My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wealth, romance, adventure, and one woman’s struggle with addiction. This 1909 novel is right on par with Robert W. Chambers‘ love of walking the edge of what was acceptable for society at the time and then taking one step farther with tactful grace.
Meet the Seagrave children – spoiled, wealthy, parentless twins who live under the tutelage of a governess and the indulging care of their household servants. As they age into young adulthood it becomes abundantly clear that their financial resources have been taken advantage of by their family’s closest friend and executor of the estate. Though not penniless, they are certainly down on their luck and forced to re-examine their futures. With such a crisis on their hands, little is it noticed that the sister out of the pair has a deep secret, a dark mark which taints her.
Robert W. Chambers was my first favorite author and remains in the top rankings that list still today. He wrote in an era that was publicly shrouded in conservatism, modesty, and secrecy. What happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. That’s what makes his writing so unique and stand out amongst the hundreds of other writers of his time. Every novel I have read of his has starred a heroine who was up against some unheard of dilemma – she shows cunning, strength, intelligence, femininity, and charm. In In Secret it was war and espionage, in The Danger Mark it’s addiction.
Geraldine doesn’t face just any addiction, though, she is up against a lifelong penchant for alcohol, having begun dosing herself with cologne (which had an alcohol content to some degree) when she was just a young girl in order to chase away her boredom blues. She battles her alcoholism alone, in secret, ashamed of her problem, often losing the fight. It isn’t until she meets a young man who captures her heart that she decides to conquer the beast once and for all. But in order to do so she must overcome temptation, confession, and withdrawal. Yet, she did it for herself as much as she did it for him – she wanted to be in control, to be worthy, to be clean before accepting him into her life. She needed to rid herself of the dark mark hanging heavy in her mind.
Though not as great as In Secret, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read that will have you invested in the success of the characters within pages. It’s particularly noteworthy for the sole fact that Chambers discusses such a taboo topic so openly and without apology, though he never comes out and says it directly. He knows the habits of addiction well enough to convey it to the reader rather than the write it off as some female weakness. Through Geraldine’s battle with alcoholism and her strength to overcome it I am sure Chambers touched the lives of many young people of his time in such a way that no other would have because no one else dared speak of such personal matters.
Definitely worth reading! Not able to buy it? That’s ok! It’s available on the Gutenberg Project for free!