Having way too much fun with My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris

Thank you, Quirk Books, for providing me with a review copy!

You are the plucky but penniless heroine in the center of eighteenth-century society, courtship season has begun, and your future is at hand. Will you flip forward fetchingly to find love with the bantering baronet Sir Benedict Granville? Or turn the page to true love with the hardworking, horse-loving highlander Captain Angus McTaggart? Or perhaps race through the chapters chasing a good (and arousing) man gone mad, bad, and scandalous to know, Lord Garraway Craven? Or read on recklessly and take to the Continent as the “traveling companion” of the spirited and adventuresome Lady Evangeline? Or yet some other intriguing fate? Make choices, turn pages, and discover all the daring delights of the multiple (and intertwining!) storylines. And in every path you pick, beguiling illustrations bring all the lust and love to life.

Oh my.

If you’re like me, you have fond memories of all those choose-your-own-adventure books in the kids’ section of the library. But why should kids have all the fun?

My Lady’s Choosing spiffs up the concept with an astonishingly funny romance book for adult readers, full of suspenseful decisions, perilous outcomes, and a plethora of sexy love interests no matter which path you choose.

It’s decision time.

Do you throw caution, decorum, and all other respectable nouns to the wind in order to follow Lady Evangeline into the unknown? If so, turn to page 128.

Or do you value your limbs still being attached to your body and decide to sit this one out? If so, turn to page 71.

You could end up seeking the secrets of an ancient hidden treasure in the deserts of Egypt… or helping a (sexy) kilt-wearing Scotsman at an orphanage in the Highlands… or trying to figure out the secrets of a decrepit manor on the moors with a brooding, bad-boy lord and master… The possibilities are endless!

I had a blast flipping my way through this delightful book. I went through three different story variations — and cheated a bit by reading a few of the random pages in between. I know there are many more main paths I could follow, but at this point I’m holding off on the rest and planning to read them in bits and pieces when I need something to lift my spirits.

The writing is frothy and melodramatic, with plenty of humor and sarcasm — it’s like the authors are making sure that we readers know that they’re in on the joke. The language includes some of the best and worst of overwrought romance writing:

He senses your soul stirring betwixt your bosom.

“I sense your soul stirring betwixt your bosom,” he growls.

In answer, you make love to him again, with all the rushed intensity of spirits wrongfully dispatched from the mortal coil trying to communicate with the living from the great beyond.

Then there are the various descriptors of body parts, such as “womanly orbs”, “the moonstone of your sex”, and lots of talk about the Highlander’s “caber”. Or lines like this:

Mac’s own faithful steed strains at the flap of his kilt, ready to take you on as far a journey as you wish.

This book is really and truly a great time. But every once in a while a wee bit of social commentary sneaks in:

Do you accompany your tyrannical employer to the fundraising ball for the Society for the Protection of Widows and Orphans of the War? The company may be atrocious, but balls are fun! If so, turn to page 67.

Or do you run away from Lady Craven, only to find yourself with no other means of survival than to sell your young body into the cold, cruel night? If so, do not go to any other place in this book, for 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. They will get better, though! Turn to page 67.

You have to appreciate risqué romance and quirky humor to really enjoy this book… but if you’ve read this far in my rambling review, I suspect you do! Pick up a copy to enjoy on your own, or read it with a bunch of girlfriends when you want a night in, maybe with a few glasses of wine to go with. Good times, either way!

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The details:

Title: My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel
Authors: Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: April 3, 2018
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Humor/romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of Quirk

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Flashback Friday: The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

My rules — since I’m making this up:

  1. Has to be something I’ve (you’ve) read myself (yourself) — oh, you know what I mean!
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

(published 1972)

Last week, my Flashback Friday pick was one of the first feminist novels I’d ever read. So is it weird that this week’s pick is my very first romance novel? I first read The Flame and the Flower in my early-ish teens, and never realized how revolutionary this book was until I took a women’s studies course in college that focused on women as readers… and The Flame and the Flower was on the syllabus! My professor had published a book entitled Reading the Romance, and her field of expertise was studying what the books women read reveal about their lives. Fascinating stuff.

Of course, some part of me never got past the dreamy-eyed teen stage with this book; even knowing that it was perpetuating all the awful gender roles typical in a romance novel — dashing sea captain, innocent girl swept up in a grand romance after being coerced into the relationship, a vengeful ex-lover to complicate matters, and utimately, the heroine taming the untameable captain’s heart — I always did have a soft spot for this sweeping, romantic tale.

So what’s it all about?

From Amazon:

The Flower:

Doomed to a life of unending toil, Heather Simmons fears for her innocence—until a shocking, desperate act forces her to flee. . . and to seek refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

The Flame:

A lusty adventurer married to the sea, Captain Brandon Birmingham courts scorn and peril when he abducts the beautiful fugitive from the tumultuous London dockside. But no power on Earth can compel him to relinquish his exquisite prize. For he is determined to make the sapphire-eyed lovely his woman. . .and to carry her off to far, uncharted realms of sensuous, passionate love.

Until today, I hadn’t realized that The Flame and the Flower was considered a major turning point in publishing history. According to Wikipedia:

The first romance novel to detail physical intimacy between the protagonists, the book revolutionized the historical romance genre. It was also the first full-length romance novel to be published first in paperback rather than hardback.

And again from Amazon:

The success of this novel prompted a new style of writing romance, concentrating primarily on historical fiction tracking the monogamous relationship between a helpless heroine and the hero who rescued her, even if he had been the one to place her in danger. The romance novels which followed in her example featured longer plots, more controversial situations and characters, and more intimate and steamy sex scenes.

Listen, I’m sure if I re-read The Flame and the Flower today, I’d spend about half the time rolling my eyes, and I would never, ever swoon over Brandon Birmingham… now that I’m a full-grown adult. Still, this book was my first encounter with passionate adult relationships in fiction — even if the relationship in this book is highly idealized, unrealistic, and not at all PC. No, I never wanted to run off with a dashing sea captain… but I have retained a fondness for brave, strong heroes in my historical fiction reading, and perhaps I have Kathleen Woodiwiss to thank for the early introduction.

So, yeah, if you want to see where today’s massively successful romance novel industry has its roots, The Flame and the Flower is not a bad place to start. Bring your smelling salts. Swoons happen.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: This is my baby-steps attempt at a blog hop! Join in, post a Friday Flashback on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Let’s get this party started!