To Have and to Hold Ends in Exhaustion

To Have and to Hold is a gender-neutral novel. Mary Johnson provides heart-stopping adventure for men, and a heart-throb hero for women.

In 1621 when a shipload of women arrive at Jamestown , Capt. Ralph Percy, one of original settlers, buys a beautiful wife he can see is high born. He allows her to bar the bedroom door to him.

Lord Carnal arrives seeking the King’s run-away ward whom he was to marry. If Lord Carnal can get her back to England, the King will annul her marriage to Percy.

Ralph and his buddies have to get her away.

Before long, the Ralph finds himself captain of a pirate ship carrying his wife and his buddies and Lord Carnal.

Johnson gets everyone back to Jamestown in time for Ralph to learn his wife loves him and for him to be a hero when the Indians attack Jamestown.

When she runs out of space for any more plot complications, Johnson packs up her pen and sets the characters free.

Since 1900, when To Have and to Hold was the bestseller in the US, its plot lines have become familiar from dime novels and second-rate films. A taut ending might have camouflaged the interior flaws, but the novel’s slump to an exhausted ending magnifies them.

The history beneath the novel deserves better.

So do the novel’s readers.

To Have and to Hold
by Mary Johnson
1900 bestseller # 1
Project Gutenberg EBook #2807
My grade: C

@2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Golden Hawk Is a Turkey

The Golden Hawk is another bauble on Frank Yerby’s string of best-selling period romances. Yerby sets this one in the West Indies in the 1600s when human life was cheap and New World gold plentiful.

Bastard Kit Gerado, master of the pirate ship Seaflower, seeks a fortune plundering Spanish shipping. He longs for revenge on Spanish grandee Don Luis Del Toro, the man responsible for his mother’s death by torture.

Kit is a gorgeous, golden haired hunk: Errol Flynn with a bleach job. He has impeccable manners, unwavering loyalty, great compassion, enormous courage, and a Jewish sidekick, Bernardo, to provide the common sense Kit lacks.

On one of his plundering expeditions, Kit rescues Rouge, an English woman raped by Don Luis. Kit also captures Don Luis’s fiancé, Bianca, who falls for Kit, but he’s in love with Rouge. Which woman will win the Golden Hawk?

No mystery there. In fact, everything about this potboiler is totally predictable. The only surprise is that the novel is so sanitary. From the lurid dust cover, I expected a bodice-ripper, but Yerby’s most graphic details are his descriptions of mosquito bites.

Yerby does throw in some interesting historical tidbits, but not enough to rescue this banal novel from well-earned obscurity.

The Golden Hawk
By Frank Yerby
Dial Press , 1948
312 pages
Bestseller # 6 for 1948
My Grade: D+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni