“Lacy night gown”
“Romeo and Juliet”
These are some of the answers I solicited from various family members and friends in response to the question, “What comes to mind when you think of a romantic paperback novel?” My own first impressions include the words “cheesy” and “Fabio.” As you can see, some of the reactions are slightly more seasoned than others (note my nine year-old brother’s answer at the bottom), but the general stigma is fairly consistent. These books are mass produced and tell the same generic tales of heated passion, just with different names and settings. Although they’re wildly popular, I had never picked one up myself, and I was perplexed by the popularity of these stereotypically cookie-cutter novels… thus, the seeds of number ninety-six were sown.
The search for the perfect piece of romantic literature began when a friend of mine, Alec, surprised me by taking us to a used bookstore in town. He had remembered my pursuits of a book with a cover graced by the face of the famous model, Fabio, and so our quest began. However, we quickly realized that would be nearly impossible when combing through an inventory containing well over a thousand cheap, weathered narratives of lust. Instead, we chose one with the cheesiest title we could find: “The Greatest Lover In All England.” You can’t make this stuff up, folks. Plus, the stallion on the cover bore a striking resemblance to Fabio, double win.
I was a bit apprehensive at first, knowing that I would be subjecting myself to 390 pages of sappy, poorly-written, and potentially erotic material. The book sat in my queue of things to read for quite a while before I finally received just the motivation I needed to not merely dip my toes in, but dive in head first. My visiting grandmother saw the piece of work on my nightstand and inquired as to why I was reading a Christina Dodd novel. I slightly cringed at the question, knowing I was in the dog house for sure, and gave a sheepish, half-muttered reply. Her response floored me. “Well, how did you know you were related to her?” What!? Out of the (literally) thousands of books I had to choose from, I just happened to select a book written by my grandpa’s cousin’s wife, Christina Dodd. I was left speechless and more enthralled to read a book than I have been in years. In fact, I was so thrilled that I decided to take on the whole thing in a 9-hour sitting, complemented by brownies and the pitter-patter of rain… don’t judge.
The verdict? It was about everything I expected: a written soap opera, not limited to gossip, tainted bloodlines, transvestites, and most importantly, the throes of passion. Curiously, nobody died, which was a bit of a morbid letdown. The writing was only so-so, littered with frivolous vocabulary, but I suppose there are only so many ways to describe the same details. For example, take the following passage. “But when his verdict came, it was no eloquent soliloquy, but a breathlessly simple, ‘You’re as fine as a new-minted fivepence piece,'” is how she describes the main hunk saying, “You’s a dime.” I think I’ve had my fill for now. Number ninety-six: Check.
Love & Summer,