But not for me / Mary Burchell
Don Mills, ON : Harlequin, c1971.
This is a guilty pleasure, a book I've reread a few times over the years. I read it first as an impressionable teenager without much discretion as to what I read, as long as it was narrative it was fine by me. But I enjoyed this one without quite figuring out why. Lately I've realized that it includes shades of Pride & Prejudice, and although I read this little paperback before P&P, there was that as yet unknown reflective glow that appealed to me.
The basic plot: Ariane Dobson, daughter of a lace manufacturing family, must marry into the distastefully modern yet wealthy Muldanes to maintain her family's fortunes. She becomes engaged to one brother while falling into unrequited love with another. She struggles with various obstacles until, this being a Harlequin, everything falls out right at the end.
There is more to this than suggested however. I enjoy it for its plot similarities to P&P; for example, Ariane first meets the hero at a neighbourhood ball, where she overhears him insulting her. The hero's younger brother Frank is a bit Bingley-like, and ends up marrying Ariane's best friend Carolyn. There is a wordly woman similar to Caroline Bingley who also has her eye on the hero. The hero is tall, dark and handsome -- and rich -- and marriage is a key plot element. But beyond these tenuous similarities, also entertaining is the very old-fashioned prose, which I can only hear as if in a snobby English accent. Some examples:
It was quite a short drive to the Assembly Rooms where the ball was being held, and Ariane scarcely had time to feel nervous again before entering...the really beautifully proportioned hall, which dated back to Regency times. (more Austen references?)
I suppose there are always a few times in your life when duty isn't just an old-fashioned word. It's something very -- real, and, if you're worth anything at all you act on it.
But perhaps I enjoy it most for the idea that Ariane, the good daughter, the reliable friend, the sensible, dutiful, faithful, kind girl, wins out in the end by virtue of, well, her virtue. The glamorous movie star is rejected by the hero in favour of Ariane because of her "sweetness and sincerity". As a goody-two-shoes in my teens, this was probably the element that caught me and made me read this over, and over...
So now you all know my reading secret - a Harlequin is one of the books on my keeper shelf!