Eccentrics abound in Angela’s Business

By day, Charles Garrott, 29, earns a skimpy living as private tutor.

By night, he’s “the coming American novelist.”


Angela’s Business by Henry Sydnor Harrison

Frederic R. Gruger, Illus. Project Gutenberg EBook #34297. 1915 bestseller #10. My grade: B+.


1915-10_illus4Charles is a Modern Man. He considers his dear friend Miss Mary Wing a perfect example of the New Woman. She’s the first female City High School assistant principal and a rising star in the education reform movement.

When Charles meets Mary’s young cousin Angela Flower, who considers home-making a full-time business, he feels less scorn than his modernity might dictate.

And when Mary is demoted for championing a woman who ran off with a married man Charles is unwilling to call it “a plucky thing.”

Angela’s Business is raised two steps above the typical romance by its almost-eccentric leading man and a plot nearly too odd to have been invented.

Henry Syndor Harrison neatly sets readers up to expect Charles to fall in love with Angela and conventional attitudes.

But Harrison doesn’t do the expected.

Instead, he presents people who are bundles of contradictions.

They face challenges and learn, but they never quite get their acts together.

There’s always an emotion they can’t quite control or a question for which they can’t find an answer.

The result feels like life, only more amusing.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Three Flavors of Romance for Novel-Lovers

Guys, did Miley Cyrus turn you down for Valentine’s Day?

Sketch of fantiful castle high up mountain.
Castle in the air. How romantic!

Gals, do you think the only appropriate accessories for your little black dress tonight would be thermal underware and two pairs of socks?

Or perhaps you feel like you’re coming down with the flu?

Whatever the reason you’re planning to stay by your own hearth Valentine’s Day, here are three novels that aren’t too long or too cerebral for a cozy evening at home.

Graustark

Graustark is a romance in the princess-and-castle style.

It’s love at first sight for Grenfall Lorry on an east-bound train from Denver.  He’ll absolutely die if he can’t marry the lovely Miss Guggenslocker.

When Miss Guggenslocker sails for Europe, Lorry isn’t far behind. He tracks her down, only to find she’s really the princess of Graustark.

Can an American commoner win the heart and hand of a princess?

George Barr McCutcheon gives the Lorry moves worthy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it’s not too gushy for guys. And the Princess has a streak of independence that feminist readers will applaud.

The novel’s available for free download to your preferred digital reading device at Project Gutenberg.

Queed

Queed is a droll romance about a most unromantic young man and the young woman whose tough love makes him human.

Sharlee tells Queed  his "cosmos is all ego."
Sharlee tells Queed his “cosmos is all ego.”

Queed is totally absorbed in his own affairs–he’s writing the definitive text on evolutionary sociology–when Sharlee Weyland takes pity on him.

She finds him a job that, with his own dogged determination, enables him to grow beyond the limits of his stifling childhood. From being pathetic, he becomes loveable and loving.

Queed is also available to download free at Project Gutenberg. The author is Henry Sydnor Harrison.

Gone With the Wind

My third recommendation is an old staple of romance literature: Gone With the Wind. This classic is still under copyright protection, but if your local library doesn’t have one, you can pick up a copy for a few dollars at an online publisher such as AlibrisABEbooks,  or Amazon.

If you know the novel just from the movie version, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how good the print version is. Margaret Mitchell’s prose flows and her characters develop organically.

Although the novel is long, it’s fast reading. After all, you already know the basic plot, right?

There you have three options to help you pass a romantic evening alone in the comfort of your favorite chair.

Project Gutenberg

My favorites of 1911 bestselling novels

My favorite of the 1911 bestsellers is Queed by Henry Syndor Harrison.  I don’t know any novel with such an emotionally inept leading man that manages to be so endearing. Harrison makes Queed believable by not letting him totally overcome his emotional tone-deafness.

The Broad Highway by Jeffery Farnol is a sunny, romatic tale with a lightweight hero and lightweight plot. It’s a charming diversion for an summer afternoon in a hammock or a winter evening with tea and scones by the fire.

The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright is not particularly interesting as a romance, but it’s fascinating in its description of geology of the West. The clash between local Imperial Valley interests and eastern financial interests is an “Occupy Wall Street” event, circa 1911.

I’m tempted to add The Prodigal Judge by Vaughan Kester to my list. It isn’t a particularly good novel, but Kester makes an absurd a plot and ridiculous characters come together in a tale that shows the best in people you wouldn’t have thought had a best side.

Don’t forget you can express your opinions in the reader poll.

Linda Gorton Aragoni