Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Under the Rainbow


Under the Rainbow / Susan Scarlett 
London: Dean Street Press, 2022, c1942.
270 p.

I decided to read another Susan Scarlett shortly after finishing The Man in the Dark. They are so light and frothy, they are perfect for tired brains in the summer. I enjoyed this one as well. The two stories have similarities; in this one Judy Griffiths goes to the idyllic village of Saltings to act as a companion for two small children who've just been orphaned and are to be under the care of their uncle, the unworldly vicar at Saltings. Martin is a dear, but he's also single, so needs someone to care for the children for him. And he will need a chaperone of sorts, as he's not comfortable having a young woman in the house without someone else there. Just at that moment, his aged Aunt Connie loses her flat and he decides to take her in - it will help her, and him as well - just so long as he can overlook the fact that she is a mean, selfish woman who is also starting to slide into dementia. 

Judy has a dark secret she is hiding, which looks really bad from one perspective, which is of course the perspective of her rival, widowed Lady Blacke, who has her eye on Martin. Lady Blacke (Veronica) is young and modern, a real Lady Bountiful who can't see that the local residents who she is trying to shower money on don't want her "help" and resent her attitude. She is one of the expected antagonists in a Susan Scarlett novel; selfish, prepared to undermine another woman she sees as a rival, in order to get what she wants. Of course these antagonists never do. But what I found a bit shocking in this one was Aunt Connie. She is truly unhinged and her ungrounded antipathy toward Judy is actually a bit scary. I was expecting something really awful to happen, the way that she was portrayed. 

But added to the mix of true love never running smooth is the mixup of partners. Martin's friend, the local schoolteacher, falls hard for Judy - she doesn't return the feeling. Lady Blacke is obsessed with Martin - he doesn't see it and doesn't return the feeling either. But neither Judy nor Martin can admit or allow their own feelings for one another. It's a bit of a mess! And in this one, too, there is a very young girl who decides she is miserably in love with middle aged Martin - this time it's the schoolteacher's teenage niece. 

All of these conundrums are of course put right by the end, rather quickly and by chance. In this one, though, there are threads of unhappiness left over - some characters don't get a happy romance, and are left pining. But everything turns out as it should, in a rather Shakespearean way. The right pairs get together, delusions are cleared, and the obstructive characters are made powerless. I was glad to see that Aunt Connie was properly diagnosed with plans made to get her the care she needed, by the end - it was an unusual element in a book like this and gave it a bit of darkness I wasn't expecting. I'm finding these interesting reading, for the way they portray the time period. I always find that genre books (romances yes but especially mysteries) really reflect their time and all the automatic assumptions of an era so well. This one does give some flavour of the times. 

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