Half a Rogue mixes romance, politics and bon mots

Harold MacGrath has the happy facility of producing novels that are better than they have any right to be.

In Half a Rogue, he does unexpected things with a predictable plot while keeping up a steady stream of commentary that makes a reader feel like MacGrath’s chosen confidant.

Times Square 190The New York Times building towering over nearby 4-story buildings as horse-drawn carraiges plod the street.s
                                              Times Square, 1905

Half a Rogue by Harold MacGrath
1907 bestseller # 10. Project Gutenberg ebook #4790. My grade: B.

Richard Warrington, a playwright newly come to fame, becomes close friends with Kate Challone, a young actress who stars in his plays.

When Kate announces she’s to marry Jack Bennington, a man in Dick’s hometown with whom he roomed in college, Dick is delighted.

With Kate leaving the city for Herculaneum, Dick decides he’ll move back home.

Herculaneum society is not happy its biggest employer has married an actress.

It’s also not happy that Jack’s younger sister prefers Dick to the local boys.

And, when Dick is tapped to run for mayor, the corrupt local political machine is not happy.

A private eye is sent to New York to dig up dirt on Dick.

Half a Rogue is a most unromantic romance.

Harold MacGrath has given a true story about fictional people in an imaginary town.

The story ends not with a “happily ever after,” but with a sigh and a terse, “Could have been worse.”

As, indeed, every life might have been.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Lure of the Mask doesn’t last

The Lure of the Mask is a novel composed entirely of characters.

Readers must take them as Harold MacGrath drew them; their fascination never makes them believable people.

Lady in fancy evening dress lowers her mask and looks over her shoulder toward the reader.


The Lure of the Mask by Harold MacGrath
Illus. Harrison Fisher and Karl Anderson.
Bobbs-Merrill, 1908, 1908 bestseller #4
Project Gutenberg ebook #22158. My grade: B-.

Italian-born American John Hillard hears a woman singing in classical Italian at 1 a.m. in January. He’s so charmed that he places an ad in The Times asking her to contact him.

She responds. They correspond. The woman refuses to reveal any personal details.

Finally she agrees to meet.

Hillard is blindfolded, brought to a home that seems familiar.

The lady is masked.

Hillard knows no more about her afterward than before.

Unable to locate the woman with whom he is infatuated, Hillard agrees to take his friend Dan Merrihew to Italy, where both can recover from the loss of their loves—or find them again.

They are accompanied by Giovanni, Hillard’s servant, who hopes his 7-year absence will have lessened the interest of the police in arresting him so he can finish the murder he botched earlier.

MacGrath’s complicated story is well-plotted and remains unresolved until the last page.

The Lure will catch and hold you for an entire evening.

You’ll be released untouched at bedtime.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Goose Girl: A fairy tale for grownups

I initially thought The Goose Girl was going to be a Graustark knock-off, but Harold MacGrath’s plot contains complex characters that George Barr McCutcheon can’t match.

The Goose Girl revolves around two girls of approximately the same age, Hildegarde and Gertrude.


The Goose Girl by Harold MacGrath

Andre Castaigne, illus. Bobbs-Merrill. 1909 bestseller #8. Project Gutenberg  eBook #14598. My grade: B.


Princess Hildegarde interviews the goose girl
Princess Hildegarde interviews Gertrude, the Goose Girl.

Abducted as a toddler, Princess Hildegarde is reunited with her father at age 16 after experiencing hardship and freedom.

Hildegarde wants to marry Arthur Carmichael of the American consulate, but she’s ordered to wed King Frederick of Jugendheit for reasons of state.

Youthful King Frederick has also been given much freedom.

He rejects Hildegarde in favor of Gertrude, a beautiful goose girl with socialist sympathies.

Although the Grand Duke hates the idea of Hildegarde marrying his enemy’s son, he’s ready to go to war with Jugendheit when Frederick refuses to wed her.

Such irrationality is all too human.

Anyone who ever read a fairy tale knows how the romance is going to end.

The interest is in who engineered Hildegarde’s abduction and why.

The denouement is dramatic because the culprit is so believably the last person anyone would suspect.

No one would mistake The Goose Girl for literature, but neither can anyone deny that MacGrath’s characters are a far cry from the stilted cardboard pieces of McCutcheon’s romances.

©2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

Gold and Gasps Within The Puppet Crown

After a slow opening,  Harold MacGrath’s The Puppet Crown turns a  geeky  sovereign bond situation into a complex tale of political intrigue.

King Leopold of Osia, cousin of the late king, came to throne because a confederation disposed the king’s brother, Josef, and “placed him on [a] puppet throne, surrounded by enemies, menaced by his adopted people, rudderless and ignorant of statecraft. ”

The Diet authorizes Leopold to borrow for public projects; a departing British diplomat purchases the bonds.

When the loan is due 10 years later, in order to effectively foreclose on government of Osia shadowy political power brokers attempt to prevent the loan from being paid or extended.

The main character is Maurice Carewe, an American journalist turned diplomat. He arrives as Osia is preparing for the wedding of Princess Alexia to the crown prince of Carnavia. The prince will pay off the bonds as the bride’s dowry if the bond holder, Baronet Fitzgerald, does not extend the loan period. The prince, however, has disappeared. Maurice unwittingly identifies Fitzgerald, who is using an assumed name.  Thus begin cloak-and-dagger, dark-of night adventures  with skilled swordsmen and uncloaked, dark-of-night adventures with deceitful damsels.

The Puppet Crown ends in a shockingly unexpected manner:  realistically, not novelistically.

The valiant hero does not get the princess.

The cruel, scheming duchess does not get her comeuppance.

And there’s no happily-ever-after with the Austrian Empire on the rise.

Project Gutenberg

The Puppet Crown
by Harold MacGrath
1901 bestseller #7
Project Gutenberg e-book #3239
© 2011 Linda Gorton Aragoni