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The Blue Envelope

March 13, 2020

Is a book ever as good all the way through, especially when there’s a romantic climax to get through and authors can’t be depended on not to forget what their characters are actually like, or pretend that actually it was love at first sight? Sophie Kerr, author of The Blue Envelope (not to be confused with The Blue Envelope by Roy Snell), isn’t much more dependable in that way than the average author, but she built up so much good will in the first half of the book that I wasn’t really disappointed.

I think a lot of you are going to read this and enjoy it. It’s narrated by Leslie Brennan, a nineteen-year-old orphan who is told by her guardian that she must go out and earn her own living for two years under the terms of her father’s will. Leslie’s never done a stroke of work in her life, but she’s not one to back down from a challenge, so she goes to New York, finds an inexpensive place to live, and enrolls in business school.

She has a hard time learning stenography, but she sticks to it, adds language lessons to her curriculum, and eventually impresses her teacher. Similarly, she’s put off by the people around her at first, but soon makes some good friends: Minnie, her boarding house table-mate, looks out for Leslie and teaches her lots of things she ought to know–without looking up to or down on Leslie. Their friendship feels real. Then there’s another boarding house resident, a nice boy from Chicago named Jimmie, and a couple of girls from the business school: Celia, who is a socialist but has a sense of humor about it, and Antoinette, who gives Leslie some long-overdue sewing lessons. By the time Leslie graduates, she loves the opportunities her new life has given her. She’s stronger and more sensible, but also more aware of her shortcomings. And when little bits of drama come her way, they teach her things without feeling contrived or preachy.

Her job search isn’t quick, and she’s beginning to think about lowering her standards when an advertisement sends her–and a bunch of other secretarial hopefuls–out to a big house in the Bronx. There, she verbally spars with red-headed inventor Ewan Kennedy, and he hires her on the spot. Mr. Kennedy is alternately rude and contrite, his two servants are darlings, and it turns out that Leslie has been prepared well for the job. Every time she feels like she can’t do something, Mr. Kennedy says something that makes her angry enough to want to prove herself. It’s delightful, and Leslie thrives.

The title plot feels like an afterthought. It’s similar to the adventure of the heroine in The Enchanted Barn, but without that bad taste in the mouth that Grace Livingston Hill sometimes leaves me with. It’s not as good as the rest of the book, but it’s plenty good enough. And then–yes, the romance. Yes, the love interest acting out of character. Yes, that irritating insistence that they’ve been in love all along, when it’s so much better that they weren’t. But I’m not too upset, because most of The Blue Envelope is a joy.

4 comments

  1. Oh, Thank YOU. You know I’m going to enjoy this one!
    I’ll need it when I’m done with my current read.
    I’m reading Jane’s Parlour by M. Buchan and having the hardest time remembering the characters from the other two books that pop up in this one. I think I’ve got the right character and then realize he/she is from a totally different series. Anybody got a playbook for O Douglas!


  2. Thanks for this one; I just finished chapter 9 and I’m not only hooked…I’m crushing a little on Mr. Kennedy!


  3. I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about you and I hope you’re keeping yourself healthy and occupied.

    Bridget


    • I’m managing okay, and I hope you are, too. I’d hoped to be posting more at this time, but I just can’t get through the tail end of the very boring book I’m reading.



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