One of my favorite books in my collection is Blond Trouble. I often cite it as a collection gem, as it epitomizes what I search for in a 1930s romance: a wonderful (Skrenda!) dust jacket, in great condition, and with a laughably ridiculous plot premise.
Blond Trouble starts in a hair salon with Connie Page becoming a bottle blond. The premise of “girl gets bored, bleaches hair, then finds excitement” is so stupid that I wish I had come up with it. But alas, Rob Eden thought of it first in 1933. Rob Eden is actually a joint pseudonym for Robert and Eve Burkhardt, who also occasionally wrote under the names Adam Bliss and Rex Jardin.
Connie lives with her cousin, Beth, exactly one floor beneath her cousin’s best friend, Stella Putnam, at the Irving apartments. Beth and Stella are described as sensible, boring spinsters. Connie is twenty-one years old, and is sick of being “nice” and predictable.
With her new blond hair, Connie enters her apartment to find an intruder fleeing from Stella’s apartment through her window’s fire escape. As the would-be thief is young and well dressed, Connie naturally misleads the police and helps the intruder escape.
Much to Connie’s chagrin, she faces a return to the routine following Stella Putnam’s extensive discussion of catching a thief in the act. All of that changes yet again when the head of the Ritchie Company notices Connie in the elevator. By three o’ clock Connie finds herself in Grover Ritchie’s office with a business proposition and only a day to accept or decline.
Grover Ritchie wishes to promote Connie to be his fake summer secretary but really to distract his son, Ned, away from a dancer. The salary for this task is more than double Connie’s current salary, with a “completion bonus” greater than ten months of her current salary. What’s more, the job is located at the Ritchie family seaside summer “cottage” (a.k.a. mansion), away from the sweltering city and Connie would only have the front of actual secretarial work. Tempted by an overhaul of the routine, Connie accepts Mr. Ritchie’s offer and celebrates by buying a new outfit. As she is being chauffeured in a limousine to her new job, Connie feels pretty good about her decision.
Only after she is immersed in her new job does Connie fully realize the negative consequences of her new line of work. She is obligated to carry out a fake romance with Ned Ritchie, about whom Connie feels indifferent, while re-meeting and becoming infatuated with the mysterious intruder from the beginning of the novel. Not only is her time with Ned occasionally awkward, but the dancer who Ned is now ignoring creates a massive scene in public and the servants begin to maliciously gossip about Connie. The worst part of the job is reporting her “progress” to Grover Ritchie about his son. Connie feels relieved when the scorned dancer agrees to be sent abroad for a large sum of money, as she is fake fired and can resume her normal life.
Because this is a melodramatic romance novel, Ned Ritchie does not go away when Connie leaves. Ned returns to stalk Connie, and Grover Ritchie blames Connie for this. Connie’s new routine consists of burning numerous embarrassing love letters, taking alternate routes around her neighborhood, and moving upstairs with Stella Putnam. The telegrams hound Connie day and night, culminating in Ned’s kidnapping of Connie on board his yacht. This is easily the creepiest part of the book, worthy of many a shudder.
Connie tricks her way off the boat and back into her apartment. While Ned Ritchie thinks she is changing, Connie runs up the fire escape and the novel is brought full circle when she spots Clive, the intruder from the novel’s exposition, searching the floor boards of Stella Putnam’s apartment. He has a perfectly random and convoluted reason for being there, proving he isn’t a thief. All the mysterious elements of the story are brought together hastily and Clive then whisks Connie off to her next adventure.
And speaking of the next adventure, sometime in June I hope to update the “About” page of this blog to reflect some exciting changes!
Copies of Rob Eden’s works are available for purchase here.