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The Romance of a Christmas Card

The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The story of the mission of two Christmas cards written by a minister’s wife. These cards find their way to two straying sheep from the village fold, who hear through the message in the words, and the little scenes on the cards, the compelling voice of home. There was inspiration and good cheer in the cards, and from them came, in one case reformation, in the other romance.

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The Wanderer – Volume 4

The Wanderer - Volume 4 by Fanny Burney

The Wanderer – Volume 4 by Fanny Burney

This is the fourth and final novel by Fanny Burney, the author of Evelina, Cecilia, and Camilla. “Who is “Miss Ellis?” Why did she board a ship from France to England at the beginning of the French revolution? Anyway, the loss of her purse made this strange “wanderer” dependent upon the charity of some good people and, of course, bad ones. But she always comforts herself by reminding herself that it’s better than “what might have been…” This is not only a mystery, not at all. It’s also a romance

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North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Set in Victorian England, North and South is the story of Margaret Hale, a young woman whose life is turned upside down when her family relocates to northern England. As an outsider from the agricultural south, Margaret is initially shocked by the aggressive northerners of the dirty, smoky industrial town of Milton. But as she adapts to her new home, she defies social conventions with her ready sympathy and defense of the working poor. Her passionate advocacy leads her to repeatedly clash with charismatic mill owner John Thornton over his treatment of his workers. While Margaret denies her growing attraction to him, Thornton agonizes over his foolish passion for her, in spite of their heated disagreements. As tensions mount between them, a violent unionization strike explodes in Milton, leaving everyone to deal with the aftermath in the town and in their personal lives.

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Gawayne and the Green Knight

Gawayne and the Green Knight by Carlton Miner Lewis

Gawayne and the Green Knight by Carlton Miner Lewis

Charlton Miner Lewis’ version of Gawayne and the Green Knight, a late 14th century alliterative romance, is written in modern language telling the story of the Green Knight’s challenge to Gawayne, and the romance between Sir Gawayne and Lady Elfinhart. The name Gawayne is often also spelled Gawain.

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A Pair of Blue Eyes

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

The book describes the love triangle between a young woman, Elfride Swancourt, and her two suitors from very different backgrounds. Stephen Smith is a socially inferior but ambitious young man who adores her and with whom she shares a country background. Henry Knight is the respectable, established, older man who represents London society.

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Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Doctor Thorne is the third of Trollope’s Barsetshire novels, and unlike some of the others, has little to do with the politics and personalities of the Church of England, or politics on the national level (though there is lots of politicking in the mythical county of Barsetshire itself). The plot revolves around the illegitimate Mary Thorne, who has been lovingly raised by her uncle, a country doctor, and who, as she comes of age, finds herself wondering whether she is a lady (in the county sense of the term). Frank Gresham, son of the squire of Greshamsbury, is in love with her (much against the wishes of his noble de Courcy relatives at the Castle), but she dismisses his affection at first as mere puppy love, thereby setting the scene for a series of entanglements, social, romantic, and of course, financial and propertied (never far from the action in Trollope’s works). Their resolution, of course, makes up the meat of the novel. One critic has remarked that in Doctor Thorne Trollope succeeds in one of the most difficult tasks an author of fiction can face: how to make genuinely good people genuinely interesting, so that they engage not only the sympathies but also the interest of readers.

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The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems

The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer (two of them in prose, the rest in verse). The tales, some of which are originals and others not, are contained inside a frame tale and told by a group of pilgrims on their way from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

The themes of the tales vary, and include topics such as courtly love, treachery, and avarice. The genres also vary, and include romance, Breton lai, sermon, beast fable, and fabliau. The characters, introduced in the General Prologue of the book, tell tales of great cultural relevance.

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Diary of a U-Boat Commander

Diary of a U-Boat Commander by Sir Stephen King-Hall

Diary of a U-Boat Commander by Sir Stephen King-Hall

Captain Karl von Schenk of the Kaiser’s Navy is a stereotypical German nobleman – supremely self-confident, touchy about the divisions of class and any infringement on his place. He thinks he is handsome, has a suitably manly physique, an excellent singing voice, and a facility with writing. His wartime service related in his diary is a series of triumphs over harrowing circumstances, bringing his boat back in spite of the best efforts of the Royal Navy to stop him.

His one vulnerability is a young lady he meets on leave in Bruges, Belgium. Although she is the trophy girlfriend of a German colonel who could cause him much harm if he were to find out, von Schenk pursues his Zoe with Teutonic straightforwardness. And both he and the reader are entirely blind-sided by the unexpected thunderclap that puts an end to the sweet affair.

Stephen King-Hall, a Royal Navy officer during the war and writing as “Etienne”, penned this book as if he had simply discovered it on a surrendered submarine. In fact, some editions of the book list the author as “anonymous.” King-Hall’s knowledge of naval affairs lend authority to this yarn of men that go to the sea in ships that sink… on purpose.

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Miss Mackenzie

Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope

Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope

The thirty-five year-old (hence utterly over-the-hill) Miss Margaret Mackenzie, having devoted her life to others, suddenly finds herself with no one to care for, and in possession of a moderate fortune. Having money, she is now much sought-after and no longer universally deemed too old to marry. Partly because she has spent her life taking care of the brother whose money she has now inherited, she has no experience of wealth or popularity. Miss Mackenzie is the definition of “other-oriented. These circumstances are the perfect set-up for classic Trollopian swipes and snipes at various fortune-hunters and other obsequies, and more broadly at society’s sexism, classism, and Mammonism. She comes into her own and begins to try to enjoy life, at first juggling, but ultimately rejecting, three serious suitors. As the story unfolds, the particulars of her deceased brother’s life and death reveal themselves, Miss Mackenzie becomes increasingly able to know who she is and what she wants, and both she and the reader are better able to discern the true colors of those around her. The question is: Will her self-knowledge overcome both her personal history and various social prejudices, so as to allow her to fall in love with – and say “yes” to – a really good man?

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Carmilla

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla is a Gothic novel by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu. It tells the story of a young woman’s susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla. Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by over twenty years, had a strong influence on Stoker’s famous novel.

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