The Schemers: A Tale of Modern Life
by Edward F. Harkins (b. 1872)
We don't have this author yet. I haven't been able to find a death date.
A found a review of the book in the July 1903 issue of "The Reader"
To make a careful study of any one phase of life, and to portray that phase clearly and sympathetically to one's readers is a worthy undertaking, even if the phase chosen does not, at first, seem particularly large or attractive. Mr. Harkins has made a careful study of shop girls and shop life, and in "The Schemers" he has admirably given results of his study, and, what is more, he has made the rather simple story in which his girls figure, decidedly interesting as well as amusing. If you stop to think of it, this is a rather rare combination--realism and amusement and interest in one book.
The scene of the story is a large and fashionable Boston store (the particular store described is perfectly evident to those who know Boston), and the characters are the girls who scheme to marry the Harvard students who shop there, and, of course, the students themselves. There is the society girl, also, as a contrast. Though the plot of the story is secondary to the picture of shop life and character study, it is well carried out, and the reader soon becomes really interested.
But it is as a novel of manners that "The Schemers" makes its claim, as a picture of a side of life almost untouched in American fiction. The best thing in the book is the portrayal of the gradual growth and development of the character of Lillie Fox. She enters the store very young, and is surprised and shocked at the "doings" of her mates, their schemes to "catch the students," and their various petty wrongdoings. Here, be it said, Mr. Harkins makes his girls, for the most part, a decent lot so far as the major, in distinction from the minor, morals go. At first Lillie is shocked at the least familiarity, but she gradually gets over this and begins to accept invitations like the rest. But an unpleasant experience, after one of the Harvard games, shows her the dangers, and from then on she develops, even in the sordid atmosphere of shop and a vulgar home, a truly womanly character, and deserves the happiness that comes to her. The other girls are less agreeable, but equally well sketched. Mr. Harkins is not so happy with his men, they are hardly more than dummies, except Fred Pinkney, the chief male character, and he is too overdrawn, too much of a cad to be life-like.
There are a lot of bright and clever touches throughout the book, and many capital descriptions of things and people. One of the cleverest is the interview between Lillie and a notorious fortuneteller and "mystic." This is admirably done, for it is absolutely true to life, and it is exceedingly funny also. The opening speech at the graduation, too, is a little gem in its way. Take it for all in all, Mr. Harkins is decidedly to be congratulated on this, his first novel, and we can honestly recommend the reading of it to those who like amusing books that are not what is known as "hard reading." To all women who shop and are inconsiderate in their shopping we recommend the book for various reasons.