The Rose-Garden Husband by Margaret Widdemer

Oh, what a lovely, old-fashioned romance.

fcoverPhyllis was alone in the world. She had a good job, as a librarian, and she rented a single room in a boarding house, but it was difficult to makes ends meet. Fortunately, Phyllis was a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl. She enjoyed her work as the children’s librarian, and she was very good at it. Phyllis was what my mother would call ‘a people person,’ and when she was at work I saw many things that I know would strike a chord with the librarians of today.

One day Phyllis spotted a girl from her home town, walking with two young children, and that made her realise how constrained her life was, how little hope she had of anything ever changing. She wished for a husband, enough money to be able to have nice things, and a husband. She had no great wish for romance love, and marriage; she just saw a husband as her only hope of ever having the things she wished for.

It seemed that someone, somewhere, was listening. I knew that they would be – this is that sort of book!

The next day Phyllis had been invited to dinner by Mr and Mrs De Guenther, a wealthy elderly couple she had met at the library. They had a very interesting proposal for her. They explained that their friend, Mrs Harrington, was dying; that her son, Allan, had been an invalid since the car accident that killed his fiancée seven years earlier; and that Mrs Harrington wanted to be sure that someone would care for her son as she did after she was gone.

Mrs Harrington was  looking for a wife for her son. Someone who would feel a the greatest responsibility to him, and who would be rewarded with a comfortable life, a liberal income, and a substantial inheritance on when Allen died, probably not more than a few years after his mother. The De Guenthers had known Phyllis for some years; they knew her circumstances, they admired her qualities, and they had suggested to Mrs Harrington that she was the woman for the job.

Phyllis understood, and she took the job. And she did it well, but now quite as Mrs Harrington – or anyone else – had expected.

And that’s as much as I’m going to say. The way that the story played out was utterly predictable, but it was terribly touching and it read beautifully.

It worked because Phyllis was such a lovely character: thoughtful, compassionate, practical, and more than ready to take charge of the situation. The De Guenthers were wonderful, Wallis – Allen’s manservant – was a star, and Allen himself proved to be a very interesting character.

And it worked because Margaret Widdemer wrote beautifully, she kept the story moving along, and steered clear of gratuitous sentimentality. It’s little dated in places, it’s highly improbable, but emotionally it rings true.

If you’d like to be captivated, if you have an uncynical heart that needs lifting, if you enjoy seeing stories that play out exactly as you expect and want, this is the book for you.

I loved it,  I’ve just discovered that there’s a sequel, and I’ve already downloaded it …