A year in the making, Peggy’s guest post takes us on a tour of all fifty of the Emilie Loring books. Strap in for the fun ride ahead!
A Year’s Goal
In June 2018, I was delighted to find Patti Bender’s website devoted to the works and life of author Emilie Loring after years of searching for more information about my favorite author. I read several posts and commented on most of them, at least one time each! I became inspired. I picked up my treasured Emilie Loring book collection and began reading for the first time in years.
I began to read my favorites—The Solitary Horseman, The Trail of Conflict, Gay Courage, and Keepers of the Faith. I developed the idea of seeing how long it would take me to read all of them. How many could I read in a year? I started to space out the more memorable books and read those that didn’t seem as familiar. I also interspersed reading of the mostly ghostwritten books, which I’ve dubbed the “ghosties.” The many differences in quality and plot denouement soon became apparent.
I set a goal to read all 50 novels in Mrs. Loring’s name within a year. I set June 15, 2019, as my deadline. I created a spreadsheet to track the books I had read this year. In the spreadsheet, I listed the heroine and hero of each book, the setting, plot notations, and situation between the two leading characters. I invested in tape and glue to repair deteriorating covers and binding. I analyzed the differences between the original 30 and the 20 ghosties. My studies and observations of original Loring novels and the “ghosties” have been recorded in several spreadsheets and Word documents on my laptop. I completed my mission by reading Love with Honor on May 3, 2019.
Highlights and Moments
It was a pleasure to become re-acquainted with heroines such as Diane Vernon (Where Beauty Dwells) and Joan Crofton (As Long as I Live) whose stories had escaped me these many years. I’m happy to report that I like Page Wilburn (In Times Like These) better today. I’m afraid that Sherry Winthrop was not up to snuff in my book, and Stanley Holbrook seemed too remote (The Shining Years). Regretfully, I state that Randi Scott and Cary Hamilton (Love with Honor) fell woefully below the standard set by Emilie Loring for her lead characters.
This past year, I gasped as Tony Hamilton surprised an escaping Rose Grahame on the balcony (The Solitary Horseman). I laughed at the Turkin twins as they made pies of the “best buttons” (A Certain Crossroad). I wept for spiritually adrift Faith Randolph, who lost her conflicted mother in a great flood (Swift Water).
I recalled the breath-taking moment Geoffrey Hilliard dared to kiss Nancy Caswell’s throat and the comedy of their midnight ride to Nogi’s Diner (Gay Courage). I chuckled at the indecisive elevator passengers, Joan Crofton (For All Your Life) and Myles Jaffrey (I Hear Adventure Calling), and the overheard conversations (With Banners!, I Hear Adventure Calling). I recall the shock of the dead snake in Love Came Laughing By. I felt the anxiety as the Terrible Twins walked the banister in Today is Yours.
Emilie Loring’s leading ladies and heroes became acquainted over time and often overcame distrust through much banter (eg, I Hear Adventure Calling, Keepers of the Faith, Beckoning Trails, Uncharted Seas) while tracking spies, smugglers or thieves. In contrast, many of the heroes and heroines in the ghosties declared themselves in love with little foundation. Leslie Blake’s father (A Candle in Her Heart), should have had some words of wisdom when she told him she loved the stranger Donald Shaw to whom she had barely spoken.
I’m afraid I became annoyed with mousy helpless heiresses in the ghosties, like Jill Bellamy (Follow Your Heart), Julie Bryce (No Time for Love) and Julie Ames (The Shadow of Suspicion. These women were a contrast to the competent, adventurous and often flippant women like Judith Holliday (A Certain Crossroad), Nancy Barton (Keepers of the Faith), Jess Ramsay (Rainbow at Dusk) and Pat Carey (Bright Skies).
One cannot forget the grandes dames such as Madam Steele (There is Always Love) and Molly B, the mystery writer created in Emilie Loring’s image (Beckoning Trails). Regrettably, the “older set” in their 40s and 50s were indeed old, though dignified. Perhaps we could emulate that dignity without the ancient and graying images of Claire Graham (The Solitary Horseman) and Angela Corey (High of Heart), among others.
Best of the “Ghosties”
Among the ghosties, I truly enjoyed A Key to Many Doors, I Take This Man, Forsaking All Others, and How Can the Heart Forget. These ghostwritten books most effectively emulated Mrs. Loring’s character development and plot denouement. With This Ring also seemed to read much like an original Loring novel. These books included much interaction between the heroines and heroes, allowing them to get to know each other and arrive at love over time. Further, the heroines were not on the sidelines of adventure. While the storyline and characters in ghostwritten Behind the Cloud were fascinating, the compact time frame in which the novel unfolded was not credible.
Many marriages were impulsive, secret, or arranged between our heroes and heroines (eg, Trail of Conflict, Here Comes the Sun, Lighted Windows, Stars in Your Eyes, Bright Skies, It’s a Great World, Behind the Cloud, and Forsaking All Others). In Emilie’s first novel, we have a young couple agreeing to marry without love for the sake of their families (The Trail of Conflict). What a premise that was for much excitement out West! And that theme of self-sacrifice continued through Forsaking All Others, one of the last novels written in Mrs. Loring’s name. Only two marriages were entered into publicly and intentionally for love, but something—or someone—came between them, and, in the midst of danger to the family business, the marriages became profoundly real (Today is Yours and I Take This Man).
Accomplished Heroes & Heroines
Heroes in 6 books were engineers or lawyers with interests in South America (Fair Tomorrow, Hilltops Clear, Where Beauty Dwells, It’s a Great World, Love Came Laughing By, and How Can the Heart Forget). Many were elected to or running for political office. Rose Graham was the only heroine to run for political office; she won her race for selectwoman (The Solitary Horseman).
Pat Carey was the only heroine to see the horrors of war for herself (Bright Skies). Kit Marlowe (Beyond the Sound of Guns) felt shame because family obligations kept her from volunteering in the theater of war. Kit and other heroines, however, volunteered and worked on the homefront with great dedication and love of country. Redhead Nancy Barton, whose hair color was despised by Major William Jerrold, was another dedicated wartime volunteer (Keepers of the Faith).
Many heroines were efficient secretaries (Gail Trevor, When Hearts Are Light Again; Debby Randall, Beckoning Trails; Nancy Barton, Keepers of the Faith). Brooke Reybourne (With Banners!) and Gabrielle Romney (Today is Yours) were models. Jennifer Haydon (Forsaking All Others) was an actress. Nancy Caswell had a gardening business (Gay Courage). Leslie Blake (A Candle In Her Heart) and Elinor Parks (Throw Wide the Door) were artistic. Prudence Schuyler, ostensibly a logger, made jewels on the side (Hilltops Clear), as did Patricia Langston (What Then Is Love). For many unclear and disappointing reasons, the preponderance of heroines in the ghosties was generally not as industrious or accomplished.
New England and the Northeastern quadrant of the United States were the dominant location of Emilie Loring’s novels. She wrote about what she knew, as the best authors do. Two novels took place on ranches in the West (The Trail of Conflict and Beyond the Sound of Guns). Two took place in Alaska before it was a state (Lighted Windows and Behind the Cloud), and one took place in the Hawaii territory in the immediate aftermath of World War II (Bright Skies). Three novels are set in the nation’s capital (Love Came Laughing By, Keepers of the Faith, and It’s a Great World).
Two ghosties began in California only to move to the Northeast (In Times Like These and With this Ring). One ghostie started in the east and moved to California (Forsaking All Others). One Loring novel was set in the south (Rainbow at Dusk) and is linked with When Hearts are Light Again as the two heroines, Gail Trevor and Jess Ramsey, were “inseparables” in college. Stars in Your Eyes (Mexico) and High of Heart (Britain) are the only novels which took place outside the U.S.
Social Commentary and History
This past year was a journey in 20th century American history as well. Mrs. Loring wrote novels from the early 1920s up until her death in 1950. Emilie Loring’s novels reflected a spunky, adventurous spirit of 20th century America. We can infer some social commentary in her novels just as many literary experts find in Jane Austen novels.
Emilie Loring’s leading ladies, and often men, were typically non-drinkers. This was especially important during the Prohibition Era. To drink was to enable and fund crime. The ladies certainly did not smoke, but were as modern and stylish as any other girl. Mrs. Loring did not criticize others for partaking.
Emilie Loring lamented the increase in frivolous divorces and the attitude that “I can do what I want,” popular among the “fashionable” set in the 1920s. Soliloquies on marriage and its challenges were de riguer in Mrs. Loring’s novels. Those views held throughout her writing until her last fully-written novel, To Love and To Honor. For All Your Life, begun before her death, was completed by the ghostwriters, who honored Mrs. Loring’s views.
Through Emilie Loring’s eyes, we experienced the roaring 20s and the aftermath of World War I. In the 1930s, we experienced the Depression and hard economic times, as well as Latin American instability as the Second World War loomed on the horizon. We read about Americans preparing for that global war by going to training camps, keeping the homefront stable and functional, and later anxiously awaiting the return of loved ones. We also saw the GIs get back to their lives and move ahead after the war. Many heroes experienced the horrors of the various wars. Victory over fascism did not erase those memories, though it made the cost necessary and worthwhile.
The ghostwriters picked up with the Korean War and the cold war battle against communist influences over American society, government and business through the Vietnam era. The ghostwriters also touched on the increasing drug problem and the hippie movement in the late 1960s (In Times Like These). Emilie Loring’s novels covered about 50 years of American history, including the most pivotal events of the past 100 years.
A Word About the “Ghosties”
Mrs. Loring’s original canon of books consistently depicted courageous and adventurous characters. Her ghostwriters, however, in too many cases depicted a society in which women became less intelligent, submissive and weak. The leading characters were often bitter as well. Mrs. Loring’s readers would have expected to read about courageous and adventurous men and women despite any social changes in the post-war world. The wealthy were no longer depicted as gracious benefactors. Often, they were cast as arrogant, condescending or downright unkind. Apparently, the noblesse oblige of the wealthy class and the dignity of ladies and gentlemen were going out of style. They were replaced by a new egalitarianism—it seems important that some heroes drove shabby cars.
Perhaps we can be grateful that no further novels were written in the wake of the huge social changes of the 1960s-70s. Yet, the ghostwriters, for all their faults, respected Mrs. Loring’s themes of patriotism, honorable military service, free enterprise, marital stability, spiritual inspiration, and overall clean living.
It’s a Great World!
Emilie Loring’s legacy lives on in those 50 novels and other works she produced. I am grateful to have experienced her world and messages about the important things in life. I can’t say that I know a great deal about Mrs. Loring personally, but I know her books and, thanks to Patti Bender’s research, I am learning more and more about the woman behind these enduring novels which forever changed my life.
– Peggy in Illinois