“I make myself a present on a book’s birthday to square never celebrating my own.” Beckoning Trails
Like Molly B. in Beckoning Trails, Emilie Loring stopped celebrating birthdays and, instead, celebrated the release of each new book–an annual accomplishment that occurred thirty times during her lifetime. (You can see her full list and links to posts about them here.)
For Emilie’s birthday this year, I thought I’d take a crack at answering a question that comes to me in several forms: “Which is your favorite Emilie Loring book?” “Which is the best one?” “Which is the first one I should try?”
There are subtle differences in these questions, but what people really wonder is how to choose. There are fifty Emilie Loring novels, and if you want to be sure you’ll enjoy your first, what’s a good bet?
Here’s a disappointment for you: I don’t actually have a favorite Emilie Loring book.
I like Emilie Loring precisely because she wrote so many books that I enjoy, each satisfying something a little different at different times. In my twenties, I especially liked Rainbow at Dusk and Where Beauty Dwells. Since taking up writing myself, I’ve found new identification with Give Me One Summer and Beckoning Trails.
Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a particular style of story. Love lost and regained? Today Is Yours. Good pals turned lovers? It’s a Great World! Initial friction that yields to attraction? Hilltops Clear.
Or maybe I want a particular atmosphere. Maine? Here Comes the Sun! The Cape? Fair Tomorrow. Boston? As Long As I Live. New York? There Is Always Love.
Should the girl be rich? The Trail of Conflict Or poor? Where Beauty Dwells. Fiery? Swift Water Or sweet? The Solitary Horseman.
I can’t analyze my way to a list of best books, so instead, I came to my shelf and pulled forward all of the books that feel like favorites today. That gave me twenty books out of fifty, including four of the hybrid/ghostwritten books: For All Your Life (I’ve always liked Griffith Trent), My Dearest Love (love the muffled bells and yellow diamond sequence), A Key to Many Doors (intriguing trust/mistrust between Nancy and Peter), and Forsaking All Others (tussles of cross-purpose between actress Jennifer Hayden and her physician husband, Bradley Maxwell).
Most of my favorites are from her original thirty, and I felt pangs of disloyalty at not choosing It’s a Great World! Stars in Your Eyes, and I Hear Adventure Calling. These I mentally reassured, “This is just for now. I’m sure you’ll make the list another time.”
The next winnowing took me from twenty to fourteen, and a deeper cut left ten finalists: Here Comes the Sun! Gay Courage, Lighted Windows, Fair Tomorrow, Uncharted Seas, Hilltops Clear, With Banners, We Ride the Gale! As Long As I Live, Today Is Yours, Where Beauty Dwells, Rainbow at Dusk, and Beckoning Trails.
From there, I had to be hard-hearted, indeed. Were there any plot lines that I tended to turn past when reading? On the plus side, were there any scenes so precious that I could never leave them behind?
I got to six finalists and arbitrarily eliminated Beckoning Trails to get to a final five. I’ve already written posts about each of them (click on their titles to see), but here is what makes them my favorites:
This cheerful story truly transports me to Maine. I love the reversing falls sequence and the equal relationship between Jim and Julie. There’s more to everything than meets the eye in this story, including Aunt Martha’s prediction that another man is destined to be Julie’s husband. It’s a happy, interesting story in one of my favorite places.
“Does Mr. Jim know you’re doing that?–You shouldn’t be doing nothing so reckless. You’re a Trafford now and responsible for the next generation. You ain’t got the right to take chances of leaving him a widderer.”
Indignant color flew to the girl’s temples… “I shall take any chance I like.”
Here Comes the Sun!
“You don’t mean that she hit the matrimonial bull’s eye five times in one family?”
“I do. She did. Her successes are spread over a period of ten years. I don’t wonder that you are incredulous. Aunt Martha claims that by studying the horoscopes of her victims that she has brought the right persons together. I claim that my sisters were easy marks.”
Here Comes the Sun!
I love this book for one of my favorite Emilie Loring quotations and the scene that leads up to it:
“Strangely potent this thing we call, for want of a better name, ‘attraction,’ isn’t it?” Gay Courage
Added to that is romantic tension at its best in the sparring between Geoffrey Hilliard and Nancy Caswell, a mystery that seems believable, and a wild night in a flivver following a masked ball.
Nice predicament she had landed herself in, she scoffed mentally, as she watched the water swirl about his knees. He held out his arms as he put one foot on the shore of the island…
“Put your arms about my neck. Drop that bittersweet. I’ll come back for it.”
She clutched her treasure closer.
“Oh no, I…”
He picked her up as unceremoniously as he had the day of the storm and waded into the stream. Half way across he slipped on a mossy stone. With instinctive effort at self-preservation the girl dropped the bittersweet and caught him about the neck. Close against his shoulder she could hear the furious thumping of his heart…
She avoided his eyes as he released her. She was humiliated beyond words at the way she had clutched him when she thought he was going down. She looked at the bittersweet bobbing and floating down stream. His glance followed hers.
“You sure hate advice, don’t you?”
The plot of this one is good from beginning to end, with no false notes. I could be friends with both of the main characters, and I find myself pulling for her side romantic interest, too. (Someone needs to write a nice romance for Philip Carr.) On the strength of this book alone, I felt at home on Cape Cod the first time I visited.
“If a demure little Quaker had suddenly gone tap-dancer, I couldn’t be more surprised. I didn’t know you had it in you.” Fair Tomorrow
I’m always all-in with this one. It has humor, mystery, and romance, sometimes all at the same time. The characters seem real to me, from bushy-browed Mr. Damon to Nanny O’Day at Stone House, polished Philippe Rousseau, spirited Sandy Duval, and the unflinching, compelling Nicholas Hoyt.
Something swift and strong flashed from his eyes to hers. A thrill, made up of indignation, shame at her own flippancy, reluctant admiration of the man’s unyielding personality, tingled through her veins. Uncharted Seas
I love that there’s a ghost at the Stone House, and living amongst the horse racing set, even for just a book, is pretty fun. Oh, and Sandy’s horse is named “Happy Landing.” 🙂
“Sandra! What happened?”
“A happy landing. See it? Speed but no control.” She giggled foolishly. The laughter faded from her eyes. She bit her lips. The pain in her shoulder was grueling if she moved her left arm, but he must not know. The roan stood with low-hung head as if overcome with shame.
All of Emilie Loring’s books have both humor and thoughtfulness, but this story’s situations and dialogues have something extra. I think it’s in how she creates and then works out the initial friction between Craig and Joan, who are smart, witty, and purpose-driven. I especially like the side character, Tony Crane.
Craig Lamont shook his head and frowned at his friend.
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why I’m always getting off on the wrong foot with her. You tell me, Tony.”
Crane looked at him for a moment before he grinned and shouldered his paddle.
“Not this afternoon, I won’t. I still love life. Believe it or not, boss, you’ll feel better–or worse–as time marches on.”
That’s as far as I can take you, I’m afraid. These five are as solid as Emilie Loring ever wrote, and I say that knowing most of them nearly by heart. Sure, I love them all, but these five are special.
If you ask me tomorrow, I will claim no knowledge of this favoritism.
Happy birthday, Emilie Loring! Thank you for making this task so difficult.