|Aug 23 2021
In Hatter's novel Hawaii is blue in more ways than one.
Amos Hatter, aka Ben West, aka James Lampp, originally published Island Girl as Island Ecstasy in 1952. Most copies of Island Girl are from a couple of years later, but somehow ours is also from 1952. The art, which is identical for both titles, is uncredited but very nice. The novel is about a Hawaiian beauty named Consuela Marlin, Connie for short, who takes a liking to a WASPish researcher named Jay Carter, and determines to win him over by any means necessary. Surprisingly for a 1952 novel, that leads to Connie bedding him—repeatedly.
Jay's a haole in Hawaiian lingo, a non-islander, which makes the romance a culture clash. It's also a clash of substance—Connie's relatable in every way, while Jay's goodhearted, but infuriatingly laissez-faire in his romantic attitudes. A complication soon arises in the form of a one percenter who lands on Oahu and decides he wants and is entitled to Connie. Forced kisses, stalkerish schemes, gaslighting, and browbeating are his tools, but this being a mid-century book, Hatter doesn't write him as a particularly bad guy, so much as a determined rival. What are the results of this shitty behavior? He gets what he wants—repeatedly.
These vintage sex dramas are strange as hell sometimes, but you know that going in, so you roll with it. Hatter's depiction of Consuela as independent yet submissive is dubious, but is in no way a surprise in a genre built around the supposed easy availability of women. We're just glad we didn't live during the era when men who were violent toward women were considered to be “a little forward” or “within their rights.” All that said, Island Girl is well written and worth a read, if for no other reason than the generational and sociological differences of the era it highlights.