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Miss Million's Maid, by Bertha Ruck (AKA Ms. Oliver Onions) (1915)
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SUMMARY: Beatrice is one of what she calls the nouveau-pauvre class. Descended from an old, titled English family: her great-grandmother was Lady Lovelace, whose Wateau portrait adorns in the shabby flat that Beatrice lives in with her class conscious Aunt Anastasia, who will not let Beatrice associate with any of the neighbors because they are 'better' than their circumstance. Beatrice's only friend to speak of is their maid-of-all-work, Nellie Million. When Nellie inherits a fortune from an Uncle in America, becoming a millionairess overnight, Beatrice installs herself as Nellie's maid to help her befuddled, Cockney-accented former maid navigate the unfamiliar waters of the moneyed classes. It's a fish out of water story on both sides: With her accent, her red, chapped hands and the garish dresses (like a certain 'cerise one') Nellie chooses when Beatrice can't prevent her, Nellie doesn't seem like anyone's idea of an Heiress. And despite the neat and trim black and white maid's uniform she enthusiastically done,Beatrice is no one's idea of a maid with her cultured accent and poise. No sooner have the girls installed themselves with several expensive (and empty) suitcases into a suite at a fancy hotel, than Beatrice has her work cut out for her trying keep Nellie from falling for the Honorable James Burke,a dashing fortune hunter with a penniless castle in Ireland and a devastatingly charming smile. Add to that the mild-mannered bank manager who asks Beatrice to marry her, and Nellie's American cousin Hiram P. Jessup who's come to contest Nellie's claim to the money (or possibly share it through marriage), a lost Diamond and a whole house full of thespians and comedienne's including the flamboyant Vi Vassity, and things are bound to get interesting!

REVIEW:
I really, really enjoyed this. I loved the chatty first person narrative, the tongue in cheek humor, the relationship between Nellie and Beatrice, and all the love interests. The end took a serious turn a bit quickly, but it also resolved it just as quickly, so I didn't mind very much.
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THE VISION OF DESIRE, Margaret Pedler (1921)
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SUMMARY
Ann is sojourning in Switzerland as the companion of a rich older woman when an accident strands her overnight with her childhood friend (and would-be suitor) Tom. This mishap will have unforeseen consequences for her future...
Moving into a sleepy English town with her brother Robin, she is surprised to find that her brother's employer is none other than Eliot Coventry, a mysterious and mercurial man who she met in Switzerland. While she is drawn to Eliot, she is also being courted by Brett Forrester, a charismatic and handsome man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants - and he wants Ann. Eliot and Ann's engagement is almost aborted when a chance bunch of heliotrope reminds Eliot of Cora, the woman who broke his heart and ruined his trust in women when she married another man after getting engaged to him, and who has become a close friend to Ann. Cora manages to help them reconcile, only for Brett to tell Eliot about the night Ann and Tom spent alone together. Eliot and the whole town believes the worst of Ann. Eliot breaks of their engagement and goes abroad, where he meets Tom, who tell him the truth of the innocence of that night. Eliot and Ann get back together, and it seems all is well...until Ann stops Tony was killing himself over his mounting gambling debts. Who does he owe money to? Brett, of course. Brett puts into motion his last plan to force Ann to marry him, inviting her alone to his yacht, where he promises he will give back the bills he holds on Tony. After failing to convince Ann to let her go instead, Cora fakes a note from Brett and goes onto the yacht. Brett refuses to take the money, but Eliot has snuck onto the yacht, sending a note to 'Ann' telling her he trusts her. So Brett gives up, Cora is absolved of her guilt for ruining his life, and Ann and Eliot live happily every after.


REVIEW
This was my second book by Margaret Pedler, and I enjoyed it as much as the first. There were a lot of similarities: Sweet heroine, in love with an older, mysterious man with mood swings, who is haunted by some secret in his past. I enjoyed the ending of this one a lot more than the other. The themes were trust, guilt and absolution. The meaning of love is not possession, or possessions, but trust. It sounds like a melodramatic soap opera in the summary, but it was
very nicely written.
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SUMMARY:

REVIEW: This book was a bit of a struggle. Somehow it kept my interest enough to finish it. It felt like it was written much earlier than 1915. It was also - albeit probably true to the time and place (Virginia)- also pretty racist in parts. Both in the character's attitudes and the narrator's.

The heroine was kind of annoying. The first plot twist was crazy and melodramatic. Leonard was a complete asshole, and Barbara was completely fooling herself for most of the book. It made sense, since she had no experience with love or men. But it still annoyed me. He was such a pretentious dickhead. I was glad she ended up with Stephen. It did have some interesting plot twists - the unconventional relationship she embarked on with Stephen, and her justifications to herself. Everything about propriety and how social conventions are there to protect women's hearts so they don't give themselves without an assurance of 'rights' to the man they love. Barbara's insistence that her baby was better off with no father was better than a father she couldn't trust to be a decent person. Her refusal to marry for the third time if she and Stephen didn't love each other.
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The Romantic Lady (1921)
Michale Arlen


The Romantic Lady – The story of a beautiful Italian woman who choses her new husband by inviting a man home and forbidding him to ever see her again.
Fay Richmond – A man finds himself a frequent guest and friend in the house of the beautiful Fay Richmond, engaged to an Italian count, and unable to realize that he himself is in love with her.
Consuelo – A man reminisces about a beautiful woman who he loved, although she was married to his best friend.
The Romance of Iris Poole – a beautiful woman is caught between two brothers.

I was surprised by this one, because I didn’t know it was a book of short stories when I started it. I really enjoyed the first three stories though. My favorite was the first one – I would have read a full novel of it. The stories all followed the same pattern, so common in older novels – the narrator meets a man who tells him the story of whatever the plot is, and that story makes up the book. They also ended relatively similarly, with some sort of twist.
The language was really lovely in there. They felt very old-fashioned to me, both in terms of language, and theme.
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SUMMARY
During WW1, in France helping her Uncle, who is a scientist, 19 year old Olwen Howell-Jones finds a letter from another scientist containing what he says to be a Love Charm which will help it’s wearer find the person they are meant for. She immediately sets out to test the Charm on four people in the hotel: Mr. Brown a hapless but kind soldier, Mrs. Cartwright, a middle aged writer and single mother, Miss Walsh, a sheltered single women in her 30s, and of course, herself. The book chronicles the various couples the charm brings together.

REVIEW
I really liked this book.The beginning of this book reminded me a lot of Five Children and It (which was in fact written about 19 years earlier). It has the same Edwardian period fantasy – I guess it would now be called urban fantasy? – feel. A chatty omniscient narrator who sometimes lapses into I or Me, and has a habit of offering comments and asides to the readers, which are often poking good-natured fun at the characters. The author also has a habit of referring to people in epitaphs – at least 50% of the time the Heroine, Olwen is referred to as ‘Little Olwen’. Another character is referred to as The Sunburst Girl more often than by her name, etc etc. The author has a knack for voices, almost every character speaks in a particular way so that it’s possible to tell whose speaking without any dialogue tags – not in an annoying way, but in a way that fits the character wonderfully. One character speaks with a Scotch accent, which is carried onto the narration during a chapter focusing on him and his thoughts. The narrative also often goes on tangents to let one character recount something that happened to them – how they met their fiancée, or what they did during the air raid etc. In fact, there are several chapters solely about a separate set of characters, to the extent that I’m not even sure who is really the Main Character. But again, this feels like a good thing – I definitely care about all the characters. It’s really funny, and cute and heartwarming. The Main (?) Hero is kind of an arrogant asshole but the Heroine doesn’t let him off the hook – she stands up to him. Making this Trope Older Than You Think. The war bits were also very well done and poignant.
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Diana moves from her idyllic little town where she lives with her adoptive father and sister to the London to study under Maestro Baroni, the greatest singing master of the age. Baroni has taken her on as a pupil because her voice has the capacity to be the best voice he's ever heard. On the train back to her hometown, she sits with a handsome stranger, to whom she is immediately drawn. When the train gets into an accident, the man saves her life. The two are thrown together again in London. The man, Max Errington, is a famous playwright who only writes plays for the great actress Adrienne de Grenier, whom Diana soon befriends. Despite being drawn together, Max continues to rebuff her, despite being obviously drawn to her. He warns her against himself, citing a shadow he must always walk with. Meanwhile, Diana begins her singing career, and becomes the toast of town.

Eventually Max cannot control his feelings for Diana, and asks her to marry him. However, he cautions her that he will never be able to reveal his secret. Is it right for a husband to keep secrets from his wife? Diana wavers, but ends up marrying him. They have a few months of pure happiness until the secret begins to tear them apart...

REVIEW

I'm not really sure when this book takes place. Maybe the early 1900s? It mentions being before the war, so that's at least 1913, and that Max's parents married in the '80s...although I don't know how old anyone except for Diana (18) is.

I really liked the first half of this book. The writing was really wonderful in parts, especially the descriptions of the characters. I really like the characters too. I really liked the hero. The heroine got a little annoying with her light switch emotions, because she flipped back and forth because of one comment, and I didn't like her jealousy of Adrienne. (Although I suppose it was the most natural conclusion she could come to.) I did like her personality though. I loved her relationship with her sister and Paps, and Max's secretary whose name I forget right now, was awesome too.

I sort of guessed Max's secret, but I didn't quite believe it, so I was still surprised when it was revealed.

Not sure how I felt about the end though. In the end she gives up her career for love despite the fact that it's a huge sacrifice and she knows she will probably regret it. A bit too much self-sacrifice.
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The Phantom Lover by Ruby M. Ayres

Published 1921

SUMMARY:
After his dinner plans are canceled, Mickey Mellowes a rich man about town, is spending his New Year’s feeling sorry for himself and sick of everything, when he hears a woman crying outside. He ends up taking the woman, Esther, to dinner, where he is struck by her beautiful and her heartbreak. He asks impulsively asks if they can be friends. When he goes back to his apartments, he finds his friend Raymond Ashton, who asks him to deliver a break up letter to the woman he had been seeing, since his mother threatened to cut him off if they married. Mickey reads the cruel, flippant letter, shocked to see that the name on the envelope is the name Esther! He writes Esther another, kinder, loving letter, assuring her he’ll be with her again someday, and sends it under Raymond’s name…

Meanwhile, Esther moves into a new boarding house where she meets the fabulous, impulsively friendly June Mason, who was thrown over by her family over her scheme to make and sell her own line of face creams. Mickey, who happens to be an ex-flame and current friend of June, continues to court Esther’s friendship, and write her letters ‘from’ Raymond, all the while falling in love with her himself. Esther devours his letters, ignoring June’s teasing about her ‘phantom lover’. Raymond Ashton proves himself a bigger asshole than anyone guessed, Mickey admits he wrote the letters, Esther realizes she loves him, and June falls head over heels for an American Investor.

REVIEW:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even the parts of the heroine that annoyed me also annoyed the other characters too, which made up for them a bit. I adored the character of June as well. This was a very quick read and pretty compulsively readable.
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The Vehement Flame (1922) Margaret Deland

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SUMMARY

1870s, Pittsburg. Maurice Curtis, 19 year old golden boy, full of hope and promise, shocks the world when he marries Eleanor, a shy old maid with a gorgeous singing voice, who is 39 years old. Both Eleanor’s plain spoken aunt, and Maurice’s guardians, the folksy and practical Mr. and Mrs. Houghton, worry that he has made a horrible mistake, but their daughter Edith, 10 years Maurice’s junior, thinks that anything Maurice does is amazing. Maurice and Eleanor are so in love, they think nothing can touch them.

Gradually things start to unravel. Eleanor is jealous of everyone, and unable to have a child. Maurice is fed up with her jealousy, and one night, just to ‘show her’, he ends up sleeping with a pretty ‘common’ girl named Lillie. Lillie gets pregnant, and as a son, who Maurice has to support, keeping it a secret from Eleanor, despite several people cautioning him to tell her.
He eventually does, about 10 years later. She forgives him, tries to get his son for him, but Lillie will not give her son up. Meanwhile, Edith, now 20, has fallen in love with Maurice, and Eleanor, in a fit of jealousy, inadvertently make Maurice realize that he too loves Edith.

Eleanor then tries to kill herself so that he will be free to marry Lillie. She doesn’t succeed, but dies of a lung infection. Maurice realizes that he can do more for Jacky as a benefactor with no ‘claim’ on him. Everyone is convinced that Maurice shouldn’t marry anyone, because who would want to be deal with his baby mama and illegitimate son, but Edith furiously makes a play for Maurice’s own happiness saying that she would marry him if he only asked. He admits his love for her after she tells him she knows how he feels about her, and they agree to marry…

REVIEW

I feel like there’s a lot to unpack in this book. The plot definitely didn’t go where I thought it would. According to the author's note, she came up with the story around 8 years prior, in 1914. It was pretty hard to get through – because a lot of it was about people who started out happy and in love and innocent becoming selfish and degraded and ashamed. The ‘vehement flame’ of the title is jealousy, and it motivates a lot of the action of the book. Eleanor’s jealousy is one of the main things that motivates the disintegration of their marriage. Her jealousy is personified by her dog Bingo, jealous of anyone who comes near his mistress, and another facet of jealousy is mirrored in Lillie, whose maternal jealousy makes her terrified of anyone who might try to take Jacky away from her. Maurice begins as a proponent of Truth – his coworkers call him G. Washington, and his moral degradation comes from having to keep the secret of Jacky from Eleanor. The other main proponent of truth is Edith, and she ends up as the one who can bring him happiness, in the end. No one is completely blamed for the mistakes they make, but everyone is held accountable. Everyone is agreed (even Eleanor, in the end) that Eleanor shouldn’t have married Maurice, because he was so young. The text is not kind to either Maurice, who is often unkind, or Eleanor, with her pathetic jealousy, although both are in a way redeemed by the end. It was a lot about mistakes and how people pay for them, about how jealousy kills love, what love really means, and whether everyone has the right to be happy…
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The Night of Temptation, by Victoria Cross (1914) note: 1914 edit gives copyright as 1912.
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SUMMARY

18 years old Regina lives at the Rectory in a conventional country village with her parents, and her two older sisters. She spends most of her time in her 'enchanted garden', teaching herself, reading books in foreign languages, and painting. When the handsome, dashing Everest, a college friend of her Father's, comes to convalesce at their home after contracting yellow fever, their lives change forever. In the month he stays, they fall in love, and end up consummating their love in the 'enchanted garden'. Horrified that he has ruined her, he asks her to marry her. However, she refuses on the grounds that he is only asking her because he feels it is his duty. She tells him she will marry him later on, if he still feels the same way after returning to his life in London...

REVIEW
It reminds me a lot of Elynor Glyn’s novels – the same melodramatic plots, the hero and heroine who are abnormally good and beautiful, the purple prose, and the paragraphs and paragraphs of theories on men and women and love. I believe that Victoria Cross had many similarities to Glyn, being a British author of scandalous romances who had been writing since the mid-1900s. Whether or not she was a copycat of sorts, I don’t know.
I can see how this would have been a very scandalous book though, even in 1914.

- Regina is as intelligent and beautiful as she is because she was ‘born of love’, born from her mother’s affair with the man she loved. (Her children with her husband, by contrast, were ‘born of hate’.
- Regina and Everest sleep together within in the first month of meeting.
- She refuses to marry him when he asks, because he is only doing it out of a sense of honor.
- She spends the rest of the book living with him ‘in sin’ – indeed, when his sister tells her that she should leave Everest so he can marry his cousin Sybil, who will be a proper wife for him, Regina refuses to believe that a marriage without love is better than being in love without marriage.
- However, she decides not to marry him until she knows she can conceive his child.
- Everest falls in lust with Sybil, but tells Regina that it doesn’t mean anything or take away from his love for her at all.


All in all the book is also a social commentary of the superficial nature of English family life, and the hypocrisy of mixing worldly positions and religion, of love and marriage and how the two can be mutually exclusive, and the nature of men and women (and how both have a little of each in them.) He loves her for her intelligence, not only her beauty.

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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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In 2014, I made a resolution to read all of the out of copyright e-books I've amassed. This was number one.

The Gorgeous Girl, by Nalbro Bartley (1920)

Summary:
Steven O'Valley is a self-made millionaire who has won his war fortune to earn the hand of Beatrice, the beautiful daughter of his billionaire former boss. Mary Faithful works as his office manager, motivated by her common sense and her unrequited love for him. Side characters include Trudy, a tough as nails flapper who boards at Mary's house and is determined to enter good society by any means necessary, and her boyfriend, the selfish and idiotic Gaylord who gets by on the good name of his once wealthy family.

Review:

Many books of the twenties are also treaties on the changing role of women at the time and this was no exception. The final conclusion was a bit unclear but it was a lot about the Gorgeous Girls, young rich girls raised to be unfit for anything but having a "good time" and the business women or "commercial nun" working hard and trying to hide their romantic longings.

But I liked the prose and the shifting POV. It was paced pretty well and I liked the characters too. I would definitely really Another book by this author.

I can't find a picture of the cover, but there were four fabulous illustrations inside.

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"The Gorgeous Girl had known only the most gorgeous side of life."

Quotes )

Contains spoilers, but let's be honest, most people aren't going to read this book anyway!

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