Timeless Tour: Bachelor Girl by Kim van Alkemade

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Bachelor Girl is one of the four books being read for Simon & Schuster’s Timeless Tour. Inspired by true events, it is a fictionalization of the story of Jacob Ruppert, the millionaire owner of the New York Yankees, and his mysterious bequest in 1939 to an unknown actress, Helen Winthrope Weyant. Knowing it was based on a true story certainly held appeal. The start, with the reading of Ruppert’s will in 1939 and the ripples of sensation it caused when Helen Winthrope is named primary beneficiary of his great fortune was really strong, so my interest continued. After the reading of the will, the story moves back in time to 1918.

The characters were very well developed and were a joy to read about, and I was especially enjoying the character of Albert, the personal assistant to Jacob Ruppert. However, as the story progressed, I noticed there was more focus on Albert than on the titled “bachelor girl”, Helen.  I have some thoughts to work through about my overall feelings about this book, and I apologize if they aren’t very succinct below:

1.) Albert is employed as Ruppert’s personal assistant, and is homosexual – but in a time when this must remain firmly hidden. I really enjoyed Albert a great deal, however, there were many distractions that began to grow to great irritation for me with his chapters in the book. Albert is often referred to as, or refers to himself and some of his friends as a “pansy”. This is often repeated and it began to feel like having a hammer dropped over your head every time it was used. (I received the paperback ARC for The Bachelor Girl, but I left it at home so decided to download the ebook.) Since I was now reading on my ereader I used its handy search tool, and was able to search and find just exactly how many times the word pansy was used. 25 times. There were times when “pansies” was also used, but I didn’t search for those instances, only for the word, “pansy”.  It also bothered me some to consistently hear Albert express there was “no one like him” on one hand, yet seemingly fell constantly into bed with men just like him, on the other, which also included several sexually explicit scenes. Everywhere Albert went, he was mentioned as being “afflicted with” being a pansy.

2.) Therefore it began to feel as though this story focused more on Albert, and therefore meant there wasn’t enough time spent on Helen and Ruppert. The title of the book is Bachelor Girl and I think that becomes lost in translation, or is perhaps not the appropriate title for the book ?  A bachelor girl is defined as a young unmarried woman, especially if she is a self-supporting woman. Helen Winthrope proclaims to be one such bachelor girl and is quite proud of it. However, that doesn’t seem to have been the crux of the story, mostly there is plenty on Albert and his hidden sexuality, and/or keeping his sexuality and relationships secret. And, as this is based on the true story of Ruppert and Winthrope, I expected more development of their relationship, or more meat to it. The ending may reveal more of the reasons why Jacob left the bulk of his wealth to Helen, but it doesn’t come about until the very end and there isn’t the development in the story in the in between. There was more progression of the relationship between Albert and Helen. There was also limited establishment of Ruppert’s own story. We’re not really drawn into his life very much, and what is done is mainly seen through Albert’s point of view. I would have enjoyed the imagining of his personal life, why he never married, what was his past life was like, the interactions with his family (and why he left the majority of his wealth to Helen) – we really only read of his business dealings, or mainly about his ownership of the Yankees and his acquisition of Babe Ruth.

Bachelor Girl does ends very well – it is poignant and bittersweet, even if it may have perhaps took too long to get to that end. There were many parts too often repeated throughout and there remains a bit of a mystery about Jacob Ruppert’s intentions, etc. Yet, for Albert and Helen, it was a good, if bittersweet ending, I think I do like how it ended. 😉

I’ve had van Alkemade’s debut, Orphan Number Eight on my TBR since it was first out, I enjoyed her character development and story for Bachelor Girl where I know I will be reading Orphan Number Eight soon!