Friday, July 23, 2010

That Book

I'm reading That Book Which Must Not Be Named.  You know, the one by She Who Must Be Obeyed Worshiped.   (And if you don't know which book I'm talking about, consider that your absolute defense against reprisals: "Hey, it wasn't me, I didn't even know what Magdalen was talking about.  Honest, guv.")

I was actually excited to start reading That Book.  She Who Must Be Worshiped (hereafter, "Shehoo") ramps up the yummy factor from page 1.  Pick your favorite edible indulgence: dessert, high-fat snacks, whatever; it's a good proxy for the num-nums Shehoo provides.  You know it's bad for you, but you can't resist.

Then the regret sets in.  You start to notice the little things: infelicitous word choices, implausible characterization, improbable plot devices, etc.  But it's still yummy, right?  You eat some more.  Eventually you get a tummy-ache, and you start to curse the soulless businessmen who published That Book solely because it will make them a lot of money.  How dare they!  Why didn't anyone hold Shehoo's feet to the fire and force her to clean up some of her trans fat-laden prose?

Oh, we've all been there.  Even if you're maintaining your plausible deniability by insisting you don't know which book I'm writing about, there's a book in your head that fits this description.

Well, here's a fun trick to try next time you're fighting indigestion reading That Book or one of its ilk.  Imagine the protagonists as teenagers.

I did this with That Book, and it instantly made a lot more sense.  Our heroine isn't really a mature woman with actual issues to worry about -- she's 16.  Her attitudes toward the hero aren't grown up in any way, they're roughly on the level of "Ooh, do you think he likes me?  Wait -- he just smiled at you!  I'm jealous!!"  And our hero isn't a jaded sophisticate with Secrets of His Own.  No, he's 19 -- old enough to be sulky or curt with his well-meaning friends, and brimming over with unregulated desire while lacking any real direction in his life.  He admires her youthful curves, but knows he shouldn't go there (so to speak); she thinks he's sex-on-a-stick, but knows she shouldn't go there.  They sigh a lot.  They "go there," but then feel real bad about it.  They sigh some more.  They exchange longing glances.  There's something approximating a conflict, although neither one of them drinks poison or gets stabbed (more's the pity), and then there's something resembling an HEA.

I can't tell you how much happier I've been since I saw this about That Book's characters.  It makes me despise Shehoo even more -- why couldn't she have written Twi-Even-Lighter (i.e., a book whose characters are supposed to be acting like teenage twits) and spared us this drivel masquerading as a romance novel? -- but at least it provides a context for her writing.  It's Grease without the singing or talent.  It's the new version of Beverly Hills 90210.  It's adolescence.

It explains so much. 

But I'm still feeling queasy.


  1. OMG!! I read that book too!

    Truthfully, you have a good point. Shave 10 years off their ages and it all starts to make sense.

  2. Oh noes~!! That description fits entirely too many books I have started reading and then thrown against the wall. If only I had realized your trick of making the hero/heroine into angsty teenagers!!!!
    Thank goodness that the romance books I have finished this year featured actual grown-ups!

    So I AM sorta curious as to which book prompted this rant--should you ever want to do a big reveal--

  3. Thanks, Lori, for seeing what I meant.

    And, alas, no, bafriva -- there will be no big reveal. I don't really want hordes of Shehoo's angry fans coming after me.

    But thanks to Moriah Jovan, who guessed on Twitter but was wrong, I can reveal that I am not referring to Judith Ivory. Not sure if her books aren't better with this handy tip (the "90210 Rule of Romance Novels" -- try thinking of the protagonists of an annoying romance as adolescents), but That Book I'm reading is not one of hers.

  4. You may have picked up on a new trend: h/h's who exhibit behaviour more suitable for a young 'un who can't legally drink yet! Check out the review of the new Susan Mallery on AAR -- think it has "Perfect" in title: the reviewer said the 30-something hero had traits that were adolescent to the max. Hmmm! Janet W.


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