THIS being October, you are doubtless gearing up for the holiday season. You bought lots of decorative jingle-jangle during Christmas in July. Now it’s time for Overkill in October, that deluded month in which you vow that this year, your gifts will all be deeply personal.
Have I got a scheme for you! Once again, the random folks who pepper me with press releases have come up with the greatest idea known to mankind, and that is this: Custom-made romance novels. Simply send the names of yourself and your paramour to www.ustarnovels.com, along with a few salient facts, such as nicknames and physical attributes, and choose whether you want a subtler romance or something “steamy.” For the low, low price of $39.95, they’ll send you a 160-180 page book that you can present to your beloved.
But what if you and your squeeze aren’t the most interesting couple, and the salient facts include your shared devotion to butterscotch pudding cups and re-runs of That Seventies Show? Luckily, U Star has a way around that. It’s called “plot.”
“… you might find yourself undercover on a secret mission in Barcelona, being chased by diamond smugglers in the exotic French Rivera (sic) or discovering a hidden tomb in Naples,” promises the website -- thank God. It adds, “in our latest title, Amsterdam Lessons, a chance meeting with a mysterious and glamorous couple take (sic) our leading couple into an intoxicating world where their only pursuit is pleasure, and the fulfillment of sexual desire becomes impossible to resist.”
Do I smell a swingers’ night with the couple who run your favorite drycleaners, who’ve somehow wound up in Amsterdam as well?
By the way, if you are so pitiful that you can’t even get a date of your own in a U Star novel, you can always steal somebody else’s. Feel free to make your squeeze Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, or even Donny Osmond if the spirit takes you. There are same-sex versions of these books, too. Picture you and Rush Limbaugh. Or not.
This is obviously an excellent idea -- I figure I’ll eliminate the middle man and write the thing solo. For a steep fee -- say, $10,000 -- I’ll even write one especially for you.
It just so happens that I have romance author cred. I once won a Harlequin-sponsored media contest that netted me a shiny Krugerrand gold coin.
The first soul-tingling chapter told the tale of a red-haired dance critic who gets in a car crash on the way home from writing her review of the ballet Cinderella. She discovers that the limousine that rear-ended her bears the handsome Russian ballet dancer who just played Cinderella’s Prince. (FYI: This was before Glasnost.) As they wait for a tow on the icy roadside, the prince lends her his furry mittens. She hands them back, but as the limo peels away with him inside, she sees he has left one mitten behind in the snow.
What can I say? It’s a gift.
Anyhoo, don’t tell my husband Stanley -- now that I have the concept, his Christmas present is basically in the bag. But where shall I set our passionate romance? Shall I borrow a title from U Star and call it Spanish Sizzle, or Indecent in Italy? Never having been to either of those places, I’m not sure I’d suspend his disbelief. I think Lascivious in Langley is more our speed.
But I will model Lascivious in Langley on Indecent in Italy in one regard. I see on the U Star website’s “Lovin-o-Meter” that the sexual content of Indecent in Italy is minimal. (“We’ll leave more to your imagination, but you can expect descriptive heavy petting.”) I’ll even leave out the petting, shifting the emphasis to leering. Occasionally my protagonists will go too far with a wink. (Incidentally, if I selected the highest possible level of “erotic romance,” apparently I’d have to conjure up scenes featuring threesomes -- which I’m not sure is fair to our mailman.)
All right. I’m ready to get started, and I consider writing romances to be a spectator sport. So bear with me as I begin typing. I’m just going to crib some inspiration from U Star’s Spanish Sizzle. Here’s the original: “Within the majestic towers of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, a secret has lain buried for over seventy years. The key to unlock its treasures had long been thought lost but when a single blueprint is uncovered, MI6 sends out its top agents … to rescue the document from the greedy hands of a billionaire industrialist … trouble is, they are lovers and neither of them knows the other is a secret agent. Will they uncover each other’s dark secret? … Only the magical city of Barcelona holds the answers.”
Okay now, let’s put this in terms Stanley and I can relate to.
“Within the majestic fruit stands of Langley, the tubs of treasure give off a heady scent that can mean only one thing -- chutney-making season. The key is to unlock the ideal mix of sweet and tart fruit that will intoxicate the palate. But when one apple rolls onto the ground and between the running shoes of a hickory-scented stranger, passionate pickler Kate takes her life in her hands. ‘Do you think this is one Gala too many for a chutney that will also include raisins and tomatoes?’ the sexy brunette (shut up, it’s my book) asks the chrome-domed hunk (ditto) hovering above her.
‘What are you, an idiot?’ the stranger replies, glaring at her arrogantly. ‘Put in as many Galas as you want!’ He kicks the orb aside and strides to the cashier, his arms straining from the weight of a sackful of onions and six cobs of corn.
Stung, Kate sits back on her heels, cleavage secretly heaving. Behind her, two billionaire industrialists gossip as they lustily fondle some pears. ‘That’s Stanley, the barbecue cook,’ one whispers to the other. ‘Never eats fruit, and rarely vegetables.’
‘Sad,’ says her friend. ‘But mysterious. Do you think he’s single?’ ‘He said on the radio that he prefers pork butt to women,’ the first woman replies. ‘He said pork butt has just the right amount of fat these days, but women are too lean for his taste.’ Kate, annoyed, rises to her feet. She knows a challenge when she hears one.”
I say this is the best present ever, the start of a new tradition. Next year: Coquettish in Comox.