The Secret Woman: Implausible diversion

Victoria Holt’s The Secret Woman is an old-fashioned mystery story arising from the Victorian aristocrats’ need for a male heir carry on the line. The leading lady is Anna Brett, a orphan in the care of an eccentric maiden aunt who buys but rarely sells antique furniture in an English seaport dominated by the Crediton […]

Love Story: Plotline without characters

Erich Segal’s Love Story is what book jacket blurb writers describe as “a slender novel.” The story is narrated by Oliver Barrett IV, a high IQ, prep-schooled, WASP rich kid who is a pre-law student at Harvard. Checking out a book at the Radcliffe library, he checks out the girl at the desk, Jennifer Cavilleri, […]

Mrs. Mike is a charming teacher

In Mrs. Mike, Benedict and Nancy Freedman created a story in which humor and heroism struggle against tragedy and terror. The good wins, but the price is heavy. In 1907, 16-year-old Katherine Mary O’Fallon leaves Boston for Calgary, Canada promising her mother she would “dress warm and keep dry and not go out into the […]

Testimony of Two Men, one his own worst enemy

Taylor Caldwell begins Testimony of Two Men where more usual novels would have ended: Dr. Jonathan Ferrier has been acquitted of the murder-by-botched-abortion of his young wife, Mavis. Unable to live among people who doubted his innocence, Jon has sold his practice to young Robert Morgan, who, of candidates Jon interviewed, seemed least likely to […]

Christy: Facts get in the way of fiction

After hearing the founder of the American Inland Mission tell about needs of impoverished people within a day’s train ride of her Asheville, N.C., home, against her parents’ wishes, Christy Huddleston goes off to teach in a one-room school in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains. From the moment she steps off the train in a snow […]

Lost Ecstasy shows the Old West’s ugly underside

  Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Lost Ecstasy turns the romance of the Old West on its head. Handsome cowboy Tom McNeil can ride, rope, and sing baritone. Lost Ecstasy by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Doran, 1927. 372 pp. 1927 bestseller # 6. My Grade: B-. His only flaws — binge drinking, womanizing, and using paper napkins— aren’t […]

Doomsday: Heritage and modernity at war and in love

Ex-soldier Arnold Furze has spent five years trying to bring Doomsday, a hillside farm, back to productivity. Arnold falls for the pretty daughter of one of his milk customers in the cheap residential development below his farm. Doomsday by Warwick Deeping Alfred A Knopf, 1927, 367 pp. 1927Bestseller #3 My grade B+. Mary Viner is […]