Desire by Gladys Johnson. Macrae-Smith (1929), 368 pp.
The title suggests that Gladys Johnson was aiming for something a bit edgy in this novel, but by operating within the romance genre she’s given herself little room to maneuver. The story focuses on two San Francisco women in their mid-twenties. They’ve left their families behind and are trying to succeed on their own. One is Yvonne Page, a model willing to do pretty much anything to land a rich husband. The other is Janice West, an aspiring artist who makes her living painting lamp shades. Janice is not as good-looking as Yvonne, and certainly not as forthcoming, but she’s the one whom men find compelling. Andy Cotrell, a well-off law student who lives in the same apartment building, has been fruitlessly in love with Janice for six years. His pal Don Chanselor, soon to be heir to a family fortune, is smitten at first meeting. And Ronald Teal, a wealthy collector of art objects and women, is enamored as well. How does Janice rack up all these wealthy unrequited lovers? Apparently virtue and unresponsiveness are enough to do the trick. All three hang around until the end of the story, though readers will figure out the true soul mate in the first few pages. Needless to add, the straightforward Yvonne, who has a chance to get together with all these fellows, fails miserably to achieve success with any of them. As unconvincing as the story may seem today, it was successful enough in its own day to warrant a hard-cover reprint soon after its initial publication.