March 19, 2018

There’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to write a straightforward review of a Patty Fairfield book, and yet here we are. This is my fourth attempt at writing about Patty-Bride. The third time was not the charm.

You know how books often go downhill when the romance wraps up? This is a whole book of that, but with some spies to spice things up. Two weeks ago when Patty Blossom ended, no world events had been mentioned in the entire series. But now the US has entered WWI, and when Patty isn’t mooning over Bill Farnsworth and writing him appallingly gooey letters, she’s knitting socks for soldiers and working for war-related charities.

Bill spends most of the book in Washington, DC — Bill’s frequent absences being, at this point, a series staple. Philip Van Reypen, however is still around all the time, even though he’s supposed to be off learning how to fly airplanes somewhere. As you can imagine, he is a) not happy about Patty’s engagement, and b) kind of a dick about it. Carolyn Wells spends some time towards the end of the book trying to suggest that he’s falling in love with Helen “Bumble” Barlow, but it’s not convincing.

Bumble’s appearance is a fun surprise, both because I like her as a character and because so many of Patty’s friends and relations seem to have been totally forgotten over the years. Whatever happened to Patty’s childhood BFF Clara Hayden? Or Marian Elliott, who was both a cousin and a close friend? Why, when Patty visits an old schoolmate at the end of this book, is it someone we’ve never heard of, instead of a member of the Vernondale Tea Club, or a student from the Oliphant School? I miss Clementine Morse and Lorraine Hamilton.

Then there are the spies. There aren’t a lot of them, but they’re everywhere. Get caught in a snowstorm at a country club? You will be beset by spies. Take shelter at a random house during…another snowstorm? More spies. Helen and Patty each get half of that second snowstorm adventure, which is the best episode in the book. The thing about the spies being everywhere, though, is they show up too often for it to be a coincidence, but Wells won’t commit to having them be part of an overarching conspiracy. It’s too much and too little at the same time.

I don’t usually reread the last two Patty books, and honestly I still dread Patty and Azalea. Patty-Bride was a lot better than I remembered, but it’s still not great. Carolyn Wells is at her best when she’s at her lightest, and this isn’t that. I probably won’t avoid Patty-Bride as much in the future, but it’s never going to be where my Patty rereads start.



  1. Well, this is odd. i’m completely and embarrassingly baffled. I have often come across the name of Carolyn Wells and, subconsciously conflated (I think) it with carolyn keene. I already have too many books to take up girls series books as well. But perhaps i should pay more attention next time. Nothing wrong in my reading world with a few too many spies.
    Perhaps the Fleming Stone stories would have more masculine appeal…although i like girl’s adventures and even romance stories sometimes (angela brazil). I sometimes like to withdraw into the safer world school stories or adolescent adventures as an escape from the savagery and brutality of P. G. Wodehouse. ( I strive for uniqueness of imagery 🙄 )
    The story by angela brazil that i read took place in persia in a battle with russian spies and pure but brave and honest peasant girl with a mysterious background. very endearing character…still in love with that peasant girl.

    • I need to read more Angela Brazil, for sure. If you’re into her more adventurous stories, have you tried Bessie Marchant?

      I can’t help you with “masculine appeal” because I think that’s a nonsense term, but I also doubt Carolyn Wells’ mysteries have it. There are lots of pretty girls in them, though, for a certain amount of “people-attracted-to-women appeal”.

      • gosh, you know, as to who wrote about the persian spies I may even have confused Brazil with Marchant. Itried to find the book in my shelves but no luck. just too many books, too many of them in boxes.

        • What a DODO I am. yes, it was Bessie Marchant: Girl and a Caravan, A: The Story of Irma’s Quest in Persia

          • That sounds fun. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  2. I guess WWI brought out the spy craze in everyone. The final Molly Brown book–Molly Brown’s College Friends, I think–features a husband and wife spy team who infiltrate Wellington College and Exmoor (and are foiled in the end with the help of the Tucker Twins father!), and one of Jane Abbott’s girls books–Larkspur, which is sort of a sequel to Keinith–has both a war orphan and a spy!

    • I don’t think I made it to the final Molly Brown book, and I’m not sure even a fun spy plot could get me there. But yeah, you hit 1918 in any given series and there are suddenly spies everywhere. I don’t think it’s either a good or a bad thing — mostly I judge on grade of execution.

      It’s been a while since I reread Larkspur. Or Keineth. Or Highacres…

      • You do NOT want to read the final few Molly Brown books. I only have them because I wanted the complete set. They were written by Nell Speed’s sister, and TBH, the series suffered because of it.

        • Yeah, I failed out after book six. I didn’t like the earlier books enough to power through to the end.

  3. I do always enjoy the patched-in “of course she has always been doing war work!” – it’s so ridiculous, having read the previous books. Then again, that’s probably how some people went for patriotism at the time – the “now that it is socially expected, I have always been saving up tin cans and denying myself new hats and following the news and knitting up a storm, only a slacker would…” …behave exactly the way they had personally behaved a month ago.

    Incidentally, a new Unmitigated Fluff Fiction book is up on Project Gutenberg: An Everyday Girl by Amy Ella Blanchard. It reminds me a bit of Patty, and a bit of the Pebbly Pit series (minus the Outdoor Adventure), but with a healthy serving of Deprived Utilitarian Spinster Aunt (technically cousin, but functionally aunt) and with the main character having musical talent and bohemian artistic connections in New York. The coincidences are definitely, uh, something, and most of the characters are a bit more Practically Perfect than one might wish. But there are entertaining domestic details and while the book has many things it doesn’t follow up on, it ends up meandering at least a more or less reasonable path with a fair number of entertaining incidents along the way.

    • I’m willing to buy Patty getting super enthusiastic about war work, more than some other characters, because she’s always been into charity. It’s just the abrubtness of it.

      Ooh, that looks fun. I had to look up my previous encounter with Amy Ella Blanchard, and it turns out that it was a nice but unexciting children’s Christmas story.

      • Oh, yes, I totally buy Patty being super-enthusiastic – it’s the “she’s been on all these committees and it’s been important to her but we just… didn’t mention it until now” thing:

        “I wish I could do some war work,” and Patty sighed.

        “Good gracious!” said Nan, “I don’t know any girl who does more of it than you do, Patty! When you’re not down in that old office doing clerical work, you’re knitting like a house afire. And you are on two or three committees and you write slogans for the Food people and for the Liberty Loan Bonds, and oh, I don’t know what all you do!”

        “All of a sudden, isn’t it?” asked Philip, interestedly. “Have you been doing these things long?”

        “Some of them,” said Patty. “But I have done more of late. I feel so useless unless I do.”

        I mean, she’s been engaged all of two weeks, which would presumably take up a chunk of her time (especially since she notes how much she’s been getting to know him since getting engaged!). But having never mentioned the war or any of the pre-US-involvement-in-the-war stuff at all, the implication that she’s been doing a bunch of things for ages… it stretches the bounds of credulity a bit!

        That said, there is at least surprise expressed that Phil is going in for aviation suddenly! But the whole “war-work is my life” thing, two weeks after the last book (they could have made it more than two weeks!), is a bit weird.

        • Yeah, all of this exactly. But I think the motivation for the two weeks thing is that Wells had to show us Phil being an asshole about Patty’s engagement and couldn’t put it off too long.

  4. Just rereading the series and am about to go into Patty Blossom/Patty Bride and Patty and Azalea. Popped in here. Your blog may be the past place to share a pet image I have of Patty and her friends – I have a print of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_-_Luncheon_of_the_Boating_Party_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg. Ever since I found the Patty series about 10 years ago, I’ve thought it’s Patty in the flowered hat (with the dog), Phil behind her, Bill across, looking at her, Kit next to Bill, talking to Mona, of course. Elise leaning on the railing, talking to Kenneth (in the Derby hat), etc. ;)

    Thank you for your wonderful blog – I’ve stopped by a few times over the years.

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