So engaging: His Official Fiancée, Berta Ruck (1914)

Written as a contemporary romance, this novel provides a hugely interesting insight into society just before the First World War. It features two common tropes; firstly the well-bred heroine in reduced circumstances, secondly the fake engagement/marriage plot.

What is interesting is that the two so often go together. And often, the heroine is offered a way out of her present difficulties by the hero dangling money bags at her. This usually requires a degree of deception from which she (of course) shrinks. Something always happens to persuade her to take the money bags, and in this case it is a demand for £100 from an improvident brother in South Africa (a very useful place to send such relatives apparently). The only way she can meet this demand is to take the hero’s money.

As the fake engagement commences, it becomes clear that the heroine loathes the hero. This novel is written in rather an unusual style – normally most romance is written in third person omniscent or switches POV between the hero and the heroine, but here, it is written in first person by the heroine, so we never see first hand, what the hero thinks about anything. This of course allows the inevitable misunderstanding upon which the denouement depends to fool us too. It is also written in a very unusual style – switching between simple past and present tense, in a very chatty voice, almost as if the heroine were talking to us. It’s an enjoyable pile of tosh, and was in print as recently as the 1970s, having survived being included in Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love. (!)

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2 responses to “So engaging: His Official Fiancée, Berta Ruck (1914)

  1. Julia Burman

    “His official fiancée” is pretty famous book at 1920-30’es . I think they made a movie inspired by it in Sweden…

    try some other Berta Ruck’s novels, like “In Another Girl’s Shoes” (also a film version!) or “Miss Million’s maid (?)” Sorry, do not know the name in English as I have read the translation in Finnish, or some what later novel “Gentle Tyrant”. All sweet lovestorie and written in a nice chatty voice – whether in 1st or 3rd person!

    They are great descriptions of the change of life in early 20th century! It is a pity that this kind of novels are not appreciated as much as they should – it is litterature for women, so only cheap entertainment. Most detectivestories are much below in their level, but nowadays they are kept much more valuable as these romances. Annoying! Berta Ruck is writer of the change of society and young womens life pre- and after war periods. Valueable litterature, please, enjoy it!

    Yours, Julia Burman from Finland

  2. Dueep Jyot Singh

    I picked up Mock honeymoon in the fleamarket, for £.06, and was surprised to see that this very underestimated writer was as popular a writer in the 20s as Dell, Oppenheimer, Wallace Yates and Walsh.
    Pity we cannot get to download her books on manybooks.net or Gutenberg.net

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