Joan, an artsy country girl, and Margaret, a New York socialite, are both in love with Lane, a drama critic. Margaret thought she was making good headway with him, but he withdrew from her when it became obvious just how vapid and devoid of any ambition she is. Joan’s friend has written a new play, the lead character of which suits Margaret to a T. He’s going to premiere it in a barn locally, with Lane in attendance. He insists that Margaret take the part against all her protests. She studies diligently and tries her very best, but she simply can’t do it. She suffers a nervous breakdown and Joan has to fill in for her. Lane, however, is duly impressed by her efforts and his love is rekindled. The two marry.
Inscriptions: on the front flyleaf, “‘Tartie’ — Christmas 1927”
This is a sequel to Red Pepper Burns, which I have to say I didn’t much like, but this book was considerably better. It follows one coherent story rather than a long series of barely connected events.
Dr. John Leaver, an old friend and colleague of Dr. Red Burns, has overworked himself and experiences a burn-out he’s sure he’ll never recover from. Red knows better and helps him back on his feet. Meanwhile, Charlotte Ruston finds her way to town. She was from old money, but that money’s now long gone and she hopes to establish herself as a photographer to support her grandmother. Charlotte and John had been engaged in the past, but after his burn-out, John thought the marriage impossible, and after Charlotte’s going broke, she thought likewise. The romance rekindles, particularly after Granny’s death, and by the end, the two are wed.
Inscription: Two or three names were penciled in on the front flyfleaf, but they’ve been erased well. The name at the top of the page I’m reasonably sure is Diane Fenweld. In the center, I think there are two overlapping signatures. One of them is Gail R-something. The other, I can make out a J and what might be an L, but nothing else.
Matthew Kendrick sends his grandson Richard to the home of his old friend Judge Calvin Gray with a message. Old Kendrick had built up a great department store and made himself immensely rich in the process; Young Kendrick lives lazily off those riches. Rich’s parents had both died when he was very young and he has no memory of a family like the one he finds gathered around the Grays’ hearth. He’s struck by it in general and by one of its members in particular: Roberta, Gray’s niece. Gray, whose eyesight is weakening with age, is in search of a secretary to help him with his research. In an uncharacteristic but not inexplicable move, Rich applies for the job. Rob, on learning who Rich is, dislikes him on principle. Though of no mean background herself, she values hard work and has no use for idle wealth. It will be an uphill battle for Rich to win her over.
Rich meets his old college friend Hugh Benson. Benson has recently inherited his father’s small-town store and is not doing well financially. Rich forms a partnership with Benson, and with the help of an experienced manager, they set out to rebuild the business. Kendrick, who had quietly harbored his own misgivings about his grandson’s idleness, sees in this the beginnings of a new man. Rob is not so easily swayed. That winter, he had boldly declared his love for her. While she didn’t reject him out of hand, she postponed her answer until Midsummer Day — the 24th of June — fully believing that both Rich’s current occupation and his infatuation with her were only a caprice and would be forgotten long before the months had passed.
She underestimated Rich’s honesty on both counts, but by the time the appointed day arrives, she has a new understanding of him and is ready to return his love.
R.P. Burns, M.D., is a surgeon evidently of some note who drives a fast, sporty car. He adopts a boy from one of his deceased patients, he falls in love with a woman, she travels south for the winter and he breaks his arm in a car accident, then he marries the woman.
Red Pepper Burns was a weirdly disjointed little tale. It’s as if Grace Richmond wrote the book, realized it was only 150 pages, then inserted several more chapters vaguely related to the narrative to pad it out to novel length. The adopted boy, who I expected would become central to the romance plot, all but disappears straight after his introduction, and for the life of me I can’t figure what purpose the character served.
When I picked it up, I was looking for a light and charming read like Round the Corner in Gay Street. Red Pepper Burns was light enough, but it confused me more than it charmed.