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I’ve Married Marjorie

May 18, 2010

So, that “he/she fell in love with his/her wife/ husband” trope I was talking about a couple of weeks ago? Margaret Widdemer seems to be at least as fond of it as I am. I’ve Married Marjorie is the third of her books that I’ve read, and the second one where the hero and heroine get married long before their happy ending. It’s not as straightforward an example of the trope as The Rose-Garden Husband, but I don’t think that’s the reason that the book isn’t quite successful.

I wasn’t this angry about the book when I was reading it — I do find it easy to let a book’s internal logic take me where it will, and there was all this interesting, half-heartedly psychological stuff that reminded me of Eleanor Hallowell Abbott — but the more I think about it now, the less I like it.

Widdemer does switch things up — I’ll give her that. For one thing, Marjorie Ellison is already married when the book begins. She married in haste — Francis Ellison basically badgered her into marrying him while he was on leave from the army — and is now repenting, although not quite at leisure. Francis is due home in a week or so, and Marjorie is not looking forward to seeing him.

Another thing that’s different: Francis was head over heels in love with Marjorie when they got married. He never stops being head over heels in love with her. It would be cute if he didn’t also have this thing where he never stops being kind of an asshole.

It’s an interesting situation: Francis and Marjorie know each other for a few weeks, get married, and then don’t see each other for a year. It makes sense that Marjorie isn’t in love with him. I liked that she wasn’t, and that she had a job and a social life and has a tame intellectual who trails after her.  I…didn’t like much else.

Francis decides that the best way to deal with the situation is to kidnap Marjorie and carry her to Canada, where he has a job reforesting.  (Marjorie “did
not quite know how people reforested, but she had a vague image in her
mind of people going along with armfuls of trees which they stuck in
holes.”)

Now, I don’t usually have much trouble getting into the right mindset to enjoy early 20th century romance novels. I mean, I finished The Sheik. But I found I’ve Married Marjorie really troubling. Not that I didn’t find The Sheik extremely troubling, it’s just…you expect that from E.M. Hull, you know? But not from Margaret Widdemer.

Francis and Marjorie are married. Francis knows that Marjorie isn’t in love with him. She offered to try and make their marriage work anyway and he was nasty to her. It has been pretty much decided that they’re going to get divorced.

But then Francis changes his mind, and after making a half-hearted attempt to talk to the still angry Marjorie, he enlists her cousin/roommate Lucille’s help and kidnaps her.

Can we go over that once more? Instead of giving her a few days to cool down, he decides that carrying Marjorie off to Canada without asking is a better idea. And she has a life, and a job, and it’s less than 48 hours since the first time they’ve seen each other in a year.

This makes me completely furious.

And then there’s Lucille. She’s Marjorie’s cousin. They live together. Lucille has known Francis no longer than Marjorie has. And yet she thinks it’s okay to help Francis abduct his wife. Lucille isn’t the most down to earth character, and I can sort of see that she might not realize that this will mean the loss of Marjorie’s job, but she really should remember the conversation she and Marjorie had the previous evening during which Marjorie told her that a) she did not love Francis, and b) she did not want to be married to him.

Even after that, though, I trusted Margaret Widdemer to make it work. The internal logic of a book isn’t always going to match up with real-life logic. I know that. And if Widdemer had continued the book by letting Francis and Marjorie slowly get to know each other, rewriting their initial, rushed courtship to make it more real, I would have been able to accept the kidnapping thing. But she doesn’t. She makes Francis worse — selfish, jealous, verging on brutal — and never shows Marjorie feeling anything more than mild affection for him. And then she asks us to believe that they’re in love.

Well, I don’t.

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14 comments

  1. I started reading this on Gutenberg a month or so ago, and I just couldn’t get into it at all. I didn’t like Francis and I didn’t even particularly like Marjorie. After reading your review, I probably won’t bother going back to try and get through the story. The Rose-Garden Husband and The Wishing Ring Man are both on my favorites list, though.


    • I think the problem with Marjorie was that she wasn’t consistent. It’s a failure in the writing, really, but combined with Francis being alternately angry/jealous and contrite, it sort of makes the whole thing read like an abusive relationship. At least, the more I think about it, the more I see it that way.

      I remember you had said The Wishing Ring Man was one of your favorites, and I’m still saving it up as a treat for myself–that’s kind of why I read I’ve Married Marjorie first.


  2. I think I started this one and never finished it. Now I remember why. I really liked her Rose Garden Husband and the Wishing Ring Man. Maybe she was just having a bad year . . .


    • Did you get to any of the bits about Marjorie reflecting on people becoming more serious because of the war? Maybe Margaret Widdemer was trying to write something more “significant” than her other books.


  3. C’mon….it was fun..and Francis was sweet and he wasn’t mean to her..not as much as she deserved anyway


    • I couldn’t disagree more. Francis was on the verge of being stalkerishly creepy, he was mean and unjust, and no one deserves to be kidnapped, ever.


  4. Oh all right…i guess soooo..but i still love him…..but then i suppose i’m a bit regressive.


  5. Although I didn’t think much of The Sheik..


    • Yeah, it’s kind of difficult to really get into someone’s rape fantasy.


  6. I know..it was kind of terrifying…and a little too Stockholm Syndrome..(is that the right word?)


    • Stockholm Syndrome is definitely the right word, and I absolutely agree with you on that point.


  7. Heh heh. I just finished it and I guess being a romance reader, and finding this sort of behavior somewhat common in romance novels, I could stand it. Francis was irrational, but amidst all of his nuttiness, I found it refreshing to read about such a vulnerable hero. More often than not, the hero is this cold, stoic type who doesn’t show emotion or really chase after the heroine because it’s not “masculine” (interesting that vulnerable heroes were acceptable in genre/pulp romantic fiction written by both men and women during the first decades of the 20th century). But I loved Marjorie–the descriptions of her being “little” and “like a child” not so much–she was frank and straightforward, and I loved that she’d made an independent life for herself and wasn’t demonized for it. It was short and cute, and romantic, for me. Thanks for bringing my attention to the book!


    • Hmmm. I read the occasional romance novel, and I’ve definitely come across plots like this before. It feels different to me here, somehow. I think it might be because contemporary romance writers make sure to show you the chemistry between the leads right from the beginning, and you’re never in doubt that they’re meant to be together. With Francis and Marjorie I was never really convinced.

      I really liked Marjorie too, and I loved that she had a job and friends and a social life — but that made me angrier at Francis, because he was taking her away from her responsibilities, and the life she’d chosen for herself.

      You should try The Rose-Garden Husband. It’s equally short, cute, and romantic, it’s definitely got a vulnerable hero, and (for me, anyway) it’s a much more fun take on the marriage first, love later scenario.


  8. Thanks for mentioning these books..Rose-Garde Husband was delightful as was its sort of sequel, The Wishing Ring Man.



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