Archive for the ‘romance’ Category


The First Violin

December 6, 2016

When Alisha recommended Jessie Fothergill’s The First Violin, she mentioned Patricia Brent, Spinster and the Williamsons. Based on that, I guess I was expecting something romcom-like. That is not what I got, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The First Violin is the story of May Wedderburn, the middle daughter of an English vicar. Adelaide, the oldest, is the strong-willed ambitious one, and Stella, the youngest, is smart and practical. May herself is dreamy, idealistic, and musical.

Her uneventful life is interrupted by the arrival of Sir Peter Le Marchant (wealthy, older, creepy as fuck). He wants to marry May, presumably so he can make her life miserable, but she wants nothing to do with him. She’s rescued by a neighbor, Miss Hallam, who is going to Germany to consult an eye doctor. She offers to bring May along as her companion and promises to arrange for singing lessons. Read the rest of this entry ?


Little Eve Edgarton

May 11, 2008

And a third Abbott story — I’m stopping now, I promise — Little Eve Edgarton. This one is kind of peculiar. The hero, Jim Barton, is very shallow, and the heroine, Eve, is kind of a social moron, although she knows how to do pretty much everything, from cataloguing fossils to reviving people who have bee struck by lightning to making muffins. It’s hard to understand why Eve is attracted to Barton, unless it is because she, too, is determined to be shallow, and almost impossible to understand why Barton is attracted to Eve. By the end of the book, I’m still not convinced that they’re in love with each other.

The illustrations are rather nice, though. Read the rest of this entry ?


Molly Make-Believe

May 10, 2008

So, I just read another Eleanor Hallowell Abbott story: Molly Make-Believe. And it’s a full-fludged romance novel this time — although a very small one — which is sort of not in its favor.

Molly Make-Believe tells the story of a winter in the life of Carl Stanton, a young businessman who is confined to his bed by his horrible rheumatism. He has recently become engaged to a girl named Cornelia, although it hasn’t been announced yet. Carl’s doctor is astonished to discover that Cornelia is going South for the winter in spite of the fact that Carl is ill, but, as Carl puts it, “Every girl like Cornelia had to go South sometime between November and March.” Read the rest of this entry ?


The Odd One

August 16, 2007

The Odd One

I feel like I should say anything about The Odd One, by Fannie E. Newberry, except that it was, well, an odd one. But I can’t help it. The title describes the book much better than it describes the main character.

Beth Merritt is the third of five sisters, and she’s called the odd one because, while Clarissa (Sister #1) and Trix (#4) are close, and Nell(#2) and Lala (Laura, #5) are close, Beth is always off on her own. The five of them live with their invalid mother in an old house somewhere in Ohio that, while pretty, has seen better times. The same applies to the girls. It’s all very Little Women. Read the rest of this entry ?


High Noon

July 7, 2007

So, remember Paul Verdayne from Three Weeks? An anonymous someone wanted to give him a happy ending, and wrote this sequel, High Noon. Sadly, it does not take place in the Western United States, although that would be hysterical. Instead, Paul returns to Switzerland and again falls in love with another mysterious Russian lady with black hair. It’s not really clear why, since right up until he falls in love with her he’s supposed to be indifferent to women. But apparently she resembles his “Queen” from Three Weeks, and then he decides that his Queen must have sent her, or something. And then he starts acting like every other man in every other early twentieth century trashy romance novel — well, half of them. The other half are creepy rapists like the hero of The Sheik.

But I suppose it doesn’t really matter if the plot makes any sense, because the writing is terrible. I mean, check this bit out:

“Oh! God,” he cried, out of the anguish of his soul, “what a hideous world! Beneath all this painted surface, this bedizened face of earth, lies naught but the yawning maw of the insatiable universe. This very lake, with its countenance covered with rippling smiles, is only a cruel monster waiting to devour. Everything, even the most beautiful, typifies the inexorable laws of Fate and the futility of man’s struggle with the forces he knows not.”

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The Purple Heights, 2/2

July 7, 2007

The second half of The Purple Heights is very different from the first. Chadwick Champneys sets out to find Anne Simms, commonly known as Nancy, and finds her working as a maid in the home of her mother’s stepsister. Nancy has red hair, freckles, and a bad temper.

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The Second Honeymoon

March 21, 2007

The Second Honeymoon, by Ruby Mildred Ayres, is another disappointing one. I mean, I like a story-extending romantic misunderstanding as much as the next person, but there’s got to be something else going on, too. And then, one misunderstanding can only take you so far unless you dither a lot. I frown upon dithering in fiction. Ayres does not. I read this after seeing an ad for it in the back of Little Old New York. I guess I’m going to be putting the other authors I found there on hold for a bit.

Jimmy Challoner is engaged to an actress named Cynthia Farrow. He passionately adores her. Unfortunately, he’s not all that well off — he’s dependent on his older brother, The Great Horatio. The Great Horatio is not a magician, but an invalid who mostly lives abroad and gives Jimmy a quarterly allowance. Several characters in this book comment on the fact that Jimmy could always, you know, go out and get a job, but since that’s dropped without really being resolved, we’re forced to assume that love is more important that paid employment. I mean, I get that love is more important than paid employment in novels like this, but you can’t just assume that it is; you have to make a case for it.

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Three Weeks

March 15, 2007

I haven’t been updating much lately because I’m home for spring break. With access to so many actual books, I don’t need to resort to etexts as often, and I haven’t found anything new. But then it occurred to me that I haven’t written about Elinor Glyn at all, which is kind of a weird omission.

The information I’ve been able to gather online suggest that Glyn’s only remaining claim to fame is that she was the person who first called sex appeal “It”. In fact, she wrote the book that the Clara Bow movie It was adapted from. She was well known as a writer of romance novels — you know, the intensely passionate, deeply felt kind. She also wrote some less serious ones, like the The Visits of Elizabeth, but those are only slightly less racy.

Her most sensational novel, Three Weeks, inspired a short poem:

Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?

Or would you prefer
To err
With her
On some other fur?

Three Weeks is kind of hysterical, and since I’ve read it a couple of times, it’s the one I can most easily talk about without going back and rereading it. It is the story of a young Englishman, Paul Verdayne. He’s very young and beautiful and all that, but his mind is unformed and he has no appreciation of, you know, culture. Read the rest of this entry ?


Who Cares?

March 11, 2007

I’ve been rereading Who Cares? by Cosmo Hamilton, whose name was actually Cosmo Gibbs and who happens to have been C. Aubrey Smith’s brother in law. I found this book about a year ago by browsing through the Project Gutenberg catalog alphabetically by title. Novels with questions for titles tend to be fun, and quite a few of them can be found under ‘W’.

Who Cares? is silly and overwrought, but I keep being seduced by the descriptors Hamilton uses for the hero and heroine: young, clean, honest, strong, etc. And somehow that’s always what I remember about this book, instead of the silliness.

Joan Ludlow lives with her grandparents in the country. Her mother used to live with them, too, but she has just remarried and gone away for her honeymoon, and so Joan is alone with her old grandparents and their old house full of their old servants and old dogs. And she’s bored out of her mind because her grandparents are strict and she’s full of youth and vigor and stuff.

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March 8, 2007

I’ve spent too long reading poetry, and now I’m taking a break to talk about bad prose. I mean, I like Tennyson, but In Memoriam is kind of long. And Coralie, by Charlotte M. Braeme, is neither long nor complex.

Coralie is narrated by Edgar Trevelyan, a poor young man of good family who works as a clerk to support himself and his invalid sister Clare. They’re barely making ends meet, and Clare has one of those mysterious fictional illnesses: a spinal ailment that can only be cured by expensive food and freedom from worry.
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The Coquette’s Victim

March 7, 2007

A few days ago, I read a couple of truly terrible novellas by Charlotte M. Braeme, a writer of love stories for the English lower classes in the mid to late 19th century.

The first was called The Coquette’s Victim, and it starts with an aristocratic-looking young man being brought before a judge and charged with attempting to steal a watch. The judge is surprised, because it is well known in this kind of fiction that people with aristocratic faces never commit crimes. The guy also gives his name as John Smith. Why do these people bother? Can’t they come up with anything less obviously false?

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