September 8, 2016

Rainbow After Rain by Janet Lambert (1953)

A longtime collector of Janet Lambert's books, I recently gave up the twenty-year search for the missing volumes in my collection, and ordered them via Image Cascade. It's so exciting to finally be filling in the pieces of the long and involved Parrish/Jordon family series.

Rainbow After Rain (1953 - #25) directly follows Don't Cry, Little Girl, in which Tippy Parrish's beau Ken Prescott is killed in action in Korea. Tippy spends the second half of the book trying to deal with her grief, her family's sympathy, and the still-devoted Peter Jordon, who has been in love with Tippy for years.

As Rainbow After Rain begins, we find Tippy Parrish working as an errand girl at a television studio. Her sister Penny invites her out to a swanky lunch and calls her "cherub," a term of endearment Ken had picked up as well. 

"She was suddenly lost and lonely. High above New York with its rush and noisy commotion, its crush of people all trying to go somewhere, climbing to success like a lot of pygmies scaling a ladder, she was just a small, disappointed girl with no particular ambition, staring out at a summer sky."
Penny has an exciting opportunity for Tippy--to play a part in Penny's new play. But Tippy demurs the offer. She is living at home with her parents, her beloved dog Switzy and Trudy, who, as always, has words of wisdom to share. She talks with Tippy about Peter Jordon and Tippy goes upstairs to contemplate the two pictures on her dresser of Ken and Peter. She's terribly muddled about her feelings for Peter. He was so kind to her when she was grieving, but does she feel more for him than friendship?

At work, Tippy's boss breaks her leg and Tippy needs to take over and work much harder. In the midst of the hot August a poor, overworked Tippy gets a call from Peter letting her know he's coming home on leave. Tippy is excited and brings her prettiest dress to work to meet him. A little sweet banter:
"'Oh, Peter,' she said, 'you do look as beautiful as you said you would.'
'I'm a handsome cuss. By reversing all accepted standards, I could win first prize in a beauty show.' His nice grin flashed down and he held her away to look at her. 'Boy, oh, boy, you're something to see,' he said, and hugged her so hard her little hat went off the back of her head. 'I'm the proudest guy in New York.'"
They go out for dinner and make plans to spend more time together in the coming days. As they chat, Tippy reflects: 
"Dear, companionable Peter, she thought for the hundredth time in the last few years...solid and predictable. As dependable and even running as an electric clock. She sighed a little."
Tippy notes his references to his happy bachelor life, and finds herself puzzled and a little disappointed. Meanwhile, Alice Jordon Drayton is enjoying married life to Jonathan Drayton. Loving both Tippy and Peter, and wanting to help them achieve the same kind of happiness she has, she comes up with a plan. She invites Christy (Jonathan's pretty sister) to visit as well. "'She can make a play for Peter that will knock Tip for a loop.'" Then it turns into a big house party, the first of Alice and Jon's married life.

As happy as she is in domestic life, Alice still has a bit of sassiness to her. She tells Jon about a visit she had from a census taker who asked her occupation.
"'I said, 'I'm a home executive.' I am. I think 'housewife' is inadequate. Running a home, not just a house, takes execution. And management, and a lot of brains.'"
Jon, being the enlightened husband he is, agrees completely. Peter and Tippy arrive, and soon the four are joking around as usual. Tippy loses a race, and Peter decides her forfeit is a kiss, but Tippy delays the forfeit. Christy arrives, and is pretty and charming, and Peter notices. Tippy notices Peter noticing and feels some strange pangs of jealousy.

Peter and Tippy go off on a picnic together, but with much reluctance by Tippy. She and Ken had many happy picnics together, but Peter makes her go, and keeps pushing her despite her increasingly surly attitude. She eventually blows up at him and Peter says: "'Blow another gasket, kid, it'll do you good.'" And it does, as her tantrum releases some of her tension and anxiety.

They head back to Alice's for the party, where Alice has a treasure hunt planned. Christy and Peter are paired together, and Tippy gets more pangs of jealousy. But Christy wants to return to her own beau and hangs up her part in Alice's scheme. The foursome head to the beach and another race and another forfeit takes place.
"Peter just stood and grinned. 'Forfeit delayed,' he said in such a low tone that Tippy felt a delightful quiver of anticipation. He wasn't pining for Christy!"
At the beach, Peter shares the news that he has to go to the Pentagon and decide whether he will go to the Far Eastern Command or to Turkey. He hopes that Tippy has some ideas about his decision, especially since his going to Turkey means he could get married and bring his wife, but Tippy hides her feelings.
"There wasn't really any way to figure it out, so he obeyed his longing and slide closer to her. 'I think I'll claim my forfeit now,' he said, twisting her around. 'Sit up, childie, and take your medicine.' And he pressed their lips roughly together."
There's no comment on how Tippy feels about having her lips pressed roughly against Peter's. 

Back at work, an actress is out, and the producer wants Tippy to step in, She refuses, but finds a coworker who will do the part beautifully. She quits her job, still in a muddle about her life and what she wants to do. She visits with Penny, with whom she has a heart-to-heart about Peter and Ken. Penny says;
"'You have to face things. You'll never know what life with Ken might have been. You'll never have the chance to know. It might have been very beautiful, or you might each have changed and found someone else before it came time to be married.'"
Penny reminds her that "it takes two to bring about a marriage" and Tippy heads off to do a little pursuing of Peter. She stops at Alice's and before she can prepare herself, Peter is there, and she flies off the handle again. He calms her down, declares his love, and:
"she bent over to wipe her eyes and cheeks and even her wet trembling lips on the hem of her cotton skirt. 'I look so awful,' she wept again, coming up. 'But I--I love you so much. Oh, Peter, will you marry me?'"
He said as soothingly as he could, "'Stop crying, Tippy! I'd be very happy to marry you.'"
"Her lips came up to meet his in the first real kiss he had ever given him. It was a kiss of love--tender, passionate, and clinging; and it made him know, ever more than her words had done, that her heart belonged to him now, completely and without reserve."
He gives her a "miniature" of his West Point ring, and she wants to get married immediately and return to Texas with him. But the family and Peter talk her down, thinking that she wants to marry before she changes her mind. As the book ends, Tippy puts away Ken's picture and tells Peter that she wanted to marry him immediately because she was frightened of losing him as she lost Ken. They kiss, and fade out.

This book has a really interesting plot running through it. I feel suspicious that fifties sensibilities and the return to homemaking life for women is pervading this series. Although Penny is still a successful, hardworking actress, Alice seems content to stay at home creating a home with her husband. Tippy seems easily dissuaded from working, although by all accounts, she is good at her job. Her boss, Miss Turnbull, seems to be the fifties spectre of the working woman, the spinster who is obsessed with her job because she has nothing else going on in her life.

Again, Janet Lambert's gifts are in her creations of solid, realistic relationships. The turning of a grieving Tippy to patient Peter could easily be a tenuous, unrealistic connection based on her loneliness, but Lambert works hard to create a connection between Peter and Tippy that is based on friendship and real love. It's a lovely payoff for both characters.

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