Although I read it at home, To Marry an English Lord is the perfect commute book. Interesting enough to distract me from work but arranged in short, discreet sections so that I'd never reach my stop at *the good point*, it's the perfect book to pick up when you only have a few minutes.
The authors start by tracing the patterns of American wealth. Old Money, as we all know, is quiet, and until the mid-19th Century, American society was less sparkling than its European counterpart. As brasher, flashier families acquired wealth, the old (and not so old) families closed ranks. Meanwhile, in England, old families had old homes which needed an infusion of cash and the outgoing daughters of robber barons outshone their sheltered English counterparts. Add in the Prince of Wales's predilection for vibrant female company and you have the recipe for two generations of American girls marrying titled men. To Marry an English Lord doesn't stop at the wedding, though. It shows the dreariness of married life in a cold, run-down manor house and the need to produce an heir (it also touches on the acceptance of extramarital affairs once that heir had been produced). What most struck me was how recent some of these marriages were. English Lords started marrying American heiresses in the mid-19th Century, but the last marriages were shortly before WWI. Some of the women profiled lived well into the 1960s and even the 1970s, relics in the modern world.