Mr. Skraeling’s Revenge (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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You would think, with the curse of the Bug-Men lifted and nothing left to do but round up the sated chameleons who feasted on the Bug-Men until none were left in Scurveyshire, that all was well and nothing remains but to get Lord Jeremy Coldsore and Lady Margo Cargo married. If only life were that simple.

For Olaf Skraeling, the owner of all those chameleons, double-crossed in his plan to marry Lady Margo himself, has vowed revenge. Introducing Chapter CCCXC (the Roman numerals are getting tricky) of her interminable–sorry, I mean “epic”!–romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “Olaf Skraeling is a Welshman, dear readers, and all Welshmen are able to do black magic–or at least know someone else who can. Scurveyshire knows Mr. Skraeling as an impoverished and unsuccessful forger, but he is much more than that! He is also a master of deceit.”

On this ominous note, we join Mr. Skraeling as he forges a letter to Lady Margo that’s supposed to be from Lord Jeremy. It reads thus:

“Dear Lady Margo Cargo, Its me Lord Jerramy and this is to tell you that i dont whish to marry you anymore! So you better marry Mr. Olaff Skraeling insted, he is a very nice man! Yours truely Lord Jerramy Coldsore (not a nice man!).”

The crusty old butler, Crusty, hands the letter to Lady Margo on a silver platter.

Upon reading it, she sighs, “How romantic!”

“Eh?” marvels Crusty. “Why, the man’s a total blackguard! You should sue him for breach of promise.”

“You have no romance in your soul, Crusty!”

“And you’re a daft old trout,” rejoins the butler.

“I wonder what’s happened to Jeremy’s handwriting,” Lady Margo muses. “It’s totally changed, I’d never think it was his, except he’s signed it, hasn’t he? Even his signature is totally different.”

“I’m sure he was drunk when he wrote it,” says Crusty.

Ms. Crepuscular closes the chapter: “Will this devious ploy succeed? Will Olaf Skraeling win the hand of the richest widow in Scurveyshire? Will he resort to black magic? The next chapter will tell all!”

Promises, promises…

How to Get Rid of Bug-Men (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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The problem, as elucidated by Violet Crepuscular in Chapter CCCLXXXVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney (we do not know what happened to Chapter CCCLXXXVII), is how to get rid of the Bug-Men now infesting Scurveyshire. Johnno the Merry Minstrel has been researching it, and thinks he has a solution.

“The bad news is, we’ve got Bug-Men,” he explains to Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace. “The good news is that chameleons have an insatiable appetite for Bug-Men. More bad news: chameleons don’t live in Scurveyshire or anywhere else in England. But the best news–” here he smirks charmingly–“is, I know someone right here in town who raises chameleons! He has dozens of them.”

“Well, then!” exults Lord Jeremy. “What are we waiting for?”

“The bad news,” says Johnno, “is… he’s Welsh!”

“So?”

“So Welsh people are notoriously averse to parting with their chameleons!”

“I don’t believe it,” cries Lord Jeremy. “We don’t have any Welsh people in Scurveyshire! Lord Frump chased them all out, after the Wars of the Roses.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, my lord! We have Mr. Olaf Skraeling, the noted forger–and he has a ton of chameleons.”

“Olaf Skraeling is Welsh?” Lord Jeremy is incredulous.

“You could look it up,” says Johnno.

The two of them make a beeline for Mr. Skraeling’s palatial hovel, which they find overrun with chameleons. Here is a picture of one. His name is Ariobarzanes.

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At first they find it very difficult to persuade Mr. Skraeling to unleash his chameleons on the Bug-Men. We are cautioned not to imagine that he keeps all of these little lizards on leashes. “I am averse to parting with my chameleons,” he declares.

“But they’ll eat the Bug-Men!” exclaims Lord Jeremy. “And then you can have them back.”

“Only for a price,” says Mr. Skraeling. Lord Jeremy suspects he’s not really Welsh. It is traditionally an ancient Viking ruse to pretend to be Welsh. But Jeremy, desperate for a solution, replies, “Name your price, and we’ll pay it!”

“My price is this,” proclaims the uncrowned Chameleon King of England: “the hand of Lady Margo Cargo in marriage!”

Ms. Crepuscular draws the chapter’s curtain on this dreadful news.

Lord Jeremy Goes Mad (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“There is only so much stress a man can take,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCCLXXXIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “Confined to his bed with injuries sustained in his fall from the tree, and confronted with a virtual civil war in Scurveyshire over the crayfish food controversy, Lord Jeremy Coldsore has reached and exceeded his limit–and snapped!”

Summoning community leaders and crayfish food activists to his bedside, Lord Jeremy proceeds to lay down the law–new laws, and a great many of them.

“By the power vested in me as justice of the peace,” he declares, “all pet crayfish in Scurveyshire shall now be fed filet mignon! Furthermore, all women over 16 must now wear conical hats at all times and all men over 16 must wear thick woolen mittens on their hands at all times. Ownership of hamsters is now against the law. All private business transactions must now be conducted in sign language. And in the interests of peace, and until further notice, all persons living or working in Scurveyshire must observe a curfew from 11 a.m. to 11 o’clock at night.” He has proclaimed quite a few more laws, but as those were motivated by mere peevishness, adds Ms. Crepuscular, “We’ll leave them alone.”

“Ain’t you layin’ it on a bit hard, ol’ hoss?” says Willis Twombley, the American adventurer.

“The mandates don’t apply to us, old chap.”

Lady Margo Cargo is displeased. Her pet crayfish, Oswin, does not like filet mignon. She sends a brief but telling note to Lord Jeremy: “Sorry, but I cannot marry a lunatic.”

“Who’s a lunatic?” wonders Jeremy. “I didn’t think we had any in Scurveyshire.”

“We’ll have to find one, then,” says Twombley. “I heard they’ve got a reg’lar herd of ’em in Plaguesby.”

Will this be the end of the romance between Jeremy and Lady Margo? “I will revisit this crisis,” pledges Ms. Crepuscular, “after I perfect my recipe for raw clams in toothpaste sauce.”

 

The Crayfish Food Controversey (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“I have remembered my promise to provide a further elucidation of Scurveyshire’s increasingly volatile crayfish food kerfuffle,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCCLXXXIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

“The heart of the matter,” she explains, “is Slo-Gro Crayfish Snax vs. Go-Gro Crayfish Treats. Crusty the butler meant to buy Go-Gro, but Mr. Samuel Heathen sold him Slo-Gro. The matter, when put before Lord Jeremy Coldsore as justice of the peace, proved too stressful for the injured master of Coldsore Hall–you will remember that he recently fell down from a rather tall tree–and produced a deep swoon. I never meant to suggest that it was Lady Margo Cargo’s pet crayfish, Oswin, who swooned. I do not believe crayfish are able to faint. No–it was Lord Jeremy himself!”

Before Lord Jeremy can be brought back to a conscious state, all of Scurveyshire has taken sides in the controversy and several brawls have broken out at The Lying Tart. Slo-Gro partisans have nothing on the Go-Gro faction: both are equally ready to resort to fisticuffs. It has made the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, homesick for Dodge City. “There ain’t nothin’ more upliftin’ than a good saloon fight,” he says.

Lord Jeremy revives to find himself confronted with a string of riots. “It’s froothin’ yair grommet, m’lord,” sagely remarks Constable Chumley.

In what can only be described as inspiration, Lord Jeremy finds a solution. “Cut the bloomin’ crayfish in half and feed one half with Slo-Gro and the other half with Go-Gro,” he declares. This pleases nobody. “Alas,” opines Ms. Crepuscular, “this is often the way with truly groundbreaking ideas.”

At this point Oswin the Crayfish faints, after all: and the Royal Crayfish Society calls for an emergency meeting to discuss it.

The Crayfish Food Hullabaloo (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCLXXXII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney (we are not told what happened to Chapter CCCLXXXI–must’ve been a non-starter), Violet Crepuscular reveals that the two rival Scotland Yard detectives have succeeded in framing each other for the theft of the locomotive. Both are carted off to Newgate Prison, and Lord Jeremy finally comes down from the tree where he’s been hiding. All we are told about that is, “He came down like rain.” Only raindrops don’t wind up swathed in bandages from head to toe.

Constable Chumley is interrupted in dictating his memoirs to the Wise Woman of the Gaol by a controversy centered in the Scurveyshire pet shop, where Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty butler, Crusty, has been trying to buy food for his mistress’ pet crayfish, Oswin. Distracted by the rantings and ravings of the prisoner who has been moved from the jail to the pet shop, Crusty has mistakenly bought the wrong kind of food but now can’t get his money back. Unable to break up the argument, Constable Chumley arrests them both and brings them to Lord Jeremy’s bedside. Ms. Crepuscular has had a devilish time trying to type the word “bedside.” It keeps coming out “bedides” or “bdesdie,” etc.

“Ivver yon greeth wi’ hammels, m’lord,” Chumley explains.

Crusty and the shop owner, one Samuel Heathen, yell and scream at each other. As justice of the peace, Lord Jeremy has the power to put both of them to death. He is reluctant to use it, however. Lady Margo would never forgive him for having Crusty thrown to the shire’s ferocious pug dogs, and Mr. Heathen owes him several guineas.

“Can’t we all just get along?” he groans.

“This caitiff asked for King-Size Slo-Gro Depilatory Crayfish Food, and that’s what I sold him!” roars Mr. Heathen.

“I never asked for Slo-Gro! I asked for Go-Gro!” growls Crusty.

With wisdom rivaling Solomon’s, Lord Jeremy faints.

The matter will be taken up again, Mr. Crepuscular assures us, in the next exciting chapter.

Yet Another Obstacle to Wedded Bliss (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCLXXVII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, has come up with another obstacle to her marriage to Lord Jeremy Coldsore, whom she thinks is the same person as Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who think he’s Sargon of Akkad. Crusty himself wishes to marry Scurveyshire’s richest widow, so he has to prevent her marriage to Lord Jeremy.

“Bad news, m’lady!” he announces. “I have done genealogical research that shows that you are Lord Coldsore’s cousin. And we all know that cousins shouldn’t marry!”

“Oh, fie, Crusty! Don’t be ridiculous!” Lady Margo replies. “Everybody is somebody’s cousin! If cousins can’t marry, then nobody will be able to get married and the human species will die out.”

“He is your cousin, m’lady.”

“It would be remarkable indeed if he were nobody’s cousin, Crusty!” She sighs: her upholstered wooden leg is fiendishly itchy today. “You’re making me tired. Go to the pet shop and buy some crayfish food for my pet crayfish.” (It appears Ms. Crepuscular has forgotten the crayfish’s name. So have I.)

Meanwhile, as Detective Chief Inspector Magog and Detective Sergeant Dottle work feverishly to frame each other for stealing the locomotive that was, in fact, swallowed by the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard, Jeremy has authorized Scurveyshire’s own Constable Chumley to launch an independent investigation of the incident. “I shall expect your report tomorrow,” he adds.

“Yoiks an’ frather, m’lord–a wee saithit morkin’ a wally!” says the constable. What he means is that he does not know how to read or write, having forgotten everything he ever knew about it. Nevertheless, the investigation must go forward.

“As you can see, dear reader,” interjects Ms. Crepuscular, “this is a deeply subcutaneous societal problem which has no easy solution.” We cannot tell which particular problem she is talking about.

Scotland Yard Investigates (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Somewhere along the plot line, a runaway locomotive was sucked under the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard. It has proved quite difficult to get author Violet Crepuscular to remember this incident, which I believe is pivotal to an understanding of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. But she returns to it in Chapter CCCLXXV.

All of Scurveyshire is agog (don’t you love that word?) over the arrival of Detective Chief Inspector Frank “Chipper” Magog of Scotland Yard, to investigate the disappearance of the locomotive. After a confidential consultation with Constable Chumley, D.C.I. Magog concludes that Lord Jeremy Coldsore has stolen it.

“What did you tell him that for?” demands Lord Jeremy. “I didn’t steal any perishin’ locomotive!”

The constable shrugs eloquently. “Tis a feerthy croop, m’lord!” he exclaims. “I nippher graned a switter yam,” he adds. (“I was going to say ‘resignedly’,” Violet confides to the reader, “but I decided it made the whole thing sound too much like a Tom Swift episode.”) We are at liberty to wonder just what the inspector thought the constable had told him.

“Chipper” earned his nickname by his willingness to use torture to extract witness testimony, which is why Lord Jeremy has climbed the tallest tree on his estate and refuses to come down. Magog decides to wend his way to The Lying Tart and interrogate the bearded barmaid. We can leave him to it.

“As you can see by this chapter,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “I do not forget important elements of my story! This is a vile canard put out by those mean-spirited scribblers who are competing with me for a Pulitzer.”

Let’s Have the Wedding Anyhow! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXIII of her epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular praises her protagonist, Lord Jeremy Coldsore, for taking the bull by the horns. “It’s really the only thing you can do when you’re on the horns of a dilemma!” she confides in her readers. And P.S.–Mr. Pitfall is out of jail because no one remembered to lock the door.

In taking the bull by the horns, Lord Jeremy exhorts his fiancee, Lady Margo Cargo, “Let’s have our wedding anyhow! The vicar is free of conniptions, the roof of Coldsore Hall has been repaired, and why should we wait any longer?”

“But I had my heart set on wearing my grandmother’s glass eye and my mother’s pearls, and they’ve been stolen!” wails Lady Margo. She is not aware that her crusty old butler, Crusty, has hidden the jewels and the priceless collection of glass eyes in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall. He has forgotten why he did that. Nor is anyone aware that the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, is hiding out in the room across the hall from where the jewels are hidden.

“Oh, bother your grandma’s glass eye!” ejaculates Jeremy. “The eye you’re wearing now is perfectly suitable to the occasion. In fact, I rather like it!”

“Oh, Willis, you say the most romantic things!” Lady Margo cannot distinguish between Lord Jeremy and his close friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad.

The next two pages of the chapter are blank: Ms. Crepuscular has left them blank to reflect Lady Margo’s indecision. The third and last page features Violet’s own recipe for a six-tiered wedding cake with assorted toothpaste icings. As for Lady Margo, “You can’t rush these things,” writes Violet. “Many a wedding has been ruined by the bride wearing the wrong glass eye for the occasion and being consumed with self-doubt forever afterward.” Apparently this has happened in her family, but not in anyone else’s. Not that I know of, anyway.

 

The Elopement, at Last (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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At last! Lord Jeremy Coldsore has eloped to marry Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire.

Chapter CCCXLI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, opens with Lord Jeremy and the vicar waiting in the abandoned warehouse in Plaguesby, where the marriage is to be secretly performed. They have to be careful because there’s plague in Plaguesby. Also in attendance, as best man, is Jeremy’s bosom friend, the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. He has a burlap bag over his head. This provokes a fit of the giggles from the vicar.

“Why has he got a burlap bag over his head?” the vicar asks, giggling.

“Because Lady Margo thinks he and I are the same person, and it confuses her when she sees us both together,” Lord Jeremy explains. The vicar finds that richly humorous.

Midnight draws near, without a sign of Lady Margo. “What’s keeping her?” Jeremy grumbles.

“Alas, dear reader,” Ms. Crepuscular breaks into the narrative, “Lady Margo, escorted by her crusty old butler, Crusty, has misunderstood the plan and gone to an abandoned warehouse in the isolated nearby village of Plaguespot. The place has an unwholesome reputation! It is said that Black Rodney’s brother, Red Pokey, passed through Plaguespot in 1483 and, just for practice, put a terrible curse on it.”

As midnight draws near, Crusty grows impatient.

“I told you Coldsore was no good, you stupid old bat,” he confides in Lady Margo. “How can you trust a man with two left feet? Both of which seem to have gotten cold!”

“I can’t say I like this as a location for a wedding,” mutters Lady Margo. “All those sinister voices whispering I don’t know what, all around us in the dark! Are you sure this is where dear Jeremy said he’d meet us?”

Crusty is jealous: he has long desired Lady Margo for himself.

Just then, a long-drawn-out, hideous moaning erupts from the shadows–

We suspect it’s the reader.

Constable Chumley Speaks English (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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We’ve been trying to discover why a policeman with an angry parent in tow knocked on Ms. Violet Crepuscular’s door last week–something to do with handing out toothpaste cookies for Trick or Treat, we suspect. But she has been uncharacteristically mum about it, saying only that “No sacrifice is too great, or too small, to make for good dental hygiene.”

In Chapter CCCXXVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we learn that Constable Chumley has been busy rounding up everyone in Scurveyshire who looks like an emoji, in case one of them turns out to be Sir Dorphin Magma, the ace cricketeer who disappeared 20 years ago and may be descended from the evil medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney. Here are some of the suspects.  Image result for images of emojis The jail–er, gaol–is getting a bit crowded.

“Can’t you find a roomier gaol in which to put them?” demands Lord Jeremy Coldsore. “They have a nice one in Plaguesby, maybe they’ll let us use it.”

The constable looks him in the eye and replies, as clear as a bell, “To climb the tree is enough, though the bough makes me cough.”

Lord Jeremy is astonished. “You finally speak a sentence in some comprehensible form of English,” he cries, “and this is it?”

“Feraeth, m’lord, whae bonnith yar grith,” the constable replies, reverting to his quaint rural dialect. It appears his supply of plain English has been exhausted.

Lord Jeremy is growing more and more desperate to marry Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire, to confound his creditors and save Coldsore Hall, which still needs a new roof. Lady Margo is currently in bed with a bad cold, contracted by wandering around in the rain all night clad only in her undies–a sight which, regrettably, has caused a relapse of the vicar’s conniptions. Worse, a violent sneeze has sent her glass eye flying off to some unexplored region of her bedroom. “I can’t marry anyone until I get my eye back,” she declares. Lord Jeremy has searched all around the room for it but hasn’t found it yet.

“And here,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “I will break off the chapter in order to heighten the suspense. Really, one can hardly expect Lady Margo to appear for her wedding with an eye missing and the vicar spouting panicked gibberish.”