The American Flaggs was like reading three authors at once. The beginning was similar to the Grace Livingston Hill books I read as a teenager. (Poverty stricken but gorgeous female meets fabulously rich and handsome bachelor, they overcome all obstacles, and live happily ever after.) But the writing was more on the level of a Gene Stratton-Porter novel. By the time I finished, an Elizabeth Goudge-like twist had been thrown in which upped the book in my estimation quite a bit.
Basic plot: Penelope Fitzpercy (“Pen” for short) is tired of her family’s Bohemian lifestyle. Unmade beds, unwashed dishes, unpaid bills and a father who drops in and out of their lives are just a few of her concerns. When wealthy Jeff Flagg offers to take her away from it all she has a hard time saying no even though she’s not in love with him.
I thought I was reading a typically fluffy romance novel until I reached page 300 and the characters began making really bad choices. I was dismayed that Norris, writing in the 1930’s, seemed to be promoting a favorite modern-day theme: Be happy with the one you love and don’t let the person to whom you are married get in the way.
Happily, the book took a turn for the better. Instead of a fairy tale gone awry it morphed into a story about real people making tough moral decisions. Frankly, I was amazed and pleased at its un-Hollywood-like ending.
Any Kathleen Norris fans out there?