The Affair at the InnSeptember 10, 2013
The Affair at the Inn is unusual in two ways: first, it’s a collaborative novel that isn’t a trainwreck. The four main characters are written by four different writers, and I didn’t finish the book with a sense that the writers hated each other, or that the plot at the end was hastily patched together from the ruins of what it was originally meant to be. Second, it’s sort of Williamsonian (alternating points of view, traveling American heiress, Scottish baronet with an automobile) but without anyone traveling incognito. Nothing else about it was unusual, but almost everything about it was very nice.
The four characters and their authors are as follows: Virginia Pomeroy, written by Kate Douglas Wiggin, is the American heiress, traveling around the UK with her invalid mother. Virginia is kind of a flirt, and does her best to attract the only man in the vicinity, Sir Archibald Maxwell Mackenzie. He’s written by Allan McAulay, and is a bit of a woman hater, although Virgina quickly starts to thaw him out. The other two point of view characters are Mrs. MacGill, a hypochondriac widow, and her companion Cecilia Evesham, written, respectively, by sisters Mary and Jane Findlater. I actually found the book while looking for something else by Jane Findlater.
Basically, the book is what you would expect. Mrs. MacGill tries, ineffectually, to obstruct the romance between Virginia and Sir Archibald. Cecilia tries to forward it, but she’s not really needed — Virginia and Sir Archibald do fine on their own.
I liked The Affair at the Inn, but I wanted it to be a little more substantial. Nothing that didn’t bear directly on the central romance was fleshed out at all — everything else was loose ends. Still, I didn’t feel the lack of anything while I was reading it, and if The Affair at the Inn has no ambitions to be anything but fluff — and if it does a pretty good job at that — then I shouldn’t ask for it to be anything more either.