The Garden of Allah (Robert Hichens, 1904)

The daughter of an atheist travels to the desert to find her faith, falls in love with and marries a man who it turns out is a renegade monk escaped from the monastery, and convinces him to confess and return to his vows.

It’s funny how I often struggle to summarize a 300 page book but a behemoth like this boils down to one line.

Inscriptions: Mrs. William O’Keefe, on the front endpaper.

Beverly of Graustark (George Barr McCutcheon, 1904)

Beverly Calhoun, southern belle, is in Graustark visiting her friend, Princess Yetive. Neighboring Dawsbergen has just had a coup and Prince Dantan is in hiding — Gabriel having taking the throne. On the road from St. Petersberg, Beverly is abandoned by her escorts and falls in with a gang of rather polite vagabonds, lead by a man called Baldos. They mistake her for the princess and she finds it prudent to play along.

Once in the capital city of Edelweiss, Baldos is made a royal guard, with Beverly still maintaining that she’s Yetive and falling increasingly in love with the stranger. Count Marlanx is suspicious that Baldos is a spy. Further, he wants to make Beverly his sixth wife. When his attempts at murder and blackmail fail, he’s exiled from Graustark. Revealing herself for who she really is, Beverly professes her love to Baldos, who it turns out was secretly Prince Danton. What’s more, Gabriel has been apprehended and Danton is restored to the throne.

Inscription: on the flyleaf, “To my husband, Christmas, 1908”.

R.J.’s Mother and Some Other People (Margaret Deland, 1904)

An assortment of short-stories with little commonality between them beyond an almost absurd heavy-handedness in their moralizing and their use of foreshadowing being as subtle as a brick to the face. I think the worst of the bunch was “The Black Drop”, where the very title gives away how this tale — a New Englander transplanted to the Midwest who prides himself on his social progressiveness and gets engaged to an orphaned white woman (I must stress that she’s white, because the author certainly does) but comes to doubt Lily’s (yes, she’s actually named Lily) parentage and suspect that her unusually light-skinned “Mammy” might actually be her mother — will end. The two better written stories are the first and the last, “R.J.’s Mother” and “The White Feather”. Still, you certainly figure out that R.J.’s mother is unmarried and that Phillip’s new book actually is garbage long before the author intends you to.

No inscriptions.