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MARRIED? By Marjorie Benton Cooke (1921)
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Summary:
Marcia Livingston is one of the most celebrated heiresses in New York City, but all her money and social success can’t substitute for a fulfilling life. Dennis Shawn is the manager of the Livingston’s ranch in New Mexico, and can find nothing in the world he loves as much as the ranch. The Judge, Marcia’s guardian and Dennis’ employer cooks up a plan to trick the two into a ‘marriage by proxy’, which he hopes will become real. Side characters include Marcia’s friend and employee Mary Jane, who helps the Judge with his scheme, and Williams and Chuck, a mysterious misogynist bachelor and a young Broadway actor, who work at the ranch. Chuck is my favorite.
Review:
This book was a very interesting set-up. It began by alternating the POV between two seemingly unconnected characters and settings: Marcia Livingston, a wealthy New York heiress, flitting restlessly from one pet project to another and never finishing anything, and Dennis Shawn, the practical 'man's man' Irish manager of a dude ranch in New Mexico, who loved nothing as well as the ranch. The two storylines continue to have nothing to do with each other - Marcia starts a theater school, and gets engaged out of boredom to a rich nitwit she's known forever, Shawn and his two friends foil a plot to kidnap him and get him to leave the ranch - until over halfway through the book. At this point Marcia and Shawn are drawn together by the Judge who loves them both like a son and daughter and plans with Marcia's friend/employee to trick them into a 'marriage by proxy', which they hope will become a real thing. (Spoiler: It does.) Eventually they learn to love each other, but not after Shawn has carried Marcia off to his cabin and forced her to learn to cook and fend for herself. Marcia is stubborn and headstrong, and has never had to do anything that she didn't want to do, but eventually the beauty of the wilderness makes her come around. (And a last minute medical emergency).

This book had a lot of similar themes to Gorgeous Girl, and it was written in the same 1920/1921 period. Multiple characters wish that Marcia would lose all her money so that she could learn how to work for a living,lamenting that Marcia has been spoiled by all her wealth, because she's never had to do anything that meant anything, and that she has the intelligence to become a 'real woman' as long as she could meet a 'real man'. Shawn promises to bring her out of her 'sham world' of money, artifice and vapidness into the 'real world' where people work hard and love harder.
Dennis shares a similarity to Steve O’Valley from the Gorgeous Girl. They are both the type of man referred to in the text as ‘Cave Men’, which seems to mean fond of hard work and earning their living, with no patience for rich, useless women like Beatrice or Marcia. The difference is that Marcia has the inner resources and strength of character to go with Steven and exchange her gorgeous life for something realer and more fulfilling, whereas Beatrice can’t or won’t.
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Marcia: “Have you every loved anybody terribly much?”
Clarke: “Hm-can’t say I have. You don’t think that would help out, do you? Beastly upsetting, that kind of business.”
Marcia: “But I want to be upset!”
Clarke “You’re awfully young, Marcia!”
Marcia: I’m awfully lonely, Clarke.”

***
The newcomer was most affable, and made excellent use of a pair of splendid black eyes.

***
“Is it your lover?” She demanded.
“My what?” said Marcia. “Oh, do you mean Clarke?” She laughed spontaneously at the idea of his being a lover.
“Naturally I mean Clarke. You’re going to marry him, aren’t you? It’s natural to suppose he is your lover, isn’t it?”
****
“This cursed money!” Cried Mary. “If you would only have a terrible reverses and lose it – then you’d have a chance!”
“Do you think it’s the money, Mary Jane? Isn’t it our times? Hasn’t the war taken the zest out of living? Hasn’t dry rot set in, in my class?”
“Perhaps – and you don’t use any brains to save yourselves. You marry and intermarry, you rich, just like royal families, with the same results.”
****
“My dear Mary Jane, without undue boasting I may remind you that my face has ornamented the public prints of the country to the exclusion of even moving-picture actresses for four weeks. I’m at least as well known as Mary Pickford.”

***
Something personal, vital, dynamic must come to her, if she was to be saved. Otherwise, one more beautiful, feverish, unsatisfied woman would be added to the list of rich young matrons.
***
“Or hold us for ransom! By gracious-I feel like somebody at last. Beautiful blond boy carried to the mountains by banditti and held for ransom!”
“Shut up, Chuck, and let me think,” murmured Dennis.
***
Chuck walks in on Dennis.
“I say, Denny,” called Chuck and came upon them suddenly, “Holy mackerel – I apologize!”

***
“I feel like a debutante at her first ball,” whispered Chuck, just before the masked riders overtook and surrounded them.
****
“Poor heiress! Your Shawn sounds quite the Cave Man.”
“Dennis doesn’t strike one as an effete person.”

***
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