Satan Sanderson a patchwork of implausibilities

Called to witness a dying man’s will, the Reverend Henry Sanderson learns college friend Hugh Stires, is being disinherited as a wastrel.

Sanderson intercedes on Hugh’s behalf. He confesses his college nickname was “Satan” and that it was he who led Hugh to drink and gamble.

Satan Sanderson by Hallie Erminie Rives (Mrs. Post Wheeler)
A. B. Wenzell, Illus. 1907 bestseller #6. Project Gutenberg ebook #39689. My Grade: B-.

As he pleads for Hugh, however, Sanderson tries to recall something—anything—to suggest Hugh is capable of reversing his downward spiral.

There is none. Hugh is “a moral mollusk.”

An elderly man and blind young woman in Victorian dress sit in drawing room.
Mr. Stires with his ward, Jessica.

David Stires says he wishes the resemblance between his son and Sanderson extended to more than physical appearance.

He agrees to think again before he signs his will leaving his fortune to his beautiful, blind ward, Jessica Holme.

The reprobate son reappears ready to be good long enough to woo and wed Jessica, thereby insuring he gets his father’s money one way or the other.

Sanderson realizes he not only started Hugh downhill, but aided his masquerade as reformed character.

From that set up, Hallie Erminie Rives could have aimed the plot in any of several directions.

She chose to take them all.

The novel is a patchwork plot of implausibilities performed by manikins.

Rives did give Sanderson a nice dog; he, at least, stayed in character.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Valiants of Virginia Is Improved by Distractions

The Valiants of Virginia hooked me with its first paragraph:

Failed!” ejaculated John Valiant blankly, and the hat he held dropped to the claret-colored rug like a huge white splotch of sudden fright. “The Corporation—failed!”

Indeed, the company started by John’s father has failed.

John uses his private fortune to rectify what he can.  He’s broke when he receives a twenty-fifth  birthday gift of property in Virginia bequeathed to him by his father before his death 19 years before.

With no  family and nowhere else to go,  John heads south.

Damory Court has been vacant for 30 years since John’s father shot a man named Sassoon there, then lit out for New York. Locals believe there was a duel over a woman whose name was never revealed.

John falls in love with having a home and with a red-haired neighbor with whom he’d like to share it.

After providing an illustrated history of Proper Southern Behavior, novelist Hallie Erminie Rives brings about a happily-ever-after ending.

Instead of showing how John matures after that “white splotch of sudden fright,” Rives merely drops a synopsis of it on her way to the romantic stuff. Aside from one very funny scene in which local children play Sunday School, the rest of the novel i sn’t nearly as good as it opening paragraph.

The major characters, plot, and setting are so familiar they might have been ordered from a Sears Roebuck catalog.

I suggest you download the Valiants of Virginia to read when you’re home with a really bad cold. The novel is improved by the distraction of blowing one’s nose.

The Valiants of Virginia
by Hallie Erminie Rives (Mrs. Post Wheeler)
A. L. Burt, 1912
Illus by André Castaigne
1913 bestseller #9
Project Gutenberg E-Book #33963

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Kingdom of Slender Swords Supersizes Suspense

cover of The Kingdom of Slender Swords

In a classic romance opening, Barbara Fairfax gets her first glimpse of Japan from the deck of an ocean liner. Japan is the land where here parents met, her father died, and where she hopes to escape from highly eligible suitor whom she doesn’t love.

As a house guest of the American ambassador’s daughter, Barbara has a front row seat to history in the making. She, however, is more interested in embassy staffer Duke Daunt than in political jockeying between superpowers.

Barbara Fairfax
Barbara Fairfax

Hallie Erminie Rives maintains a classic romance storyline for the remainder of The Kingdom of Slender Swords, but she embeds it within a thriller. Rives rounds out the novel with a bit of history, a chunk of local culture, and a sprinkle of religion.

Sounds like a recipe for literary hash, doesn’t it?

But Rives is no ordinary writer.

Her plotting is superb, her characters believable, her descriptions breathtaking.

Her predictions aren’t bad for 1910 either.

Rives anticipates Japan “will make some other nations get a move on” within the next half century. The novel’s bad guy, “the expert,” says it’s easier to dominate the the world by manipulating international financial markets than with weapons, though he has invented the ultimate weapon by harnessing atomic energy.

If that’s an ordinary romance novel, I’ll eat my Ramen Noodles.

The Kingdom of Slender Swords
by Hallie Erminie Rives 
Illus. A. B. Wenzell
1910 bestseller #5
Project Gutenberg EBook #42427

This review has been edited to correct the pronouns referring to the author from he/him to she/her.  Hallie Erminie Rives was also Mrs. Post Wheeler, wife of an American diplomat whose foreign service took the couple to posts in Europe, Asia and South America.

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni