I came across this novel in a second hand book shop a couple of months ago, and decided to give it a go, as I’d previously enjoyed a couple of Hay’s novels.
The edition I have was published in 1916, and you can tell it was during the war from the quality of the paper, but the book was first published in1910. It is still in print in the US on a POD basis.
Like many of Hay’s novels, this is romance from the chap’s point of view. We meet our hero, Hughie Marrable while he is still at university before fast forwarding nearly ten years for the main part of the novel. It’s one of those tiresome stories where the hero and heroine meet as children or young people before getting together later on. In the university interlude, the heroine appears as a child of twelve, the ward of Hughie’s uncle. This uncle advises Hughie to bum around the world for ten years or so rather than settle into a career, and certainly not to get married until he comes home – women having a dreadful habit of pulling a chap down after all. For a romance there’s a disturbing amount this type of misogyny, mainly from the uncle who is similar to the male authority figure in Knight on Wheels. After numerous adventures, some of which are described, Hughie returns, with a taciturnly Presbyterian valet in tow whom I can’t help but feel is there for comic relief. He is older and perhaps wiser which is just as well as his uncle is now dead leaving him to manage the heroine, Joey’s fortune until she comes of age. Of course everyone suspects Hughie of being after her money. There is a rather entertaining interlude where we meet Joey’s sister-in law, a plebeian female who was, before her marriage, shock horror, a music hall actress. Hughie, of course behaves as the complete gentleman throughout, and is in danger of being nauseatingly too good to be true. There is a neat twist at the end, but I’m not giving anything away when I say all turns out well.
The novel is interesting as an example of social attitudes among the middle classes at this time; Hay was a popular author, and I think we can assume the milieu of his work reflects that of his readers. Hughie is described as being a good judge of character when it comes to men, but not of women; Joey is entirely uninterested in money until prompted by the rapacious female she shares a flat with. This character while professing an interest in things financial is of course, being female, utterly incompetent. Again, Joey has no interest in suffrage, a topical point Hay throws in.
Overall, it’s a good example of its type, but I won’t rush back to it.