The Queen of Farrandale

January 29, 2020

I’ve got a couple of fun reads lined up, and the first one is The Queen of Farrandale, by Clara Louise Burnham. Sometimes browsing the “Older women — Fiction” category on Project Gutenberg pays off.

The older woman in question is Susanna Frink, the owner of the one big department store in the town of Farrandale. She’s elderly and unsocial, but clever and energetic and a good businesswoman. She lives with her secretary, Leonard Grimshaw, and a recent addition, Adèle Lumbard, the grandaughter of her closest friend. They’re both hoping to inherit some of her fortune. She’s estranged from her family, and lonelier than she knows.

The other central character is Hugh Sinclair, back from fighting in WWI, sulky and bored and living on hot dogs and cigarettes. He’s also: a) exceedingly good-looking, b) Susanna Frink’s great-nephew, and c) the younger brother of John Ogden’s first love. That last bit is important because John Ogden is a business associate of Susanna Frink, and he thinks Hugh ought to go to Farrandale and worm his way into Miss Frink’s good graces under an assumed name.

The plan goes wrong, but also better than anyone could have expected, when Hugh’s first action in Farrandale is to save Miss Frink’s life. He gets badly injured in the process, and Miss Frink, grateful and attracted by Hugh’s good looks, brings him to her home to recuperate. Hugh is uncomfortable being there under an assumed identity, Grimshaw and Adèle are jealous, and Miss Frink is enjoying herself.

There are other characters, and a romance, and everyone seems to know Adèle from somewhere, but those are just details. The plot is interesting, the characters are engaging, and the ending was mostly satisfying, so I have nothing to say except that The Queen of Farrandale is good fun.



  1. Yes! I went through a Burnham-archives phase, and this was one of the few (out of 26) that I substantially enjoyed. (note: don’t read Jewel. Just… don’t.) Most of her books are wildly implausible/silly in some aspect (see: everyone knows Adele), many of them are drenched in Christian Science “you attract what you think” magic-wand guarantee-stuff to a more-or-less intolerable degree, but the ones that escape the worst drenching sometimes have a few strong characters [usually supported by a remaining cast composed of “good” and “bad” paper dolls, I admit, but I’ll put up with a lot to get a department store queen and a grumpy nephew, you know?]. And some of them are a lot of fun; but you either need to enjoy the ridiculousness as ridiculousness or have a *really* good Suspension of Disbelief thing in place.

    I’ll have to look for that tag on Project Gutenberg…

    • I sort of liked how everyone knowing Adele WAS improbable, but less improbable than it would have been with any other character.

      Are there specific ones you’d recommend?

      • It sort of depends on your toleration levels for different kinds of ridiculousness. “A Sane Lunatic” has a premise that is almost soap-opera ridiculous and also hilarious, and I enjoyed most of it thoroughly (but the book is, on two occasions, briefly maddening; at one point, almost all the “nice” characters try to be self-sacrificing in that-was-a-terrible-idea ways). “The Wise Woman” has some practical women-working-for-a-living vs. society issues which I really enjoyed (with some good solid Snob Comeuppance). “Dr. Latimer: A Story of Casco Bay” has three orphaned sisters running a kindergarten in a residential neighborhood (and then it ends on an island, apparently the best place to tie up every last bizarre loose end?). And The Inner Flame contains a Perfect Christian Science Mother who is more or less as heavy as lead whenever she is present, *but* the book has a great description of 1. setting up house (and having tea!) in a loft over a stable and 2. setting up house in an outbuilding recently used as a henhouse and 3. several highly-enjoyable instances of comeuppance and also 4. a really awesome old maid. So if you can put up with intermittent appearances by the Angel who is Always Right and whose magical thinking always works out like clockwork, it’s largely an enjoyable book, and if not, uh, probably not.

        She has a fairly bad habit of closing books by pairing off every available main character who is eligible for marriage (according to her rules) whether it really makes sense or not, and also, where applicable, killing off bad spouses so that their first spouse can marry the “right” person. Many of her books revolve around or incorporate weird wills. And in almost all her books, I really wanted more of this-thing-we-only-got-a-brief-glimpse-of and less of… lots of other things. But ridiculous, sometimes to the point of being laugh-out-loud funny [either intended by the book or not]? We’ve got ridiculous covered. :-) And there are scenes and moments of characterization that are just *gold*… and then the book makes a sane and reasonable character do weird implausible or stupid stuff and… sigh. I don’t know, but if you do read more, I will look forward to your reviews!

        • This is so interesting. I’m going to have to try at least one of these, I think.

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