Back in undergrad, one of my favorite local events was the Tompkins County Friends of the Library Book Sale. It’s held twice yearly in a massive warehouse, and there is usually a line to get in. This past spring was not my first book sale by far, but it was the first in which I had a defined collecting scope.
Upon arrival, I split from my friend Aidan and beelined over to the romance section, possibly the least busy aisle of the entire sale. Once there, I went to the hardcover area and started looking for anything with a dust jacket that was over fifty years old, and then narrowed it down from there until I had selected four books. All four books were fun, cheap 1940s reprints of books by relatively well-known authors. One of them was Rehearsal for Love by Faith Baldwin. On the way back from the book sale Aidan and I stopped for mediocre Chinese food. My fortune cookie said something like “a heavy burden will soon be lifted from you” and then Aidan carried all my books back for me.
Faith Baldwin wrote over one hundred books, and Rehearsal for Love falls somewhere close to the middle of her writing career. Possibly as a result of this, there are no silly names and even the clichés are very ho-hum. Rehearsal for Love was first published in 1939 in Liberty Magazine, published as a novel in 1940, and reprinted by Triangle Books in 1946. My copy is the 1946 printing, and was given to “Sister Rose” from “Sister Pearl.” I have no idea if the “Sister” means they were related or if they were nuns. Either way, Sister Rose or some other previous owner liked to press flowers, which I tried my best to keep in place.
As for the story itself, it’s about Kathleen Roberts being pursued by two men: Pat Bell, who runs a very successful construction company, and Paul McClure, a playwright. At the novel’s start Kathleen is a fiercely independent girl who lives with her parents and works for her father. We know she is independent because we are told this. Anyway, her parents travel abroad for the year so Kathleen moves in with Hannah, her frenemy, and starts working for Pat Bell.
Both Pat and Paul show an interest in Kathleen. Paul is Hannah’s ex, has written one great play followed by several mediocre ones, and tells Kathleen at one point that she looks like “a delightful head of lettuce.” Pat, on the other hand, is exhilarating, runs his own business, offers Kathleen a job she enjoys, and has better theater tickets than Paul. Kathleen loves Pat, and they are soon engaged. Hannah is delighted about all of this and tells Paul of Kathleen’s engagement in an attempt to try to win him back.
As soon as the engagement starts, the novel turns. Suddenly Pat has poor taste in interior design and wants Kathleen to immediately quit her job. Even the flowers he sends smell bad. Kathleen becomes disillusioned with Pat when she discovers his business ethics stink worse than the flowers and breaks her engagement with him. Pat’s rebound girl becomes the butt of Kathleen and Hannah’s jokes when she wears unseasonable an bolero and attends a theatre premier wearing last year’s hair style. Kathleen meanwhile gets a new job and continues to ignore Paul McClure while Hannah keeps scheming to get him back. Paul McClure lurks in the background, until he helps in a time of need and finally writes another decent play. Hannah reads this play and doesn’t like it, and therefore decides to quit trying to get Paul back.
Because grey areas are not allowed in this sort of novel, Faith Baldwin sets out to destroy Patrick Bell’s life. She writes him “as crooked as a corkscrew” and assassinates his character more than is called for. And then there was the novel’s ending. That’s right, Pat is suddenly killed off in the last pages of the book. A storm appears to give the novel its morbid ending.
Oh, and in the last paragraph or two Kathleen decides she loves Paul. If there is a happy ending in all this, the novel ends before it happens.
Copies of Faith Baldwin’s works are available for purchase here.