ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE is a reprinting of two stories from the late pulp era. One of them is very good, and the other… isn’t.
Both stories are very much of the time, for better or worse. Multiple characters consider their same-sex attractions and tendencies to be some sort of psychosis, while stereotypical dykes and closeted femmes wander in and out of the Village scene exclusively for hook-ups. The leads bemoan their inability to have children while hating themselves for their romantic interests as the author takes great care to describe the size and texture of everyone’s breasts. Trust me: you already know whether you’d like this type of book.
Paula Christian’s lesbians are unmarried and divorced career women with an emphasis on the emotional toil of relationships. They earn their happy endings, often by trying to incorporate a level of monogamy in their relationships despite the prevalence of the hook-up culture surrounding them. Christian’s women are fascinating in their own historical context: at the time of the story’s original publishing, the FDA had only approved the birth control pill a year earlier, THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE wouldn’t be published for another two, and Stonewall wouldn’t happen for almost a decade. The women grew up in the mist of the post-War golden age amongst loving families as society itself became more progressive in relation to education and career opportunities. They are smart, capable, and otherwise completely normal—and the stories, more importantly, treat them as such.
The titular short story, “Another Kind of Love,” tickles the allure of lesbian relationships in old Hollywood, where movie moguls held the press in an iron fist while their star machines ate aspiring actors and actresses alive. The story itself follows Laura, an editor of a fan magazine, and how she falls in love with the girlfriend of one of Hollywood most glamorous superstars of the era. Does she sacrifice her happiness and her morals to be with the woman of her dreams, or does she stay with her love struck (and soon-to-be divorced) boss? The premise might be cliché, but the presentation of Laura’s “coming out” is both nuanced and sympathetic, even when expressing the attitudes of an outdated era.
Many of the concerns Laura expresses feel authentic, and it’s the sort of story I would have loved to have read when I started coming to terms with my own identity. While it may not have the best answers to some of the issues that it discusses—it’s over fifty years old, after all—seeing the validation of seemingly unspoken questions is refreshing. It’s not just about liking women; it’s about establishing the lines between sex, love, and friendship on a completely different playing field.
The second story, “Love is Where You Find It,” takes literally everything applaudable about the first story and douses it with a good dose of old-fashioned cynicism. After years of living with an abusive but gorgeous girlfriend, a photographer named Dee finally calls it quits after finding her lover cheating on her. A new woman practically serenades her way into Dee’s life, while one of her younger co-workers seems determined to find her way into Dee’s secret life. Unlike the first story, Dee is an embittered veteran of the New York lesbian scene, and spends most of her time hiding her orientation from her business partners. While the story itself isn’t terrible, and it contains some of my favorite post-sex scene banter, Dee’s attitude is awful. She does everything in her power to turn one of her lovers straight, insults nearly everyone around her, and quietly endures rampant homophobia without complaint. Her actions are believable given the time period she lived in, but it doesn’t make her compelling in consequence. I often found myself wishing we were following her love interests instead.
Even with its flaws, both stories are enjoyable reads in women loving women genre. A good pulp ages like fine wine: a touch acidic with undertones of sugar and spice. ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE hits the mark where it counts, and that’s more than enough for me.