A Career Romance For Young Moderns: A Special Kind of Love

"Social Worker Helen Wilder's philosophy was simple: some decisions are made with the head, some with the heart. But what happens when the heart is divided?" Find out in this career romance for young moderns!

This is a strange one, kids: Norma Newcomb's A Special Kind of Love from 1964 gives us one of the least appealing heroines in the genre, whose "special kind of love" seems to be contempt for everyone.

The Heroine: Helen Wilder is a social worker who is - how do we put this delicately? - a bitch. Or, as the book would have it,

It took persistence and determination to find jobs for her handicapped clients, and sometimes social worker Helen Wilder stepped on a few toes in the process. Usually she was forgiven because, for one thing, she was a very pretty brunette.

With due respect for the difficulties a woman in a man's world faced, there is no logical explanation for why Helen is so consistently abusive to her secretary, colleagues, clients and suitors.

Why, for instance, does she mock her assistant's love of opera? "To needle earnest little Polly, Helen said contemptuously, 'Well, opera's a wretched art form, anyway.'" She frequently describes her clients as "useless" and "worthless human beings" - all part of her plan: "After all, the outside world isn't gentle with the handicapped, and they must be trained to cope with an unkind world. The sooner the training is begun, the better it is for the patient."

The Profession: Helen works for a hospital rehabilitating disabled clients with her charming brand of abuse. We are frequently told of her "commitment," "kindness" and how much everyone adores her, but only see her playing weird mind games with people and trying to break their spirits.

The Hero:Helen is pursued by Stan Antonelli, a "slick young lawyer" whom the establishment distrusts. Not surprisingly, Helen treats him poorly, but he is devoted to her.

The Wrinkle:
Another suitor of Helen's, the wealthy industrialist Harold Hiktrow, says he'll take all his funding out of the social work program unless Helen marries him. Meanwhile, a former client of Helen's, Mrs. Gray, has been accused of theft at her job, putting the agency's reputation on the line. While dealing with these problems, Helen has to find work for Rory O'Shea, a handsome lout whose career as a gigolo has been ended by a car accident ("lamentably opportunistic and amoral, and quite stupid to boot," as Helen describes him); the bratty heiress who can't deal with Rory's handicap ("I suspect you're the selfish type"); and a suicidal opera singer who needs to find confidence in herself.

The Resolution:Helen shames Harold into coming to his senses, Mrs. Gray is exonerated by a colleague Helen bullies into confessing, Rory is forced to become a watchmaker against his will, rich Virginia Haskins becomes Helen's assistant, Virginia's parents sponsor the singer's career, and Helen and Stan get married. As she says to the spoiled Ginny in summation, "They're cases, Ginny. That's how it must be. We can't become emotionally involved in every case we have. That's the road to insanity." Maybe...but couldn't she be a little nicer about it?