Desert Isle Keeper
My Lady's Choosing
If you were a fan of the old AAR Purple Prose Parody contests, with their send-ups of genre tropes and in-jokes, then have I got a book for you. My Lady’s Choosing is a mature-audience’s romance version of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories of ‘80s childhoods, and I highly recommend it for the romance megafan who’s read everything. In fact, the more you’ve read, the more you’ll enjoy this book.
Obviously, I can’t give you a plot summary, because there are too many plots to summarize. Instead, this is the premise: you are the twenty-eight-year-old companion to a cranky dowager, and your life is about to change. Will you thaw the chilly heart of a supercilious aristocrat? Rescue orphans with a rugged Highlander? Become the governess to a brooding man with dark secrets? Travel to Egypt to seek the buried temples, and once there, fall in love with a French mercenary, an Egyptian museum curator – or Lady Evangeline, the woman who brought you to Egypt? (Yes, there’s an F/F option!) Some plot trees lead to spy thrillers, pirate adventures, and even paranormals. Whatever you love most in our genre, you’ll find it here.
The prose in this book is delightful. While it pokes fun at the conventions and clichés of romance writing, the authors’ genuine writing talent, sense of humor, and sincere affection for the genre always shine through. St. Giles is full of thieves, murderers, murderous thieves, and at least eight different people exclaiming “Lawks!” You can live at Manberley, fall for a man named Fabien de Mangepoussey, and be scolded by the authors if you attempt to run away from the dowager and make your own way in London (“you will be utterly doomed and dead from syphilis within a year. Sorry. This may be a choosable-path adventure, but as a penniless young unmarried woman at the start of the nineteenth century, your options are somewhat limited.”). The sex scenes are deliberately purple in a winking way. I lost track of puns involving cabers and obelisks. One hero leaves the heroine’s “ample bosom laced with a brocade of his ecstasy”, which would definitely have inspired close textual analysis at my middle school sleepovers.
My criticism of the book is that with so many romance options in the page count of a standard novel, no one storyline can developed in-depth. As storylines separate and then come back together, you have to be able to join, for instance, Lord Craven’s plot as if you never came 80% of the way to marrying Captain MacTaggart. Since romances are, at their core, about the love stories, I can’t help dinging the grade for this. Also, while no ending is a downer, there are a few non-relationship endings – although more in a ‘if this book was part of a series, you’d have a great time in the sequel’ kind of way, which is, itself, true to the spirit of romance publishing.
I wish grown-ups had slumber parties, because I cannot imagine a better way to stay up too late than with some fellow romance fans and this book. But even reading by yourself, it’s a real hoot, and I can honestly say you’ll want to read it again and again. What’s more of a Desert Isle Keeper than that?