilded Age books.

Our Kind of People by Carol Wallace

This is a family drama set in gilded age NYC. The family loses and then regains their fortune in transit speculation when their girls are becoming debutantes.

There are love stories but it’s really about how society was changing at the time with the old money vs. the newly rich. The author wrote a non-fiction book that was used for reference with Downton so she knows her stuff. I loved it! This book made me remember how much I love to read historical fiction books set in this era.

The Parting Glass and more fiction Gilded Age books.

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino

Easily one of the most unique historical fiction books I’ve read in a while. The Parting Glass takes us from the mansions of park avenue to the streets of Irish New York during the Gilded Age.

As the story unfolds Maire, a lady’s maid, hides her love for her employer, the debutant Charlotte, as Charlotte has an illicit affair with Maire’s brother who serves as the stableboy.

Class, religion, sexual orientation, and more were all explored. And can I just say thank goodness I didn’t have to wear one of those crazy gowns?

The Engineer's Wife and more fiction Gilded Age books.

The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Enerson Wood

I had no idea that a woman was so instrumental in the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Emily Warren Roebling is the focus of this historical fiction novel.

I loved learning about New York at the time of the bridge-building and just how hard Emily had to fight for her right to be part of the building. It’s also humbling to understand the dangers of building back in the 1860s and 70s.

Men risked their lives for the betterment of society. On the lighter side, all the scenes with P.T. Barnum made me smile. I used to work for the circus afterall! 

Books with Gilded Age Heiresses in England

The Heiress Gets a Duke 1

The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George

Like most of the rest of the world, I binged Netflix’s Bridgertons on Christmas Day. The regency romantic drama ended and I needed more! I immediately turned to this book to fill my need for a historical fiction romance. It takes place in the Gilded Age when a Duke needs to marry an American heiress to get her dowry to help restore his estates to their former glory.

Are you a fan of The Gilded Age? Check out this post of books just like it!

American Duchess

American Duchess by Karen Harper

This particular novel spans the same time period at Downton Abbey. It too features an American Heiress wed in London society to infuse a ducal estate with much-needed funds.

Unlike Lady Cora, the heroine of this story is a real historical figure. Consuelo Vanderbilt’s wedding to the Duke of Marlborough was considered the wedding of the century at the time, but their marriage left something to be desired.

Consuelo is forced to take up the mantle of duty for her estate and title, and in doing so, she finds her inner strength.

The American Heiress

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Goodwin’s debut novel about Cora Cash, an American Heiress on the hunt for a titled husband and a big estate. But once she gets everything she wished for, she needs to decide if it’s what she wants after all.

When I first saw Downton Abbey, I had to look to see if this was the same Cora from the show. I thought for a brief moment that this book must have been a sort of prequel to the show. It’s really a great one for fans of the Gilded Age too.

Historical Fiction Gilded Age Books

The downstairs girl

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Some YA books are incredibly appealing to adult readers, and other YA stories fall flat.

Unfortunately, the latest Reese’s Book Club pick falls into the latter category for me. I was never able to fully get into the story of a lady’s maid turned advice columnist because the writing never drew me in.

I cared about what happened to Jo but I found myself bored throughout.

the most beautiful girl in cuba

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Chanel Cleeton is back with a prequel to the Perez family stories. This time, she examines their ancestor, Marina during the 1896 war between Spain and the US on Cuban soil.

Evangelina Cisneros, dubbed The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by the New York newspapers, and journalist Grace Harrington’s stories are also the focus of this tale.

Cleeton’s vivid imagery and captivating stories make learning about Cuba’s tragic history compelling and help give context to the Cuba we know today.

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The English Wife by Lauren Willig

I found this story so engaging. Annabelle is rumored to be having an affair. On the night of the ball, her husband is found dead and she goes missing.

Told across 2 timelines, both set in the Gilded Age only a few years apart, this book had everything I look for in a novel. It had interesting characters and an engrossing mystery. It was a wonderfully done historical fiction novel.

The American Heiress

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Goodwin’s debut novel about Cora Cash, an American Heiress on the hunt for a titled husband and a big estate. But once she gets everything she wished for, she needs to decide if it’s what she wants after all.

When I first saw Downton Abbey, I had to look to see if this was the same Cora from the show. I thought for a brief moment that this book must have been a sort of prequel to the show. It’s really a great one for fans of the Gilded Age too.

Non-Fiction Books About the Gilded Age

Maiden Voyages and more non-fiction Gilded Age books.

Maiden Voyages by Sian Evans

Maiden Voyages looks at the ladies who worked Ocean Liners like the Titanic and the unbelievable challenges they faced. I was in awe as I listened to this story of ships being sunk by icebergs and wartime submarines. 

The stories of unruly passengers, hurricanes, and the sacrifices of leaving their families to help others were unbelievable. I was so engrossed that I kept forgetting the book was non-fiction.

If you love women’s history, the history of travel, or stories about the Titanic, this is the book for you!

The Season and more non-fiction Gilded Age books.

The Season: A Social History of the Debutante by Kristen Richardson

I was looking for a non-fiction read when I stumbled across the gorgeous cover of this book. I’m a huge fan of the period romance and have read my fair share of coming-out parties, debutante balls, and other aristocratic functions.

I thought this book would help me understand more about the customs of the monied elite. Books like Bridgerton and others on this are filled with references to the rules of society that his book explains.

I learned all I would ever need to know on the topic. I found it to be interesting but at times a bit dry, still it gave me a better understanding of the crazy rules.

Empty Mansions and more non-fiction Gilded Age books.

Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman

Empty Mansions reads like a novel for sure. Huguette Clark’s life was one of opulence and riches, but she died a recluse with a $300 million dollar estate and a vast number of decrepit homes in her portfolio.

The book outlines her life, her struggles, and the people who took advantage of her good nature. I couldn’t put it down! The splendor of her life reads like a soap opera and the photos of her homes included in the book are jawdropping.

More Gilded Age Books

For more check out the Ultimate List of Best Historical Fiction Books.