I’ve Married MarjorieMay 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
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.