Sunday, August 12, 2007

If I Were a Middle-Aged Woman Looking for Romance...

a romantic investigation:

If I were a middle-aged woman, what would I read? Would I follow the plucky heroines of Janet Evanovich mysteries? Would I bow to the wisdom of Oprah's Book Club? Or would I try something a bit more funky, or dare I say, sexual?

Norah Hess' Raven makes me question that old maxim "never judge a book by its cover," because I get the feeling that this book demands to be judged. You want let's-get-sweaty-in-the-grass passion? it seems to ask, then dive into these perfume-scented pages and enjoy, brother.

So here's my challenge: I want to get inside the heads of the women who buy these novels. I work at a used bookstore, and tomes by Hess and writers like her sell consistently well. These books are regular reading for millions of women, so it wouldn't be fair of me to tease Raven strictly on the basis of its cover art.

I need to read the book, or at least a chapter of it. Now.

So turn down the lights, throw the dog outside, and join me for a journey into a world with "lust stabbing out of bold, hungry eyes," the world of Raven.

Fade In...

Page One

Meet Raven: dark hair: green eyes, and world-class gozangas. It's the first page of the book and we're off and running with two mentions of "breasts" and one mention of "nipples." No time wasted in getting down to business.

I'm thinking about the thirtysomething black lady who bought this book the other day. She read the first page with its "breasts" and "nipples" and she kept going. Godspeed.

Page Fourteen

No nipples on page fourteen. Raven's dad died from an Indian arrow and her grandpa was struck down by a lightning bolt. When's this story take place? Are we in the wild west imagined by Back to the Future III? Are we in the backwaters of Idaho in 1997?

"Take all you can from life, Raven. If you don't, it will take from you."

Page Eighteen

"The name is Chance, Chance McGruder," says our hero in Stetsons, introducing himself to Raven. Chance is to seduce her in exchange for money, since Raven is desperate to relieve her dead husband's gambling debts. Oh!

With help from the backcover, Norah Hess' vision begins to crystallize. Chance? Gambling? Her love will be a game of "chance"? Ante up, indeed!

Page Twenty-Two

"Pink-tipped mound...tongue swirling...mouth drawing...slow sucking...tongue darting...core of her femininity." I tried to chop these phrases at the right places before they became too graphic, but you get the idea. Is this the page when the typical Hess reader starts fanning her face and tugging the folds of her blouse? Or does she read these passages in a waiting room, as if the "core of her femininity" is inside an AARP Magazine? These things I wonder.

Page Twenty-Four

"Hold on, honey, while I take you to heaven."

Page Twenty-Five

"Let yourself go, honey. Hang on to me and together we will climb that mountain."

Revelation: Guys named Chance can pull off climbing-mountain euphemisms when getting freaky.

Fade out...

I failed. I didn't really get into the heads of the women who read these books, for my own head kept getting in the way. But I still learned a few things, like sometimes, you not only can judge a book by its cover, you should. And different books are for different people. Period. There's nothing groundbreaking in that statement, but it does reflect today's YouTubed and Tivoed society. Because we're offered so many choices, Norah Hess' Raven can enjoy a steady shelf life in used bookstores without even touching certain segments of the population. I suppose it's a good thing this book has an audience, though I still feel that "pink-tipped mound" describes a Baskin Robbins flavor better than it describes a boob.

So I bid good-bye to Raven and good-bye to Chance McGruder. Maybe I didn't give you guys a fair shake, but at least you still got each other. Enjoy climbing those mountains, and good luck getting to heaven.



Anonymous said...

Doesn't look to me like Hess would be the type that knows very much about "climbing mountains". BUT...maybe she was a "fox" when she was much, much younger. I have judged an author by her picture and perhaps that is totally unfair of me.

Thanks for not making me wait until Sunday afternoon for my "fix", Alex.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If you liked climbing mountains you should really give varna a chance. She intrically weaves lust with love in a poetic styling all her own! A++!!!!

Acree said...

I used to work at a bookstore, too, and wives would often drop a few of these on the counter and give me a self-conscious, apologetic smile while their husbands handed over the cash. Do you think the husband sees these novels as cuckolding him... or is the purchase really an investment? You know, like, for later... I think you see where I'm going with this.

YiQi C. said...

Does your store carry prose that would be categorized as "erotica" and not "romance" necessarily?

For instance, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty books by Anne Rice's pseudonym. Or, the "Darkyn" series of vampire erotica/action/thriller by Lynn Viehl.

Regardless of the actual quality of the writing, that kind of stuff should attract a slightly different demographic.

Alex Pollack said...

I don't know how kosher it is to post comments on one's own blog, but I figure this romance-novel debate needs to be furthered so as to benefit future readers/lovers of pink-tipped mounds.

Acree, most of the women who buy these books are coming in solo, so I suspect that maybe their hubbies aren't "communicating" in the same way they used to..if you know what I mean and I think you do.

And Stina, we don't have an erotica section. We lump Anne Rice into horror. But you're right, erotica might bring in some interesting clientele...

And Jan, the search for Norah Hess-as-a-young-foxy-woman pictures is on.

cutiepiespacepop said...

hahaha, choke, ahhhahahaha

very funny...i bookmarked your blog and now have NO IDEA how it was i found it in the first place...anyway, hilarious!

and damn, you don't really think the ladies die off at 60ish-something do you?