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Saturday, February 02, 2008

cover of Marcia Schuyler

One of my favorite Grace Livingston Hill books, yet another variation on the story of a man and a woman who get married first and fall in love later. The Schuylers are all caught up in the preparations for the wedding of Marcia's older sister Kate, but Kate-- beautiful, whimsical, charming, and selfish-- decides to elope with another man the night before the wedding. To save face for the family and the groom, Marcia agrees to marry David in her sister's place. In an age when transportation was expensive and slow, none of David's family or neighbors have actually met or seen or met his fiancée, so if he brings home a bride he doesn't have to tell everyone how he was jilted and disgraced. Marcia is just beginning to grow into a young woman and has never been in love before, but has always admired and respected David. Without realizing it, she gradually grows into love with him, all the while he is heartbroken about his sweet Kate (not understanding just how selfish she is) and treating Marcia like a child (even though she is more thoughtful and better educated than Kate, and actually interested in his work). Eventually, of course, circumstances bring them to both recognize and admit their love to each other, and they discover they are better suited to each other than David and Kate would have been.

This book has quite a bit of adventure, a couple of real out-and-out villains, and an unusual amount of historical detail. David is a journalist, and for a while he goes to New York to help lobby for a steam engine train, and then later he and Marcia attend the beginning of the first steam engine trip in NY; also referenced are the "home sweet home" song which was popular in New York at the time, and Andrew Jackson in the senate.

I don't recall a lot of Hill's books having outright villains who are clearly evil, but here we have two. Harry Temple is in David and Marcia's small town for business (although he seems to do very little work), and decides that this pretty new bride would be a delightful conquest. Marcia is so naive she doesn't realize what he's up to at first, but the moment he makes a move she runs out of the house and away across the fields into the woods (giving a friendly young neighbor a chance to help and David the opportunity to rescue Marcia, and begin to see her as a desirable woman). Similarly, when David is in town he runs into an unhappy, poor Kate (disappointed in her marriage and in her father's lack of forgiveness), and while David is oblivious, the reader is shown Kate's deliberate choices that lead her down the path of evil as she attempts to manipulate and seduce David. Eventually, Kate and Harry Temple meet and join forces, and their villainy culminates in an attempt to kidnap Marcia and make it seem that she abandoned David. Their plot is foiled by the feisty and hilarious neighbor Miranda who goes out of her way to look out for the naive Marcia.

A delightful story with wonderful characters. I've read it many times and will no doubt read and enjoy it again.

Title:Marcia Schuyler
Author:Grace Livingston Hill
Date published:1908
Number of pages:375
Notes:repeat reading


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