- About the Book
- About the Author
- California Sweetheart
Lady Courths-Mahler – Vintage Love Stories
In this revival of "vintage chick-lit," there are no cell phones nor computers – but love letters that sometimes take weeks to reach their starry-eyed recipients. Suitors court their sweethearts, and gentlemen woo their ladies. Legendary German author Lady Courths-Mahler paints a portrait of magical romance, of a glimpse into the life of beautiful damsels and handsome heroes. These "fairytales for adults," from the early 1900s have been revived from the vaults and appear now for the first time in English. Their tender charm will leave your heart singing for more.
About the Book
Shortly before Dick Garring and Gladys Forester travel to Germany to hire a new architect for their firm, Gladys learns that her recently deceased father had embezzled money as a young accountant from a company in Berlin. With the stolen money, he moved to California and started a debt-free life with a new identity. The loss caused the Berlin firm financial ruin, and the owner committed suicide. On their trip, Dick and Gladys hire both Hans Dernburg as their new architect, and his sister, Rose Marie, as Gladys’s companion. Despite their class differences, Dick falls in love with Rose Marie, and Gladys is attracted to Hans at first sight. It isn’t until they are introduced that Gladys realizes that Hans is the son of the man from whom her father had embezzled so many years earlier. She is afraid to reveal this secret to him and it threatens to destroy any chance of happiness for Gladys and Hans.
About the Author
The story of Hedwig Courths Mahler's life could have come from one of her novels: a real fairytale like the story of Cinderella- but she did not marry the prince, she became a queen on her own. Born Ernestine Friederike Elisabeth Mahler on February 18, 1867 in the town of Nebra a.d. Unstrut, Hedwig Courths Mahler was the product of an out of wed-lock affair and was raised by various foster parents. She first worked as a saleswoman in Leipzig while she wrote her first seventeen novels. Between 1905 and 1939, after marrying and giving birth to two daughters, she became a highly circulated author with her Courths Mahler romance novels.
But success did not come easy to the energetic young woman who originally wrote in order to feed her family. At times she sat at her desk, writing for fourteen hours a day, turning out six to eight novels each year.
As the Nazis refused to publish her work, Hedwig Courths-Mahler stopped writing in 1939. When her daughter was arrested by the Gestapo, the author suffered such great agony, she never wrote again. On November 26, 1950 Hedwig Courths Mahler died on her farm at Lake Tegern without witnessing the Renaissance of her novels.
Lady Courths Mahler – Vintage Love Stories
By Hedwig Courths-Mahler
Translated by Lesley Schuldt
Senator Frederick Forester’s house was near Golden Gate Park and close enough to the shoreline to be able to see the blue water shimmering through the trees. It was one of the most beautiful buildings in the new San Francisco that had risen from debris and ruins after the earthquake in 1906. He didn’t move to San Francisco until after the massive earthquake, but he had become a resident of California much earlier. When he established his domicile in California years ago, he used his entire fortune to acquire land and invested in cattle breeding. He had only pursued fruit orchards as a sideline. But then he noticed that his landholdings, which he continually expanded, were eminently suitable for fruit production.
When the city of San Francisco was stricken by the earthquake in 1906, Frederick Forester was already a rich man. His keen business sense alerted him to a new opportunity to increase his wealth. He leveraged his enormous fortune to participate in the construction of the new city. A few years earlier, he had married a beautiful young German-American woman, an event that had also brought him considerable fortune. The pair had a little daughter whom they baptized Gladys. When the earthquake catastrophe struck San Francisco, Gladys was seven years old.
Forester then moved to San Francisco and liaised with a renowned architect, for whom he provided the requisite capital. His new partner, Mr. John Garring, had already made a name for himself as an architect and became the artistic head of the new company. But Frederick Forester was the soul of the business end and the true head of Garring & Co. Forester had insisted that the firm carry only the name of the architect; he preferred to remain anonymous. In any case, their business thrived under the beneficial circumstances, especially since it was the first of its kind in town. Frederick Forester was generally regarded as a great benefactor because he had used his fortune for a charitable purpose. The fact that he had made an enormous profit from this opportunity was taken for granted. Eventually, he was elected senator.
Only a very few people knew that he was German by birth. He never spoke about it, and even his own daughter didn’t learn from her mother until she was full-grown that German blood flowed in her father’s veins. A few months after Gladys discovered this, her mother died.
Gladys was sixteen years old at the time. She had loved her slight, gentle mother dearly, much more than her serious and somber father.
As a child, she had spent hours on the backs of horses while living with her parents at their hacienda. She had also worked hard at gymnastics, swimming, and rowing. Her formal schooling was almost an afterthought.
Gladys’s education would likely have remained questionable if her father hadn’t put her in the care of an exceedingly efficient and sensible governess.
This governess, a young German woman, had a great influence on this unruly but sweet-natured child. She wisely understood that she needed to allow Gladys to have her own way; in so doing, she hoped to arouse the girl’s feelings of responsibility.
"A person who wants to have an estimable character must, above all else, educate herself, dear Gladys. It wouldn’t help you very much if I tried a hundred times a day to forbid you to do what you want to do. You have to learn to judge for yourself what is good and valuable for you and what causes you harm. Only when you can recognize for yourself what is necessary for your development and growth will you do it with pleasure and without coercion."
These were the words Miss Clara Breitfeld spoke to Gladys Forester on the day she took up her position as governess. And these quiet, down-to-earth words had impressed Gladys. From the beginning, the two got along splendidly. Miss Clara succeeded in creating a lifetime post for herself in Senator Forester’s house, having gained not only Gladys’s affection but also the absolute trust of her parents. Her efficient, energetic personality proved to be a blessing for the senator’s entire household. When his wife began to suffer from poor health, Miss Clara took over the housekeeping duties without thinking twice about it, and it soon became clear that she had as firm a grip on household matters as she did on Gladys’s education.
When Gladys’s mother died, Miss Clara took full charge of the supervision of the household. Miss Clara was homely but highly intelligent; she didn’t bother the senator with unimportant matters, and she impressed the whole staff with her efficiency.
Thus the years passed without any events of great importance in the Forester house. In Europe, the world war was nearing an end. Curiously, Gladys’s father seemed scarcely interested at all in the fate of his homeland. His daughter was much more concerned with it.
One day during lunch, she said, "Papa, I don’t understand why you aren’t more shaken by the disaster that has affected your homeland."
Hearing this, her father turned his curiously stony face slowly toward her and replied, "My homeland? I am an American citizen, and California is my home."
"But you are German by birth and must still feel a bond with your compatriots. I myself have a heavy heart when I hear how bad it is in Germany, since I have German blood in my veins from both my father and mother. But I never hear you standing up for the land of your birth."
Frederick Forester stared somberly at his daughter for a while. Then he said in a harsh, loud voice, "Where I feel at home, that is my homeland. In Germany, I never felt at home – in my agonizing, joyless youth, I suffered beyond measure. I will never think kindly of that country. Never speak of it to me again!"
Her father’s grave words struck Gladys as odd. This was the first time he had ever lifted the veil that hung over his past. For the first time, she had learned that her father had had a bleak youth. This detail helped her to understand him a little, this man who had always seemed so foreign to her. The senator’s words also seemed to have a curious effect on Miss Clara, who was sitting at the table with them. Her huge blue eyes, the only feature of hers that could be regarded as beautiful, rested questioningly on his face. She had always thought that there had to be a reason for his peculiarly somber manner. Now she told herself, "There must have been something in his past that has cast a shadow over his entire life."
The senator met Miss Clara’s questioning gaze and his cheeks reddened. "At any rate, my new country has given me much more than the old one, which is why I am so grateful to it. I truly feel like an American citizen."
Clara Breitfeld nodded. "You’re right about that! I, too, am grateful to my new homeland for all of the joy it has given me. But we German women still have a dash of sentiment in our blood; we can’t leave old memories behind as easily as men can. Your wife, for example, who was born in California but had German parents – she, too, had this feeling of sentimentality. Even Miss Gladys, who is a true American and who looks at life through fresh, happy eyes, feels something in her heart as soon as talk turns to the situation in Germany."
"That’s certainly true, Miss Clara," interjected Gladys. "As much as I love living in San Francisco, however many good and beautiful things I have here – deep in my heart, there is still a quiet yearning that I can’t put into words, a yearning for the German homeland of my parents and grandparents. I would really love to satisfy this yearning just once; I’d like to get to know Germany at least a little. Would you like to travel with me to Germany, Papa?"
Senator Forester shook his head vehemently. "Inconceivable! Germany was a dark country for me, even when it still shone in its old glory. Now, in its debasement, I have even less of a wish to see it again. But if you want to travel there someday, I’m sure Miss Clara would be happy to accompany you."
"Oh, Senator, I would be more than happy to," the governess said cheerfully.
The senator nodded. "Well! As soon as order has been restored, dear Gladys, you can prepare for a trip with Miss Clara. Incidentally, perhaps you’ll have a male escort. Dick Garring mentioned just yesterday that he intends to take a trip to Europe, primarily to Germany, to have a look around and to conclude various business affairs. He’s only waiting for conditions to quiet down; you could travel together very easily."
"Dick has never said a word to me about wanting to travel to Germany."
"He only recently made the decision."
"Well, I’ll raise the subject today when we see each other. We’re meeting around five o’clock to go sailing. So I definitely have your permission to travel to Germany?"
"How long will I be allowed to stay?"
"Well, let’s say three months. In that time, you can see not only Germany but also some interesting parts of Europe."
With that, Senator Forester got up and left the dining room in order to go out onto the terrace to smoke a cigar under the awning and take a short nap, as was his custom. No one was allowed to disturb him.
Gladys and Clara Breitfeld likewise stood up. They looked at each other with sparkling eyes. "Are you looking forward to the trip, Miss Clara?" asked Gladys.
Miss Clara took a deep breath, her eyes resting on the slender girlish figure dressed in white. "Am I looking forward to it, Miss Gladys? It’s as though I have received a magnificent gift."
"Are you ever homesick, Miss Clara?"
The older woman looked down at Gladys. "Oh, yes. In the beginning, it was a deep wound in my heart; if I hadn’t found your family, I probably wouldn’t have stayed in California."
"So I have detained you, dear Miss Clara?" asked Gladys, smiling.
Miss Clara looked at the young woman with serious eyes. "Of course you have, Miss Gladys. You have become near and dear to me – like my own child."
Gladys took her hand and looked at her lovingly. "Dear, good Miss Clara. You have devoted yourself with so much care to raising me as a decent person. If something ever becomes of me, I owe it all to you. I was no more than a wild filly when you came to us. Mama was always passive, much too gentle and weak to be able to tame a child like me. And Papa? Do you know, I have always had the feeling that Papa was happy to see my tomboyish wildness and rather unwilling to curb it. I think he would have preferred it if I had been a boy. He didn’t really know where to start with a girl. It’s only been in the last few years that I have won his respect and approval."
Miss Clara nodded, smiling. "He was very impressed that you went to Mr. Garring and demanded to work at the firm, as though it were a natural thing for a young woman to do."
Gladys laughed. "Well, I simply went to Uncle Garring on my eighteenth birthday and said to him, ‘Dear Uncle, when your son Dick was eighteen, he was allowed to join Garring & Co. and to work as much as he wanted. What goes for Dick should go for me, too. I don’t have any desire to lead a useless life, and I have a spare six hours every day that I want to fill with serious work. Please, give me work!’"
"That was fantastic, as Mr. Garring has affirmed," said Miss Clara, laughing. "And since you didn’t want your first big success to take place under your father’s supervision, you chose to move into Mr. Dick’s office. At first, I didn’t think much would come of it. I thought it would be impossible for you to work seriously in Mr. Dick’s presence."
"Dick and I are very serious at work. I am driven by a desire to complete the tasks that are assigned to me to the satisfaction of both of my bosses at Garring & Co., just as though I were a real employee. And I can say without conceit that I faithfully perform my duties. Since I began to garner praise from all sides as an efficient correspondent, Papa has shown me a certain respect. At first, he regarded my efforts with quiet mockery, but that soon changed. Now I am routinely called when there are important business meetings. Dick tells me every day that I’m a smart businessman. But Papa just nods at me as though he would like to say: She’s my daughter and therefore must naturally be a marvelously efficient young woman. And sometimes he speaks very seriously about business with me. I’m very proud of that."
Gladys got up. "And now I’ll take my leave, Miss Clara; I want to write out the invitations for our ball. It’s on Thursday of next week, so I’ll have to send off the invitations today. Otherwise we’ll only get regrets." Nodding pleasantly to her governess, Gladys left the room.
A young man in sailing clothes was standing under Gladys’s window and calling up to her. He had ...