Joyce (Louise Platt Hauck, 1927)

Joyce and the several other lodgers at Frankie’s boarding house live together like a big family. Ward is in love with Joyce, but while she loves him too, she’s not sure if it’s the right kind of love — the marrying kind. Two new boarders appear: Garret and his brother Tony. Tony is blind and Garret has devoted himself to his care. Garret has an unyielding, rigid morality that Joyce at first admires, thinking it’s a strength. She falls madly in love with him and they’re engaged to be married. Then Garret abandons her without a word — believing her guilty of some minor indiscretion that, in his mind, he’s magnified to the highest inexcusable and unpardonable sin. Joyce takes it very hard but at last realizes that Garret’s fanaticism is borne of cowardice and not strength. He lacks faith — in her and in general — and that’s what makes him intolerant and self-destructive. Joyce discovers in Ward’s patient, unconditional kindness that true love she’d been looking for.

Just going off the text and without having done any other research, I’m going to assume this was the author’s first published book. It has all the unevenness I’ve come to expect from neophyte authors. There are the bones of a story here, and the big key scenes and monologues are impressive and well written, but what links them together is the most hackneyed drivel you’ll ever read.

Inscription: Signed on the front endpaper, in the smallest script imaginable, “Annie Wilkinson”.

Rugged Water (Joseph C. Lincoln, 1924)

Calvin is the Number One man at the Setuckit life saving station, and after the retirement of Captain Oz, he expects to be promoted to keeper. And he would have been, had it not been for Benoni. Benoni was a life saver at the nearby Crooked Hill station. The Crooked Hill gang made a disastrous blunder one storm and all hands, save Benoni, were lost. He escaped entirely by luck — although to hear him tell it, it was the will of God that he should live. Benoni was already something of a born again, but the wreck has driven him into a religious mania. He’s a dangerous person to have around, both the Setuckit crew and the life saving superintendent agree, but the press have turned him into a hero, and politicians courting voters have had their sway. Benoni is made captain at Setuckit.

Calvin is troubled less than Myra at this setback. Myra is secretly engaged to Calvin — secretly because she’s less interested in him than she is in using him for her own advancement, and the future marriage was contingent on the captaincy. Calvin, in truth, is relieved to be rid of her now that he’s discovered true love in the form of Benoni’s daughter Norma. Norma’s opinion of her father’s ability to lead isn’t very much greater than that of the others’, and in Calvin, she finds someone who can support and direct him, which Calvin promises to do.

The charade is kept up while the seas are calm, but it couldn’t last through too many rescues. Calvin is forced to assume command when Benoni refuses to respond to a ship signalling distress, insistent that he’s personally spoken to God and that God will deliver them. The fallout results in Benoni’s dismissal. Norma, who’s found out about Myra, thinks it was all a plot — that Calvin never cared for her and had just been angling to be made captain — and breaks all contact with him.

Benoni never recovers from the last mental break. God has anointed him and this coastline is his. One storm, he sneaks out from under his daughter’s careful watch and steals a boat. It falls on Calvin, who’s alone at the station sick with rheumatic fever, to rescue him. When Norma learns of this, and further learns of the actual circumstances of Calvin’s engagement to Myra and of what actually happened the night of the “mutiny”, she more than forgives Calvin. The book ends with the two engaged.

Inscription: “2/13/25, For Mother’s birthday, from Russell & Ethel” on the front flyleaf.

The Vicar of Wakefield (Oliver Goldsmith, 1766)

Life’s pretty good for Vicar Primrose. Work is easy, he’s liked by his parishioners, his wife loves him, his children are his pride and joy, his eldest son is about to marry into the prestigious Wilmot family, and he’s got £10,000 in the bank. Then it all goes to hell. His accountant runs off with the money, his son’s engagement is broken, they lose everything they own, and are forced to move far away to a tiny cottage, where every day will be a struggle for existence. Still, the Vicar is content, because he still has his family. Then their lecherous landlord runs away with his daughter, she withers and dies from shame, his son is condemned to death for defending her honor, the cottage burns down, the Vicar is injured and unable to work, and at last is sent to prison for his debt.

Still, could be worse; he still has his other daughter left– oh, she’s just been abducted as well. All hope is now officially lost. The Vicar consoles himself with redemption in the afterlife when who should enter but Mr. Burchell. Burchell was a poor, itinerant laborer who befriended the Primroses when they first arrived in town and often worked alongside them in the field. Burchell now, it seems, is actually Sir William Thornhill — uncle and guardian to their nasty landlord. The tide begins to turn. The Vicar’s debt is forgiven, the son is acquitted and his engagement is un-broken, the second daughter is recovered, the first is resurrected (actually, she was never dead — it was part of a scheme meant to… never mind) and the false marriage between her and the landlord turns out to be authentic. Sir William proposes to Daughter #2 and a festive double-wedding ensues, following which the Vicar learns that the accountant has been apprehended and his fortune restored.

Inscriptions: surprisingly none, given the book’s age.