Arts & Entertainment

Hillsborough Author Nominated for 3 National Book Awards

Author Rikki Lynn Hauss holds a copy of her book, "The Duchess of South Somerville." Credits: Rod Hirsch
The Duke Mansion in Hillsborough Credits: Tapinto File Photo
Demolition of the Duke estate begins in 2016. Credits: Tapinto File Photo
Workmen sift through the rubble as the demolition of the Duke estate gets under way in 2016. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Postcard ca. 1912 shows the majestic Duke Estate in Hillsborough. Credits: Tapinto File Photo
Author Rikki Lynn Hauss in character as a young Doris Duke. Credits: Courtesy "The Duchess of Somerville"

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Just four months after its publication, “The Duchess of South Somerville,” a 179-page chronicle of Doris Duke, her legacy, her beloved mansion and its controversial demolition in 2016, has been nominated for three national book awards.

Writen by Rikki Lynn Hauss, a 2012 graduate of Hillsborough High School, The Duchess of South Somerville has been nominated for the 2018 IPPY Awards in three categories.

RELATED:  Author visited Plainfield's The Drake House Museum in late April.

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“I'm still digesting how amazing this news is,” she said. “I really am surprised, to think that so early in the game I would have something like this to show,” she added. “Something like this takes years to accomplish.”

The IPPY Awards, or Independent Publisher's Book Awards, have served to recognize independently-written and published books for 22 years on an annual basis.  Medals are awarded in 83 hard-copy book categories, 12 regional categories, 11 e-book categories, and 8 unique awards per year.

IPPY judging is based on quality of content, originality, design, and production with an emphasis on innovation and social relevance. Judges includes experts from the fields of editing, design, reviewing, bookselling and library. 

The awards program is open to all members of the independent publishing industry, and authors and publishers worldwide who produce books written in English and appropriate for the North American market.

IPPY award winners are invited to an awards program in California and celebration reception during BookExpo America. Winners will be notified next spring.

The Duchess of South Somerville has been nominated in the categories of Best First Book – Nonfiction; Autobiography/Memoir II, and Regional Mid-Atlantic of the Year.

“The Duchess of South Somerville” chronicles Duke’s life, including first-person reminisces from those who worked for her over the years, and a chronology of the controversy leading up to and surrounding the demolition of the mansion in 2016.

The 179-page book includes hundreds of vintage and color photographs, including pictures that were taken inside the mansion shortly before it was leveled.

When Doris Duke was born in 1912, newspaper society columnists christened her "the richest little girl in the world."

She was larger than life, destined to live a life of extravagance and elegance; as a young teenager she inherited her father’s wealth, his tobacco empire and his beloved mansion in Hillsborough alongside the Raritan River, the victor in a bitter dispute with her mother.

Some called her eccentric and enigmatic, while others who worked for the billionaire and who lived on the grounds of the expansive 2,700-acre estate knew her to be compassionate, generous and down-to-earth, not afraid to get her hands dirty working chores in the fields, the barns and the greenhouses surrounding the mansion.

Duke touched thousands of lives and had a huge impact on the world stage and in the towns that surrounded her majestic mansion in Hillsborough; her benevolence stretched across the country and around the world, but she always took care of the grass roots organizations in the communities close to home: the Hillsborough Boys’ Football Association, Hillsborough fire departments and rescue squads; the Manville First Aid Squad, the Raritan Police Department, the Franklin Township Food Bank, the Somerset County Salvation Army unit, the United Way of Somerset County and many others. 

An adventurous globe trotter who fancied the world’s cultures, at times dripping in diamonds, with palatial homes across the country and Hawaii, the heiress had a profound impact on those who knew her; for those who only know of her through the photos, news stories and gossip columns from the past, there is a continuing fascination with the wealthiest resident to have ever lived in Hillsborough.

Hauss is the youngest member of DORIS – Destruction of Residence is Senseless – a grass-roots group of historic preservationists, people who had worked for Duke, people who had lived on the property and others, like Hauss, who couldn’t understand, and wouldn’t accept the fact that the mansion, built in the early 1900s, was beyond restoration or that the Doris Duke Charitable Trust, owner of Duke Farms, was determined to level the mansion built by her father.

DORIS mounted a spirited effort to halt the demolition through a series of lawsuits that extended over a year’s time, but eventually, all legal remedies were exhausted, with the demolition taking place in March and April of 2016.

“Our fight was to spare heritage, history, and a sense of home that this billionaire tried so hard to maintain. My head still spins over how much work was put into the Estate . . . and how quickly it all reduced to rubble and memory,” Hauss writes in her book.

It took Hauss 10 months to complete the book. She said the experience was most gratifying because so many of the contributors to the book were open and generous with their time.

“Being welcomed into peoples’ homes and learning why Doris Duke was special to them, and the mark she left on people, it was very humbling for them to trust me with that information and for me to provide a venue,” Hauss said.

"My greatest hope is that between my fellow DORIS members and I, we each find ways to preserve the legacy and original intentions of the Duke family. This book is my way of honoring how many lives the Dukes continue to impact in some way."

Hauss has reduced the cost of the book to $19.99 to celebrate the nominations. “The Duchess of South Somerville is available online through the Duchess Bookstore:

Hauss can be contacted online at


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