Thursday, October 13, 2016

Crimson Roses: Review

Crimson Roses (1928) was the first Grace Livingston Hill I ever read and it is my favorite. I borrowed an old edition from our church library. Years later I found a paperback copy--and I bought it out of nostalgia with plans to reread it. Then I found a first edition with dust jacket that I just had to make mine. This year I decided to finally revisit the book and see if it still held up as my favorite.

The story centers on a Cinderella-style heroine, Marion Warren, who has spent the last two years of her life nursing her sick father. This was a labor of love--because she and her father were very close. But when her father passes away no will can be found and her brother uses his force of personality to make decisions regarding their now jointly-owned property. Despite knowing their father's wishes that Marion stay in the city and complete her education, Tom wants to sell the city house and move to a farm in the country where his wife will be happy and his children will have plenty of room. Unknown to them both, his wife has hidden the will that would have given Marion the house she grew up in as well as enough money for her education. The wife, although not as cruel as the stepmother in the fairy tale, also expects that Marion will come along and help her with the housework and the children.

Marion decides that she can't bear to do that and to follow her father's wishes (and, truth be told, her own dream) and finds herself a job in a department store and a small apartment. The life is hard and she has to really manage her money, but she saves up enough to purchase season tickets to the symphony...and that's when the magic happens. No fairy godmother this time, but a single crimson rose each night in her seat. And roses delivered when she's sick. And a mystery person who shelters her with an umbrella one stormy night after the symphony. Little does she know that she has caught the eye of the wealthy Jefferson Lyman who longs for a real woman--a woman who shares his interests (music, knowledge, and culture) and not one of the flighty socialites who have set their caps for him. 

When it becomes obvious where Jeff's interests lie (though Marion can scarcely believe it), one of those socialites, Isabel Cresson, makes trouble--accosting Marion at her ribbon counter in the department store and then arranges for an embarrassing social event. But Marion has her champions--her fellow workers know what kind of woman she is and stand up for her and Jeff manages to rescue her from the event before her reputation can be ruined. And like the fairy tale, there is a happy ending in store.

To modern sensibilities it may seem like Marion is a meek little doormat--but she is actually a very strong young woman who sticks to her beliefs and convictions and also shows determination to make the life she wants long before the "wealthy savior" comes along to take her out of poverty. She defies her brother and her sister-in-law--who are quite convinced that she'll come crawling back to them for shelter once she's had enough of hard work and little money. The scene at the end when Marion and Jeff stop by unexpectedly is quite delightful. And, through it all, Marion remains sweet and kind and true to herself and her beliefs. 

Crimson Roses is a lovely romance from early last century and should definitely be read with that in mind. I enjoyed it every bit as much now as I did nearly 35 years ago. ★★★★


Anonymous said...

I don't know if I have ever read Grace Livingston Hill - at least not since my teens or early twenties, if then. I'm looking forward to this one!

fredamans said...

Sounds like a beautiful story.