The early Betsy books tell of a picnic filled childhood, friendships, and frolics on the Big Hill. Once the books reach the high school years, we get to pretty dresses, the dances and above all else, the beaus. Right there you know this is not your typical YA because boys are called beaus. So romantic! These books take place circa 1905-1917 and the men of Deep Valley, the fictional town where the books are mostly set, are well-dressed (think: suits), well-coifed (think: shining pompadours), and well-mannered (think: they’re as likely to bring flowers to the mothers as to the daughters).
Here’s a rundown of some of the men of Deep Valley (and beyond). Don’t tell my husband, but I’m in love with one or two of them myself.
Tony Markham – The Tall Dark and Handsome one
Tony might possibly have been my first book crush. He’s good looking, funny, can sing, and is just a little bit bad (he smokes cigarettes and hops trains to the Twin Cities to watch baseball games). He’s the one your mother warned you about, but can’t help liking herself.
Joe Willard – The Elusive
Joe is gorgeous, independent and too stubborn for his own good. It’s too easy to hurt Joe’s feelings, which is why Betsy can never land him. Never say never though. The fourth high school book is called Betsy and Joe, and the blond man on the cover of Betsy’s Wedding looks awfully familiar.
Phil Brandish – The Snob
He's rich, drives a car in 1908 when many people have never even seen one, and thinks a lot of himself. But he’s polite, refined and if he could just find where he left his sense of humour, he might be all right.
Uncle Rudy & Mr. Ray – The Debonairs
When Betsy spends Christmas with her best friend Tib in Milwaukee, Tib’s Uncle Rudy steals her heart with his waxed mustaches, dancing, and tickets to the theater on a Sunday!
Mr. Ray is Betsy’s father and if you’re looking for upstanding, loyal, and someone who loves his family, look no further. Even as his circumference grows in middle age, he still cleans up nicely and is the most debonair man at the Melborn Hotel dances.
Marco Regali – The Romantic
Marco is the Italian young man who falls in love with Betsy in Venice. He calls her Bette, throws roses through her bedroom window, and takes her on ferry rides to islands where they picnic until sunset. Yeah, Marco is as good as he sounds.
Sam Hutchinson – The Loveable one
Sam is the romantic lead in Carney’s House Party, a book told from the point of view of Betsy’s friend, Caroline Sibley (Carney). He’s the jolly, loveable, nice to kids, kind of guy and while I didn’t fall in love with him myself, I can see why others might. To me, he makes the perfect friend though.
Don Walker – The Cad
Oh, don’t get me started. Emily likes him…a lot. But why? Oh, sure, she can really talk to him. But only when it suits him. And only when her beautiful cousin isn’t around. Run, Em, run! And I’m not giving anything away, as the reader can tell this from the very beginning, even if Emily can’t!
Jed Wakefield – The Forward Thinker
Jed is all for a social cause and he’s thinking about America’s future. He’s got his own thoughts and opinions, but he also takes into account Emily’s beliefs, circumstances, and desires. He’s one you can count on. In a way, he’s a young Mr. Ray.
There are many more beaus and male friends in all of these books, but these are the main ones. The nice thing I’m always reminded of when I revisit Lovelace’s books is that while Betsy and her friends are often similar to boy-crazy girls a hundred years later, there is always an underlying theme of girl-power too. The books ring with these messages: be true to yourself, study hard, go to college, be loyal to your friends, don’t compromise your beliefs, make something of yourself, be socially, spiritually, and politically aware, don’t settle, and follow your dreams. And all those messages are mixed in with pretty dresses, dances, and beaus.
Joëlle Anthony is the author of the young adult novel, Restoring Harmony, and her second book, The Right & the Real will be released in April 2012. Visit her website at
You can also find her on twitter: @joellewrites