Jamaica Inn (Daphne du Maurier, 1936)

After the death of her mother, Mary Yellan is sent north to live with her aunt. It’s been many years since she’s seen Aunt Patience and Mary now finds her to be the wife of the landlord of Jamaica Inn. The place is notorious throughout Cornwall as being the seat of a wrecker gang — men who lure ships into the rocks, kill the crew, and steal their cargo. Patience is a broken woman with dog-like devotion to her husband Joss, despite his cruelty.

Mary confides in Joss’s estranged brother Jem and Francis Davey, vicar of nearby Altarnun. Jem is an unrepentant horse thief, but he prides himself that at least he’s no murderer. Davey is an albino, but his physical appearance isn’t the only thing strange about him. His cold and almost derisive demeanor is not in keeping with his profession.

The story comes to a head on Christmas Eve when Joss’s drunken carelessness catches up with him and his gang wrecks a ship too close to daybreak and has to scatter in chaos before being discovered. Joss plans to flee the country. Mary escapes the house and goes to Davey, but finding him not at home, continues to the squire to raise the alarm. When they arrive at Jamaica Inn, they find that Joss and Patience are both dead — stabbed in the back. It would seem that Joss was not the ringleader of the gang and that the actual boss had cut his loses.

But who is the boss? Mary, who’s been taken to the vicarage, isn’t long in suspense. Davey would seem not to be a very good Christian. In fact, he holds more faith in the old gods of the Druids. He abducts Mary and intends on taking her to Africa, but Jem has figured him out and leads a manhunt that ends in Davey’s death and Mary’s rescue.

Mary at first intends on going south to her home town, where she’s sure to find welcome by many friends, but at last throws caution to the wind and follows Jem wherever his lawless wanderings may take him.

No inscriptions.

In Defiance of the King (Chauncey C. Hotchkiss, 1895)

An historical romance set during the American Revolution. Anthony is a young doctor in Connecticut. He falls in love with Dorothy, who’s the ward of his neighbor Squire Beauchamp. Anthony and his family are patriots while Beauchamp is a loyalist and secretly conspires to deliver Dorothy into the hands of Captain Bromfield of the British army. The fight for Anthony is not only for independence but for his beloved.

The narrative, which is told from Anthony’s perspective, exists on the periphery of history. He interacts and times with real personages and learns second or third hand of greater victories and setbacks, but the world he lives in is fairly small and the war, until the climax, is far away. The only engagement Anthony takes a direct, combatant part in is the Battle of Groton Heights — the last major battle on New England soil.

Inscription: signed Alton G. Johnston on the front flyleaf. I also found two short white hairs caught up between the pages that were likely his. Alton lived in Limerick, Maine. The Maine Register for 1908 reports that he was secretary to the Board of Health.

Big Game (Vida Hurst, 1928)

Mona falls in love with Bruce, her friend’s husband. Angst. Bruce falls in love with her and plans divorce, but then his wife becomes pregnant. Angst some more. Things are looking up (for Mona at least) when the wife dies after giving birth, but oh no, Bruce is jealous of another of Mona’s admirers and decides not to marry her. Angst a lot. Finally,  Bruce learns to trust and he marries Mona after all.

This was the worst written book I’ve ever read. It’s even worse than that Partridge Family novella — and I didn’t think that was possible. I don’t mean the story, which is a mediocre but not offensively bad romance; I mean the author has absolutely no grasp of basic syntax or grammar.

No inscriptions.

Rollo in London (Jacob Abbott, 1854)

I would assume this is the next in the series after Rollo on the Atlantic, but I honestly don’t know. The order isn’t marked, and of the twelve I’ve got in my library, London seemed the most likely.

Rollo and Jane have arrived in England. Their father is still in poor health and unable to do much sightseeing, so uncle George takes Rollo on a tour of London. The book’s educational component comes from George’s explanations to Rollo about the places they visit, some of which are better woven into the narrative than others. At the docks, for example, George launches into a long digression on the shipping industry and commodities and brokers and African trading, which is interesting in its way, but what child could possibly care? To be fair, while Rollo listens politely, he does seem to be more intrigued by the big crane and the cool drawbridge.

Inscription: on the inside front cover, “China Lefrary, from Edith Frost Stevens”. I can’t find anything about China online, but Mrs. Stevens seems to have been a teacher at the Woods school in Unity, Maine in 1912.