I kind of thought I’d posted this last week, but apparently not: Red-Robin

April 24, 2009

After finding Keineth so wonderful, I immediately started two more Jane Abbott books: Larkspur on my computer and Red-Robin on my Kindle. Red-Robin is the one I finished first — I don’t know whether that was because I was reading it on the more portable machine or because it was kind of awesome.

Somehow, Red-Robin seemed a lot older than it was, which I think might be because the storyline reminded me a lot of a Mary Jane Holmes novel. But even though Jane Abbott uses the same plotlines so many other people use, she brings a sort of freshness to them. Things that you expect to happen because you know how the story goes do happen, but they happen more naturally and spontaneously than you would believe possible.

The story goes as follows:

There’s a dreamy Irish girl called Moira who dreams of going to America. She marries a guy called Danny Lynch and they emigrate. Before they leave, Father Murphy, the local priest, gives Moira a string of green beads for good luck.

When we next see Moira, about fifteen years have passed. Moira and Danny live in New York. Danny works in construction or something, and they have two kids: Dale, who is about twelve, I think, and Beryl, who is more like four.

Beryl brings home a doll that she saw a girl leave on a park bench. Message: Beryl is selfish. Moira suggests that the doll might bring them good luck, and just then a guy comes by to tell them that Dan has been promoted to foreman and will be working late. Moira lets Beryl wear her green beads in celebration, but after dinner a doctor arrives and tells them that Dan has had an accident and will never walk again.

Meanwhile, Dale is on his way home from his job at the local store when he runs into a little girl with red hair who can’t find her doll. She is Robin Forsyth, she’s about Beryl’s age, and of course she is the owner of the doll. She decides that Dale is her fairy-tale Prince and tells him that they’ll find each other again.

Fast forward ten years. But wait — let’s talk about the Forsyth family first. They have lived for many years on a magnificent estate overlooking the mill that provides them with their wealth. The heir to the family (Christopher II) died some years back, and his father (Christopher I) and mother (Madame Mathilde) brought up his son (Christopher III). (Forget about Mary Jane Holmes. This is just like an L.T. Meade book.)

Anyway, Christopher III died tragically at the age of 24, followed soon by his grandfather, and now the only one left is Madame Forsyth, who sends her lawyer, Mr. Allendyce, in search of an heir. He comes up with a Gordon Forsyth, the fifteen year-old son of a nephew called James Forsyth. James’ branch of the fmaily is somewhat disreputable, so they decide to give Gordon a year’s trial, during which he will live at the Forsyth estate under Allendyce’s supervision while Madame travels.

When Mr. Allendyce goes to find Gordon, he discovers that he is a she — a lame, red-headed girl who has always been called Red-Robin — the girl Dale rescued when she went out in search of her lost doll. He takes a liking to her and brings her back with him — not telling anyone befoehand that she’s a girl.

Robin soon wins over most of the servants, but the mill people take longer. Her first introduction to them comes through Beryl Lynch, who starts out as one of the servants, but who Robin hires to be her companion after Beryl is fired by the housekeeper. Beryl is scornful of Robin a lot of the time, but Beryl is also an intensely selfish person who thinks only about her ambition to be a great violin player, and all the nice things she will buy for herself when she is, so we know exactly what value to pu on her opinion.

The Lynch family moved to the Forsyth’s mill town — I can’t remember the name of anything. Can you tell? — because Dale got a job there and hoped he could work his way up. He had to quit school when his father was injured, but he’s very smart, and he’s working on an invention to improve the efficiency of the mill, only the guy in charge won’t look at it.

Everything works out much as you’d expect — Moira Lych helps Robin help out the mill people, the green beads turn out to be insanely, stupidly valuable, Robin wins over Madame Forsyth, Beryl eventually is nice to a few people, Dale is put in charge of the mill, and Robin and Dale fall in love. But it’s kind of awesome, and even when I pretty much knew what was happening, I didn’t feel like I did.

One thing I really loved: It takes Robin a long time to win over the mill people, and when she first starts trying to improve conditions for them, everyone tells her not to worry her pretty little head over it, which makes her furious. And then Dale tells her pretty much the same thing, but it’s okay because when the other people say it, they don’t want her to cause trouble, but Dale just really doesn’t want her to worry. It’s very cute, even though Robin is maybe too good for him.

When Robin does win the respect of the workers, it’s over something really stupid, and I liked that, too. There’s an epidemic going around, and this old woman who lives with her young granddaughter dies. No one will even go into the house to bring out the body, but Robin goes in and sort of pays her respects. It shows how brave she is, and that she genuinely cares about the poor people, but at the same time, it’s completely useless, and that’s why it works so well.

It’s such a ridiculous book, but it’s also not as ridiculous as it ought to be. I probably won’t ever enjoy it as much as I did the first time, but I think I’ll be reading it again.


  1. We must share a psychic wave-length! After re-reading Keineth, Larkspur, and Highacres, I went to my bookshelf and said, “What do I want to read next?” Well, Red-Robin was a late addition to my collection and I’d only read it once, and had been only moderately pleased with it, so Thursday night and Friday morning I read it again, and liked it much better this time.

    It’s funny that we should both read the same Jane Abbott book at the same time.

  2. Oh, Jane Abbott is a favorite of mine! If you can find “Juliet is Twenty,” it has a fantastic plot.

  3. I don’t have Juliet at 20, although I’ve seen it “advertised” in other Jane Abbott books. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Elizabeth — That is funny. What about Red-Robin worked better for you the second time around? (Also, I hope our psychic streak hasn’t continued, because I wouldn’t wish the book I just read on anyone.)

    Anonymous — I’ll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the rec!

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