Posts Tagged ‘ethelmdell’


Book sale haul, 5.11.13

May 11, 2013

This is the weekend of my favorite book sale. It’s  held by a small library upstate, very few books are over a dollar, and if you buy a $10 tote bag, you can take home as many books as will fit in it. And that, of course, is what I did.


It's hard to tell in the picture, but this is a really big tote bag.

I usually limit myself to as many books as I can carry in my hands, so when my arms started to hurt, I went to check out. But once I’d gotten my books into my bag, the woman at the counter said, “you know, there are more books in the other building.” That was my downfall.

Anyway, here are the things I got, in reverse order as I unpack.


I didn’t buy all the Nero Wolfe books — just the cuter, older paperbacks and In the Best Families because it’s In the Best Families. Apparently my cat likes Nero Wolfe too.


Not the Felix Salten one with the deer, but the Marjorie Benton Cooke one with the people. The woman who helped me check out said she heard it was pretty racy, which seems unlikely, but I told her I would be pleased if that turned out to be the case.


I keep meaning to try Mary Stewart. And at this point I had well over $10 worth of books, so these were basically free.


Some miscellaneous paperbacks–One Hundred  and One Dalmatians  because my copy is missing pages, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold because I can’t find my mom’s copy, and a romance by Meredith Duran for no reason at all.


This is the Mary Roberts Rinehart portion of the haul. All of these books are more battered than all of the other books, but who cares? I own a copy of K


This is the Ethel M. Dell portion of the haul. I…own a copy of The Way of an Eagle now. So, uh, that’s a thing.


The last few miscellaneous things: Rose in Bloom, my favorite Alcott book I’ve never owned; Trustee from the Toolroom, which I buy whenever I find it so I can give it as a gift; and Brat Farrar, which I own a couple of times over, because this copy is super cute. I assume the girl in the sheet on the cover is Eleanor, but I don’t understand why.


The Lamp in the Desert

September 15, 2011

I don’t know why I’m still reading books by someone who names her heroes things like ‘Everard,’ but here’s another Ethel M. Dell for you: The Lamp in the Desert. She doesn’t let you forget that title; the lamp motif is everywhere.

The Lamp in the Desert is set in India, and shares one minor character with The Way of an Eagle. I like it when authors do that — just enough crossover between books to let you know that they’re all set in the same universe. Especially if, as with Dell, you have to posit an alternate universe where human behavior bears only a vague resemblance to reality to enjoy her books in the first place. Dell always verges on terrible, but she does it in a very distinctive way. Her romances are almost as convoluted as they are passionate, but she mostly manages to make them appealing, too. It’s just a bit terrifying to think that all of these ridiculous people are supposed to exist simultaneously. Read the rest of this entry ?


Charles Rex

March 12, 2011

Time for entry three in the ongoing saga of “Do I or do I not like Ethel M. Dell? How long do I have to decide?” The short version: I think I need more time.

Charles Rex isn’t ever going to be my favorite anything — not even my favorite book where a wealthy aristocrat with a bad reputation takes a waifish young boy under his wing only to discover that the boy is a girl and fall in love with her — but it’s not terrible, and “not terrible” is, to be honest, all I’m looking for from Dell. I never expected her to rise to the level of The Way of an Eagle again, although I kind of expected her to try in this one, after what seemed in The Obstacle Race to be a half-hearted attempt to duplicate Nick Ratcliffe.  Sadly, Lord Saltash is neither as monkeyish nor as appealing as Nick, although, to be fair, he’s not as crazy either. But then, nor is the heroine occasionally repelled by him, as Muriel was by Nick. Toby, AKA Antoinette, Mignonette, Nonette, Toinette, etc., worships Saltash from the moment he rescues her from a hostile Italian hotel proprietor. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Obstacle Race

March 4, 2011

After I finished reading Ethel M. Dell’s The Obstacle Race, I spent a while trying to figure out why I liked The Way of an Eagle so much. Some of it was obviously that I’d come up with an alternative reading that made things I normally find problematic a little less so. But I think amost of it was that it’s actually kind of a well put together book. I mean, Ethel M. Dell wasn’t a great writer or anything, but The Way of an Eagle really works. The subplots shed light on the central conflict between the hero and heroine. Separations between different sets of characters move their storylines forward. Everything moves toward the one climactic scene, and after that we get a brief epilogue to show that things are still going well, and then we’re done. Nothing is superfluous — I mean, except for all the flowery language. Once I realized that, I knew why I couldn’t quite like The Obstacle Race. It’s not the overuse of the word ‘mastery’, or the way that the heroine falls in love with the hero at least partially because he gets kind of scary when he’s mad, or the way Dell kills off the disabled kid brother, although those things were really not good, and sort of disturbing. It’s the way the plot is all over the place, and the characters are inconsistent, and the book drags on and seems like it doesn’t know what it’s driving at — although it’s hard to blame the book for that; I certainly didn’t know, and I suspect Dell didn’t either.

Presumably this is what happens when you’ve written a string of successful book and everyone talks about how passionate and romantic they are. You think up a bunch of random characters, each with a few conflict-creating skeletons in their closets, and let them be all passionate at each other until you run out of skeletons. And I’m sure that worked for Dell, financially. It’s just that there’s something to be said for, you know, figuring out in advance what’s going to happen. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Way of an Eagle

February 7, 2011

I’d been putting off reading Ethel M. Dell’s The Way of an Eagle since early 2006. Partly because it sounded kind of dull, I guess. Partly because I was worried that it would be full of rape fantasies like E.M. Hull’s The Sheik. And, sure, it’s not feminist literature or anything, but I found it charming, in a disturbing kind of way, and I’m sorry I put it off for so long. Yes, there’s a helpless, slightly dithery young woman, but she’s only helpless and dithery in fairly trying situations. Other times, she likes to play hockey. And yes, the hero is powerful and commanding and all that, but he also looks like a monkey and is slightly insane (Dell repeatedly describes him as looking like a monkey. The insanity I figured out on my own.) Also, the heroine is scared of the hero, which is not as sexy as many romance writers seem to think. But when you factor in Nick Ratcliffe’s slight case of insanity, it seems perfectly reasonable. Apparently there’s a new trend in treating Alzheimer’s where the doctors just let the patients do whatever weird thing they want to do, and that calms them down. This book is a little bit like that. Read the rest of this entry ?