Lord Vanityis a sweeping historical romance spanning two continents in the age of enlightenment. For some readers, the period details, such as the marvelous description of the battle for Montreal, may compensate for the novel’s flaws. Unfortunately, for most readers, the lead characters are not strong enough to stand out against the background of Samuel Shellabarger’s scholarship.
A handsome bastard, Richard Morandi, is toggling together a living in Venice as an actor-musician. He falls for a charming ballerina. Maritza’s pedigree is as socially unacceptable as Richard’s.
Richard falls under the influence of one rogue after another until the details of his background become public knowledge. Then he goes off to Montreal to serve under Wolfe.
Thanks to Richard, the British beat the French in North America. His past obscured by the victory, Richard becomes a spy for the British in Paris. There he meets Maritza again.
Lord Vanity is a romance, so a happy ending is contrived for the couple.
Richard’s lack of perception and his absurd pretension of morality render him joke even as the juvenile lead in this farcical plot. Maritza is almost equally implausible with her emotional acuity and moral purity.
History buffs won’t care; they’ll love this novel for its details.
by Samuel Shellabarger
Little, Brown, 1953
1953 bestseller #9
My grade B-
Credit: The original image above is one of many on the website www.uppercanadahistory.ca, which is a wonderful resource of well-written and well-illustrated information about Canadian history.
High Towers is a bodice-ripping historical novel about a lovely lass who becomes one of the early settlers of New Orleans.
Felicite’s father dies on the voyage to Montreal in 1697. Her mother returns to France, leaving the child to be brought up in the new world.
Felicite is adopted by Montreal’s leader, Charles le Moyne. Le Moyne arranges a marriage for Felicite with a rich Frenchman and ships her to New Orleans to marry him.
Felicite is already in love with a poor carpenter who has preceded her to New Orleans, but she’s willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the French colonies. Her new husband turns out to be too much of a brute even for Felicite’s patriotism.
Thomas B. Costain takes his plot and characters straight from the shelf with nary a variation on the standard pot-boiler romance.
The only novelty here is the historical setting. The le Moynes were a real family of 10 French-Canadian brothers who played a major role in keeping America from falling under Spanish domination.
Costain tries to weave all 10 brothers into this novel. The result is a forgettable novel about an almost forgotten period in American history.
By Thomas B. Costain
1949 Bestseller #7
My Grade: C+