Posts Tagged ‘romance’

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Marcia Schuyler

December 23, 2015

I’m obviously falling down on the Christmas story job this year. Here, have another Grace Livingston Hill instead.

I’m not sure if Marcia Schuyler is considered typical of GLH’s output. It’s not typical of the books of hers that I’ve read, but it works really well for me. I mean, the religious stuff is a lot more palatable in a historical fiction context. (Sure, I kept giggling about David’s temperance newspaper, but I can’t fully explain that.) But also this is a he/she fell in love with his/her wife/husband book, and the protagonist overnight finds herself in possession of a dream house and a fabulous trousseau, and there’s an awful older sister, which I enjoy for probably the same reasons that I find inexplicably evil younger brothers difficult. The chances that I wasn’t going to like this book were very low.

I mean, I don’t love it, but I do like it a lot. It’s got more in common with things like Janice Meredith and To Have and to Hold than it does with GLH’s other books, but it’s also got her patented lack of self-awareness. Very few things are less charitable than her attitude towards characters she doesn’t like, and, much as I enjoy that, it’s so at odds with her professed philosophy that it kind of bugs me, too.

Anyway, Marcia Schuyler. She’s a teenage girl from an old and respected family in upstate New York, circa 1830. She’s smart and pretty and totally overshadowed by her beautiful older sister, Kate, who is an asshole. She also has a crush on Kate’s fiancé, David, but she’s not aware of it. It turns out to be sort of helpful, though, when Kate elopes with another man and her father basically offers Marcia to David as compensation. I’m pretty sure that even in 1830 this is a weird thing to do, but Marcia goes along with it and everyone stresses a lot about how they’ve deprived her of her womanhood, or something.

There are some things you want to happen here: you want Marcia and David to fall in love. You want Marcia to do well in her new environment. You want Kate to get her comeuppance and, very specifically, to be humiliated by David. All these things happen, against a backdrop of the launch of the first steam locomotive in New York State. It’s not a great book, but it’s very satisfying.

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Evelina’s Garden

August 10, 2015

I don’t know how I feel about Evelina’s Garden, by Mary Wilkins Freeman. It feels so self-consciously quaint and historical, and no one has a personality.

There’s this girl, and she likes this guy, but she’s too shy or proud ot something to admit it, so she becomes a recluse whose only interest is her garden, and he reluctantly marries someone else but remains secretly devoted to Evelina.

Then along comes her niece, who looks just like her, and his son, who’s bettered himself enough to be a plausible partner for a woman from a slightly higher class, and despite neither of them having the faintest idea of how to interact with other humans, they become secretly engaged. Then Evelina the elder dies, leaving everything to her namesake–as long as she never marries and always takes good care of the garden. At which point Evelina the younger’s young man breaks off their engagement in a fit of misplaced nobility.

I guess I actually know exactly how I feel about Evelina’s Garden: I was a lot more concerned about the garden than I was about the fate of the lovers.

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The Rain-Girl

August 6, 2015

So, I should have written about Herbert George Jenkins’ The Rain Girl a couple of weeks ago, when I read it. I looked it up after Tasha gave it a good review on The Project Gutenberg Project because I obviously like Jenkins (actually I haven’t written about him much, have I? Searching my blog, I’m seeing no John Dene, no Malcolm Sage, no Bindle…) but halfway through I started wondering if we were reading the same book. Richard Beresford, the protagonist, isn’t as charming as he or anyone else thinks he is, and his pursuit of a young woman he’s barely met seemed creepy and borderline insane. Like, in that slightly unhinged Eleanor Hallowell Abbot way.

I said that on Twitter–that his attempts to track her down were creepy–and Tasha replied that he has to find the girl somehow, but I disagreed. I would have been pleased for her if he hadn’t found her.

Things change somewhat when the girl, Lola Craven, reappears. Beresford still bugged me, but she seemed to genuinely like him, and the heroine throwing herself at an oblivious hero isn’t something I see too often.

And here’s the thing: by the time the book ended, I was rooting for them. I was even charmed. And I don’t remember why. All I’ve retained is my completely justifiable lack of warmth for the main character.

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Mavis of Green Hill

July 30, 2015

It’s been way too long since I posted anything, so, um…let’s see. The last book I finished was Mavis of Green Hill, by Faith Baldwin. I enjoyed it, but I might have enjoyed it more as several books–three, at minimum. I liked each part individually, but by the time the book ended I was exhausted and glad that it was over. And, I mean, I get the impulse. When you’ve got a story in your head, there’s a temptation to put down all the parts you know about. But sometimes that’s too much, and as an author, you probably really don’t want to wear your readers out. Or maybe you do? Who knows. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Linda Lee, Incorporated

June 9, 2015

Sometime I’d like to read a book set in the silent film industry that’s not full of drug addiction and divorce and debt, and Linda Lee, Incorporated definitely isn’t it. But it does have a wealth of detail about how movies got made circa 1922, and it doesn’t take too many offensive moral stances on its characters’ behavior, so I’ll take it. It also doesn’t have much in common with The Lone Wolf, the only other book I’ve read by Louis Joseph Vance. He, as you may remember, was the one who spontaneously combusted. Or not, I guess, but, you know, let’s just say he did. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Open House

April 18, 2015

So, Juliet Wilbor Tompkins is definitely going to be a Thing for me. Open House was almost as satisfying as Joanna Builds a Nest, and much less disconcerting.

At this point 75% of the books I’ve read by Tompkins have as a thesis the idea that no one can be happy without some kind of work. That’s a thing I also believe — probably for slightly different reasons — and it tends to produce exactly the kind of book I want to read. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Joanna Builds a Nest

April 15, 2015

Do you ever feel like a book knows you too well? I got about 75% of the way through Joanna Builds a Nest being totally delighted by it, and then I got to a point where I felt like my id was looking me straight in the eyes and I really, really wanted to look away. So, um, I’m going to try to write about the book as if that didn’t happen.

Juliet Wilbor Tompkins is pretty good with competent female characters, although in the other books of hers I’ve read — which were earlier — I felt at times like she was apologizing for them. I didn’t feel that way here. Joanna Maynard is about thirty, and works in publishing. She’s good at her job, and her firm couldn’t get along without her. Her real genius, though, is for design, and she reflexively turns unappealing spaces into comfortable, welcoming ones. She’s moved from apartment to apartment, making each one over until her landlord can charge more than she can afford to pay, but now she’s bought a house, and is free to do her worst. Her worst, I imagine, is pretty fantastic. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Halo

April 10, 2015

Bettina von Hutten fucks me up. I’m not sure if I really like her at all. She’s an author who’s not afraid to let things end badly, and usually I avoid authors like that. I mean, I can very easily be unhappy by myself. I don’t need anyone’s help. But I bought Pam Decides at a library book sale because it was cheap and I liked the cover. And then I read Pam, because I don’t like reading sequels first, and mostly I liked it. And then I read Pam Decides and felt pretty good about the world in general, because when von Hutten does decide on a happy ending, she makes it count.

I’ve just finished reading The Halo, and I think I understand now. Von Hutten delights in situations where there’s no right answer, and she’s good at them. If you want to wallow in painful emotional situations, go no further. Or, alternatively, stop getting emotionally involved in books; it’s a mistake. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Mollie’s Substitute Husband

April 6, 2015

I’m not altogether sure what to say about Mollie’s Substitute Husband, by Max McConn. I mean, aside from the obvious, which is that it’s The Prisoner of Zenda if it were set in Chicago circa 1920 and almost every possible thing went wrong and then at the end everyone was like, “oh well, no harm done.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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Vision House/8th Blogiversary

March 4, 2015

Today is the eighth anniversary of Redeeming Qualities. I’m not doing anything particularly special for the occasion, but it seemed like a good time to wrap up the Williamsons kick I’ve been on. Also — obviously — I want to thank everyone who reads the blog for sticking around. I started this blog figuring writing into the void about the books I was reading was better than talking about them to people who didn’t care, but that doesn’t mean I ever wanted there to actually be a void, and I really enjoy interacting with you guys.

Anyway. Brian said Vision House was his favorite Williamson book, so it seemed like a good one to read next. And…well, I can see why this would be someone’s favorite. It’s not mine. But it’s crazy. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Golden Silence

February 27, 2015

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The title page: so lovely. The book: so racist.

My top three most appallingly racist things about The Golden Silence — another travel adventure from A.M. and C.N. Williamson — not counting that thing where all the Arabs are kind of evil, are as follows:

  1. Liberal use of the n-word, always in reference to someone whose skin is “hardly darker than old ivory.”
  2. Referring to drums used by various North Africans as tom toms.
  3. The obsessive cataloging of everyone’s complexions.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Winnie Childs, the Shop Girl

February 23, 2015

Blog update: I’ve been pretty depressed, I guess? I’ve been having trouble finishing books since November, I think. And work is pretty stressful, and even though I can get pretty vehement about mental health problems being legitimate health problems, it’s really difficult to say, “hey, I spend much of my day wanting to cry, and sometimes I skip lunch because I don’t want to have to choose what to eat, so I’m going to take a sick day.” Especially if it’s unlikely a sick day will help.

Anyway. The Williamsons maybe sort of do help.

Williamsons update: It’s official. My favorite Williamsons book is Set in Silver. Sorry, Secret History Revealed by Lady Peggy O’Malley. You’re still the book that made me love the Williamsons, but Set in Silver is better.

Anyway, I reread Set in Silver, and finished it, which was encouraging. And then I read another Williamsons: Winnie Childs, the Shop Girl. Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Imprudence of Prue

January 23, 2015

The Imprudence of Prue is sort of proto-Georgette Heyer — all historical high society and everyone in debt — but set much earlier, at the beginning of the 18th century, and — I don’t know, I thought it felt pretty convincingly historical. It’s by Sophie Fisher, and I can’t find out anything about her, or any other books by her, and I’m kind of disappointed.
Read the rest of this entry ?

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You’re Only Young Once

November 30, 2014

I’ve been in a sort of Margaret Widdemer, sheltered girl finally getting the adventure she’s been wanting mood, so I keep picking up her books, but You’re Only Young Once isn’t in that mold. Instead of a lone, lonely heroine, you have a family of them, plus some brothers, with loving parents in the background. Angela Goldsborough is the eldest, a doll-like singing teacher, one of two daughters who are contributing to the family income. Then Janetta is tall, dark and business-minded, Deborah is dreamy and beautiful, Annice is quiet and quaint, and Isabella is lively and spoiled. All of them are pretty, and none of them lacks male attention — the older sisters draw lots for the parlor in the evening, because all of them are always expecting callers. Each of them gets a romance over the course of the book, and so do two of their three brothers — warm-hearted John and steady, bespectacled Worrel. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Chip of the Flying U

September 22, 2014

Jenn recommended Chip of the Flying U, by B.M. Bower, about a year ago, and that’s probably how long it’s been sitting on my Kindle. I don’t know why I picked it up this weekend, except that the internet in my apartment wasn’t working and I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about anything I was more familiar with, but I’m glad I did. It’s almost entirely delightful, one of those books that does enough right that you don’t care that much about the stuff it doesn’t. And if you have to be content with a kind of ham-fisted ending, well, everything before that is so much fun that the book has kind of earned the right to fall apart in the last chapter. Read the rest of this entry ?