I really HATE bait-and-switch romance novels

I’ve already confessed to having a weakness for romance novels.  My problem with this shameful weakness is that there was only one Georgette Heyer. Everything else is second best, with most books being more secondary than others.

Because of my fondness for Heyer’s wit and delicacy, I prefer true romances — the literary dance that takes two charming individuals right up to the kiss — as opposed to bodice rippers, many of which are just rather boring soft-core porn.  I thought that I had found one of those true romances the other day, but I’ve been terribly disappointed, not only because the romance part was ultimately a failure, but because it was a stealth Progressive book.

The book that so disappointed me — and that leads me to a riff about good romances and about non-political romances — is Kissing Adrien. The book’s premise is a good one:  Claire, an extremely buttoned-down American woman goes to Paris to help wrap-up a distant, and deceased, relative’s affairs.  While there, a young man — the Adrien of the title — whom she’s known and loved since childhood, takes her under his wing.

The novel’s correct trajectory would have been for Adrien to have viewed Claire simply as a childhood friend but then to fall in love with her as his joie de vivre and sophistication help her become happy with herself and with life.  The novelist, however, chose to have Adrien’s love date back to Claire’s childhood, which is an impossible premise.  As written, Adrien is charm personified, and Claire, who seems “likeable enough” when the book begins, proves to be a repressed, unhappy, rigid lump.  Adrien’s love is not believable, destroying the book’s central premise.

I can forgive a bad plot.  Finding a romance novel built around a person growing and changing, rather than a person ripping her clothes off in the first chapter, is pleasant enough for me to stick with the book.  What I can’t forgive is that, three-quarters of the way through the book, after Adrien has taught Claire about the pleasure of fine wine, good food, relaxation, and beautiful clothes, Adrien also teaches Claire (a self-professed Republican) that capitalism is cruel and evil, and that socialism is the most civilized, humanist way to go.  Claire is overwhelmed by the force of his argument, and from then goes on happily to embrace the notion that Communism is consistent with Christianity, because the original Christians were probably communists.  (Never mind that they voluntarily embraced a communal life, rather than having it thrust upon them by a totalitarian state.)

There is no greater turn-off in an ostensible romance than suddenly having someone’s political views thrust in ones face.  Talk about romanaticus interruptus.

The only good thing in all this is that, having gotten the book as a free Kindle download, I’m not feeling cheated.  Ultimately, it proved to be worth precisely what I paid for it — namely, nothing.

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  • http://themellowjihadi.com/ Mellow Jihadi

    I had the exact same reaction to this novel! (I want a refund. . .)

  • shirleyelizabeth

    Being stuck pregnant inside in an AZ already-summer, I’ve picked up a few extra TV shows. One is Revenge. This girl is supposedly in love with this guy, who is also supposedly in love with her, though they have not seen each other since they were nine. Also, she has returned under a different name. Most absurd part of the plot (and there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on).


    Adrien has taught Claire about the pleasure of fine wine, good food, relaxation, and beautiful clothes….

    ….capitalism is cruel and evil.

    In my Rocky Balboa voice: YO, Adrien- you’re full of it!

  • Mike Devx

    Yes, Book, you definitely got suckered into a bait and switch!

    On the other hand, I heard that Hillary Rosen, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotemayor absolutely *loved* the book! They got together every night for three weeks, and read chapters out loud to each other while sipping Cosmopolitans.  There were lots of understanding sighs, heads nodding in agreement, and murmurs of “Truth”.  Sonia at one point even said, “Word!”, but the other two looked at her strangely, not understanding, and she didn’t repeat that one.  When they got to the “capitalism is evil” part, the murmurs escalated into shouts and lots of energetic fist-pumping.

    I hear that in the sequel, Claire and Adrien are appointed co-ambassadors and go to the U.N.  One day they get to vote for four, maybe five resolutions condemning Israel, and that got them so hot that they snuck out of the U.N. while it was still in session, took a taxi to a Jewish cemetery where they passionately kissed while spraying graffiti and tipping over headstones, then ran back to their hotel room for a night of frenzied lovemaking.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    ” (Never mind that they voluntarily embraced a communal life, rather than having it thrust upon them by a totalitarian state.)”

    They also voluntarily agreed to end communism because people were starving and colonies like Jamestown  disappeared off the map because of it.

     Japanese visual novels often have several love stories and interests in them. The childhood friend is a particularly popular venue, since many Japanese don’t move, but live in the same community, rural or urban, for their entire lives. Even if the parents “move” somewhere else for work, often times the “kids” stay at home and as soon as they start high school, they can live by themselves. It’s the Japanese way of fostering “independence”. Whereas in America, kids don’t go live by themselves until college…

     I think their take on childhood friends and love interests are really good. G Senjou No Maou is a good example. I can’t even describe it.

  • http://callanprimer.com kali

    Siri Mitchell? I just read her book Love’s Pursuit which pulled a similar bait-and-switch. In this one, which by all the description–blurb and cover–was a romance set in Puritan New England, turned Gothic (in the old literary sense) about halfway through.

    Two strikes, Ms. Mitchell. You obviously don’t understand how to keep faith with your readers.

    Book, do you read science fiction or fantasy?

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Mellow Jihadi:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — you have a charmingly puckish sense of humor.

    shirleyelizabeth:  Pregnant in a hot climate?  Wow!  I’m such a wuss about the heat.  Anything that keeps you happy is good, although it’s hard to stay happy with a plot that requires too much suspension of disbelief.

    Sadie:  Wonderful you for catching the disconnect between those life pleasures made possible thanks to individual initiative.  I don’t think those pleasures exist(ed) for any but the high party officials in East Germany, the USSR, Cuba, North Korea, etc.

    Mike:  I wish you’d warned me before I started reading your comment.  I was lovingly sipping my tea when I read it, with the end result being that I had to clean off both the screen and the keyboard when I laughed so hard I sprayed said tea all over my desk.

    Ymarsakar:  I assume you read that in England, schools are contemplating outlawing friendships.  (More accurately, if I remember correctly, they’re going to prohibit “best friends”.)

    Kali:  I occasionally read science fiction or fantasy.  I read them a lot in high school and college and then, somehow, just lost interest.  What I really dislike is the whole vampire/werewolf genre that’s so popular now.  A romance with a nocturnal creature that wants to to do to our heroine what Obama does to puppies just doesn’t work for me. 

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Book: No, I haven’t read up on that just yet.

     The state is your friend, best friend, and only friend. You don’t need anything else. If you have someone calling themselves your friend, we’ll take care of it for you.

    That’s statism and totalitarianism philosophy for you. Total Control means… Total Control, in case people thought otherwise.

     “A romance with a nocturnal creature that wants to to do to our heroine what Obama does to puppies just doesn’t work for me. ”

    you should read Monster Hunter International then. It’s a notable answer to the whole Twilight thing. http://www.amazon.com/Monster-Hunter-International-Larry-Correia/dp/1439132852

    I am relatively pleased by America’s spontaneous reaction to Obama and eating puppies. No Republican has of yet called it a “personal attack” that “we’re too good for” and that we shouldn’t “demonize Obama”. That I know of. No Republican that hadn’t voted for Obama in 2008, at least.

     In Japan, social bonds are formed very strongly. Because Japan is often about hierarchy, loyalty, and obedience, many people find value and happiness in having a social circle where they can drop the formality and do all the things they are not allowed to do in the presence of their bosses. Americans are like that too, but we’re always informal, thus we do not often see the value as much as others who live in a monolithic or state controlled environment.

     An idea I got from Japanese deliquent culture is to host a tournament where the best fighters of a school are paired with the best students at academic tests. This alliance will essentially destroy any rebels or bullies, simply by brute force or intel. The best fighter is declared by having everyone fight in a free for all and whoever is left standing is the best of the school.