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  • Writer's pictureHabranthus

The Office Wife

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Faith Baldwin


Murray Hill Books, Inc

278 pages that aren't worth the trouble.


An out-dated, cliqué-filled romantic novel.


Anne works as the private secretary to the owner of a successful advertising agency. She is ambitious and dedicated, shunning marriage and determined to rise to the top of her profession. Much to her exasperation and distress she is snared into the same trap as many who have come before her – falling in love with the boss. Mr. Fellowes, her boss, falls in love with her, too, but being married, refuses to acknowledge it.

Surrounding much drama, Anne leaves and takes another job, and Mr. Fellowes’ wife divorces him. Eventually they straighten out all the confusion and misunderstanding and get engaged; Anne agrees to give up her career.


In the modern era, this novel just won’t do, except perhaps as a reminiscent slice of 1920’s America. Certainly, it isn’t fair to judge a book one hundred years out of context, but I think the core criticism would have held in its time as well.

The book starts with a strong forward by the author heralding the new era of women’s independence and opportunities in business, and drawing analogies between the secretary and the wife, hence the title. But the story itself falls to every cliché and convenience, and by the end it’s just another cheap, sappy, romantic novella.

Our heroine begins as a modern woman – ambitious and determined. She loves her job and is excited about the future of her career. Well, guess what? She falls in love with her boss, decides to marry, and gives up her career. She never had a chance because The Boss is the ideal man: hardworking, successful, clever and honest in business, fair and kind to his employees, and, by all means, good-looking. Unfortunately for our love-sick heroine he is already married, but, sadly, his is only a rather polite and unpassionate marriage. This obstacle is ever so conveniently taken care of by the wife asking for a divorce because she has fallen in love with someone else. Also conveniently, they have no children together. We are now in the genre of ‘fantasy’.

Don’t misunderstand me. Choosing the life of a homemaker over a professional career is valid, and many of us still do it with great satisfaction. But the greater issue in our modern age is the balancing of the career and the domestic life. The message in this novel is clear: you cannot have both.

The Subplot

Anne’s sister is another young lady on the cusp of modern womanhood. She is also strong-willed and determined, and has her mind set on joining the theater. Her parents are appalled at the thought of their daughter taking to this lowly profession.

Predictably, the young girl falls in with a crowd of questionable morals and living standards, and inevitably gets herself involved with a man of dubious intentions. Who else to come to the rescue but The Boss of our lovelorn secretary? With his cleverness and power, he sends the bad man running out of town, saving the sister from dishonor and certain doom. Another version of 'damsel in distress'.

To the Author's Credit

The author does acknowledge that the boss/secretary affair - that dastardly trap that her heroine fights against - is a worn cliché. She reasons that a good secretary working among successful and powerful men will unconsciously set her standards for a mate higher than her own working class. Perhaps there is some truth in that. The author concludes then, for that reason, the secretary often falls for her boss.

To the Author's Discredit

It doesn't make sense why she begins her book heralding the modern era of independence and opportunities for women, and then shuts down the two most ambitious women in the story. (Maybe her dastardly Publisher Man shut her down?) I expect it reflects the reality of young women of the day, longing for independence under the expectation to marry and have children. Most of the time, duty and instinct would win out.

Best Line

(He) cursed himself silently and heartily for sixteen different kinds of a damn fool.

Honorable Mention

What you don't know would fill books. (along the lines of 'gossip')

Why doesn’t she bring her rattle to rehearsals? (She is so young and naïve)

Nice Descriptions

Femininely angry - (? not sure what she meant)

Not quite truthfully

Loose conversation - (at the party of the theater people, of course)

Cosmetic beauty - (an aging actress)

Spirits of ammonia- what you are given to drink if you are crying too much or have fainted

The pages have become very brittle and break easily.

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