Rhoda Temple – A Heart for Santa (1945)

Review by Justin Tate

It’s February, 1945, a tumultuous month in WWII history. The USAAF drops more than 2,000 tons of bombs on Berlin. Ecuador declares war on Japan. German submarine U-989 is sunk by British warships. Among many other bombings, many other battles, new alliances, new declarations of war. It’ll all be over by the end of the year but at this moment it seems like it could go on forever.

This is the backdrop for Gay Love Stories, a love pulp magazine designed to give readers a monthly dose of fiction light on conflict and heavy on romance. Certainly A Heart for Santa fits that bill.

After returning from a stint in the South Pacific, Terry discovers that his girlfriend has taken his job as top editor for the local paper. Worse than that, she’s doing a better job than him! With a bruised ego, he lashes out. She’s devastated by his cruelty and returns his ring. It seems their love is doomed. Clearly the sexual tension is still there, though…

The reader must discover if the two will sort out their differences, or if pride will get in the way of their happily ever after. Since this is a “gay love story” there’s not much suspense around that outcome, but Temple adds a B-plot that effectively forces them to work together. This creates more flying sparks before ultimately being the catalyst that returns harmony.

It all concludes with a classic 1940’s Christmas party where Terry dresses up as Santa himself and learns to be more accommodating of a working girlfriend. Meanwhile, the girl “learns” that she’s actually not as qualified as her boyfriend and decides to not be so ambitious.

The story is obviously dated in its depictions of men, women and romance, but it’s datedness is also what makes it such a compelling read. This is the epitome of WWII romantic fiction. Not only is the war a contextual backdrop, but it deals with the very real social struggle of women entering the workforce.

We can laugh about it now, but reading stories like this provide insight into how women and men struggled differently with the changing employment landscape. It’s also a grim reminder that co-ed offices are a fairly new invention, created primarily out of necessity from the wars. Had there been more peace in the twentieth century, there’s a good chance our attitude about employment diversity would be in even worse shape than it is today. Kind of pathetic to think about, but there it is.

1945 poem about censorship of erotic wartime love letters

As an artifact of WWII fiction, A Heart for Santa is a well-written, not overly cheesy short story (or “novelette” as it’s billed) that is by all means worth reading. Its Christmas theme is forced, however, occupying only a few paragraphs near the end. This makes it less enticing to those on the hunt for obscure holiday fiction. Fortunately that gorgeous cover art is certainly cause for merriment, even if the issue came out in February instead of December.

As for Rhoda Temple, she has escaped my attempts at formulating any kind of biography. Likely the name is a pseudonym which is causing extra difficulty. We do know that she (or he) was a very prolific author, however. Here is a partial list of known publications:

  • Daredevil Lover, Gay Love Stories January 1956
  • Designing Man, Gay Love Stories July 1955
  • A Girl to Tame Tony, Gay Love Stories September 1956
  • He Wanted to Trust Her, Today’s Love Stories December 1954
  • His Kisses Weren’t Phonies, Gay Love Stories January 1960
  • Invitation to Love, Gay Love Stories May 1951
  • Lost Holiday, Today’s Love Stories October 1958
  • Love Is a Stranger, Today’s Love Stories June 1957
  • Love Town, U.S.A., Ideal Love Stories May 1956
  • The Love Web, Gay Love Stories September 1953
  • Nice Girls Don’t, Today’s Love Stories April 1959
  • The Phony Christmas Angel, Ideal Love February 1950
  • Rash Heart, Ideal Love July 1947
  • Right Side of Love, Gay Love Stories November 1950
  • Santa and the Redhead, Gay Love Stories January 1958
  • Sea Witch, Gay Love Stories September 1948
  • She Played with Fire, Ideal Love Stories September 1958
  • The Temptress, Gay Love Stories January 1955
  • This Is My Affair, Gay Love Stories September 1952

Don’t miss our latest content! SpookyBooky is on social media: