Love, marriage, children, regrets: A Valentine’s Day look at three vintage bestsellers

Happy Valentine’s Day. I was tempted to label this post “for mature audiences.” I don’t mean that it will be salacious or even titillating, far from it: This is a post about three married women in bestselling vintage novels whose grand passions are just memories. Each woman’s story is told from her perspective. The novelists […]

The Sheik No Better Second Year on Top 10

In 1922 Edith M. Hull’s novel The Sheik placed second on the bestseller list, up from sixth place the year before. Except as an historical curiosity, The Sheik is not worth reading. However, with its exotic setting in the North African desert and it’s scandalous story about a British woman kidnapped and raped by a […]

Happy 150th birthday to Edith Wharton

January 24 will be the 150th birthday of New York City author Edith Wharton. Pat Ryan has written a retrospective for the New York Times mingling historical perspective on Wharton’s work with insights into the  American fascination with British aristocracy as evidenced in the popularity of the  mini-series “Downton Abbey” currently in its second season […]

The Kingdom Round the Corner is optimistic but dull

The Kingdom Round the Corner, Coningsby Dawson’s 1921 romance, is distanced by omniscient narration, riddled by implausible coincidences, and ultimately sunk by a main character as colorless as cream cheese. In March 1919, Lord Taborley, familiarly called “Tabs,” leaves the service by the door of a hospital.  Optimistically Tabs believes, “We find everything that we’ve […]

Post-earthquake rubbish: The Sisters-in-Law

The Sisters-in-Law could have been a great novel if a Taylor Caldwell or John O’Hara had penned it. Gertrude Atherton merely churned out prose in large quantities. The 1906 earthquake hits San Francisco as Alexina Groome comes home from dance where she’s fallen for Mortimer Dwight. His behavior in the quake’s aftermath wins over Alexina’s […]

Racisim Is Sole Interest Left in Her Father’s Daughter

Her Father’s Daughter is a dumb romance whose only value is the explanation it provides of historical events 20 years after the novel’s publication. Linda Strong, 17,  is her late father’s daughter. Linda is a naturalist and scholar, totally unlike her elder sister,  Eileen, a socialite and beau-collector. When classmate Donald Whiting asks Linda why […]

Poor Wise Man makes romantic thriller from 1920’s economic upheaval

Mary Roberts Rinehart, noted for her mysteries, hit the bestseller list in 1921 with a romantic thriller. A Poor Wise Man is an exciting read that still leaves readers with plenty to think about. Lily Cardew, heir to the Cardew steel fortune, is home after a year of war work in Ohio. Labor trouble is […]