Audra (Unabridged Chick)'s Reviews > When A Man Marries

When A Man Marries by Mary Roberts Rinehart
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I adored this book. Everything about it: the writing style, the characters, the ludicrous plot, and frenetic mix of romance, slapstick comedy, and mystery. Written in 1910, this novel features a very broad and comedic portrait of New York society, and it was a delicious escapist read for the weekend.

I'm going to try to describe the plot. Bear with me, because I know how over-the-top it sounds, and it is, but it's also hilarious and amazing and fun. The story is told by Kit McNair, a New York socialite who is rather indignant about her treatment at the hands of her friends following a trying week. The drama begins when her friend and former amour Jim Wilson has a dinner party with other fashionable, rich friends, which is crashed by his rich and old-fashioned Aunt Selina. Aunt Selina is unaware that Jim has divorced, and since she hadn't met his ex-wife Bella, Jim convinces Kit to pretend to be his wife. As if that challenge isn't daunting enough, things really get wild when Jim's butler is discovered to have small pox, the city quarantines the house for a week, and Jim's ex-wife Bella breaks in to the house to steal away Jim's butler, unaware of the quarantine. Amidst all that, there are robberies, a cop discovered sleeping in the basement, reporters stalking the house, and flirtations and hurt feelings galore.

This sounds messy, I know, but Rinehart manages these wildly diverse threads beautifully. Her characters are wry, funny, sarcastic, rude, snobby, ridiculous, and appealing. As a snapshot of Edwardian New York City, it can't be beat, and Rinehart's writing conveys so much in so little. Her characters are clearly the precursors to the '20s flapper era, and I loved this snapshot of early 20th century New York society.

This e-book edition was a treat as well: for one thing, the formatting was great. I love Project Gutenberg and Google Books for public domain reads, but the files don't always display right in my ereader -- in this edition, there's no weird characters or formatting, and the font size was great without my needing to zoom in on anything. There's an extensive gallery of vintage images to help give the reader a sense of the era (which I appreciated, because I did keep envisioning folks as flappers and not Edwardian-ish socialites).

I must disclose that I've started writing content for The Vintage Reader, the blog associated with the Legacy Vintage Collection, but that has in no way affected my opinion of this book. If anything, this book made me more excited about Legacy Vintage's future offerings as I adore vintage fiction and am thrilled to see these forgotten gems available to readers.
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Reading Progress

February 10, 2012 – Started Reading
February 10, 2012 – Shelved
February 16, 2012 –
4.0% "Our heroine needs to be my bestie, stat. "He seemed to think I would be sorry to lose him, and he blundered over the telling for twenty minutes. Of course, no woman likes to lose a lover, no matter what she may say about it, but Jim had been getting on my nerves for some time...""
February 16, 2012 –
9.0% "Seriously, a girl after my own heart. And this was written in 1910! "I have always regarded divorce as essentially disagreeable, like castor oil, but necessary.""
February 16, 2012 –
11.0% "Ah, youthful ignorance... "You're the right sort of girl, Kit. And after it's all over, you'll realize that it's the biggest kind of lark. Think how you are saving the old lady's feeling! When you are an elderly person yourself, Kit, you will appreciate what you are doing tonight.""
February 16, 2012 –
17.0% ""I have a headache, and I am sulking", I said unpleasantly, "but at least I am not actively venomous.""
February 16, 2012 –
45.0% "I'm cutting myself off from quotes because I've literally tabbed every page. This is a hilarious book -- I keep envisioning our heroine as a flapper but as this is 1910, that's a bit early!"
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: classic-for-a-reason
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: comedy-of-manners
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: heroine-amazing
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: heroine-unusually-attractive
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: mood-evocative
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: place-new-york-city
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: secret-identities
February 22, 2012 – Shelved as: tres-amusing
February 22, 2012 – Finished Reading
March 22, 2012 – Shelved as: vintage-fic
October 25, 2012 – Shelved as: era-early-20th-century
April 2, 2013 – Shelved as: top-10-of-2012

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