Tag Archives: silly romance novels

And Now, Another One…

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What have I done, to deserve all these invitations to review preposterous and sleazy romance novels?

Today I’ve been invited to review “a sensual and supernatural journey” featuring a torrid romance between a “dragon king” who is, inevitably, “darkly handsome,” and a “beautiful and mysterious woman”–they’re all mysterious, in more ways than one–with the loopy name of “Arianrhod Deatherage.” Says the perky publicist, who obviously has an abysmally low opinion of my literary taste, “Happily-Ever-After Meets Modern Empowerment in a Steamy New Paranormal Romance.” Lemmeouttahere.

I wonder what effect it has on the brain, to consume vast quantities of books like this. What does their very existence say about our culture?

Nothing good!

Violet Crepuscular come back, all is forgiven.


‘Oy, Rodney’ Explodes with Action!

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I only wrote that headline because Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCXIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, with the teaser, “Chapter CCXIV of my epic romance, Oy, Rodney, explodes with action!” I suppose it had to, given the total lack of any action whatsoever in Chapter CCXIII, about which the less said, the better. I suspect she may have been impaired while writing it.

Before he can commandeer and hitch up a team of oxen to drag away the sinister wading pool in the vicar’s back yard, Constable Chumley has had to ask the vicar’s permission to do so. This should have happened in Chapter CCXIII. At any rate, the vicar demurs.

“My dear fellow, you can’t do that! I haven’t paid for it yet!”

“Yair, vicar, I screeve a delly mure,” says the constable.

“That’s exactly what I would say, if I were you,” replies the vicar.

At this point Ms. Crepuscular interjects a political observation. We shall pass over it.

Unable to get the vicar’s permission, Constable Chumley abandons that part of his assignment and returns to Coldsore Hall to search for clues that might lead him to Black Rodney’s hiding place. Lady Margo Cargo is present at Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s bedside, feeding him mealworms to speed his recovery. Both are disconcerted when the constable enters the bedroom and begin feeling about under the covers.

“What the deuce are you doing? Stop that!” cries Lord Jeremy.

“M’lord, ’tis nae fairthy twa’ wee trilling clues,” explains the constable.

“He’s right, my love,” says Lady Margo.

But there are no clues hidden in the bedclothes, and Lord Jeremy continues to complain. “Your hands are like ice, Constable! Go look for clues somewhere else!” No one minds when the constable departs to look for clues at the bottom of a tankard of ale at The Lying Tart.

Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad, enters the room. Lady Margo thinks he and Lord Jeremy are the same person, so it always dazzles her to see both of them at once. In deference to her feelings, he exits without a word.


Constable Chumley: Detective (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCXII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, having discovered that the medieval sorcerer Black Rodney has been secretly planting cuss bags throughout Coldsore Hall, Lord Jeremy orders Constable Chumley to put a stop to it.

Here Ms. Crepuscular feels the need to interject some background material.”I feel the need to inject some background material,” she writes. “It must be stated that Constable Chumley is married; but his wife, Boudicca, left him because she could not understand his quaint rural dialect. She is currently serving as a mercenary soldier in Bolivia, where she is widely known as The Terror of the Andes.”

Be that as it may, the constable reports to Coldsore Hall for orders.

“I demand that you find Black Rodney and arrest him!” says Lord Jeremy. He is still confined to his bed, with his only entertainment provided by Johnno the Merry Minstrel, who can sing and play the harmonica at the same time, although he does neither especially well.

Constable Chumley’s expression turns grave. It’s quite a daunting sight.

“Aye, weel,” he replies, “that’s a snicket fair whittum, m’lord!” He shakes his head. “Gare Rodney, he’s a-flarrin’ tidy skipster, noo miscork aboot it.”

“I don’t care what you call him!” snaps Jeremy. “He’s holding up my wedding! And for heaven’s sake, get rid of that wading pool in the vicar’s back yard!”

“Nae veen, m’lord, ’tis a wallow thing, right enough.” He salutes Lord Jeremy and plods off to do his duty.

“What did he just say?” Jeremy wonders.

“He’ll give it his best shot, Germy,” explains the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, “but he don’t expect he’ll live to tell about it.”

Lord Jeremy sends for Johnno to perform “The Old Oaken Bucket.” This will require him to sing a duet with himself.


The Merry Minstrel (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular abandons her resolve to backtrack to the real beginnings of the story and just goes on as if nothing has happened. Tristram Shandy would have at least apologized for doing so. But this is what makes Ms. Crepuscular one of a kind.

We find Lord Jeremy Coldsore confined to his bed at Coldsore Hall, the result of falling down a marble staircase because he has not yet learned to cope with having two left feet. His friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, has brought company to cheer Jeremy while he suffers–a merry minstrel named Johnno the Merry Minstrel.

“I don’t think I can bear to listen to any music just now, old boy,” groans Jeremy.

“Relax, Germy, and jist enjoy it. It ain’t every day you git to hear a feller who can sing and play the harmonica at the same time.” This is Johnno’s one accomplishment. To criticize its execution would be like criticizing a dog for playing poker badly.

Nevertheless, Johnno’s rendition of “I’ve Got Rhythm” brings a tear to Jeremy’s eye and moves him to demand an encore.

“Tell him what else you can do, Johnno,” says Twombley.

“Oh, it’s nothing, really. Only I have a unique ability to sniff out cunningly hidden cuss bags.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, Johnno discovers one concealed cuss bag after another, some of them in astonishing places. One turns up under Twombley’s hat; another, tucked into Jeremy’s underwear. By suppertime they have half a dozen cuss bags ready for the incinerator. Johnno concludes by playing a rousing off-key performance of “Sonny Boy.”

“Looks like your bad luck’s over and done with, Germy!” exults Twombley. “At least until Black Rodney sneaks some more cuss bags into your house. He must have what the Frenchies call ‘a keen desire’ to stop us from gettin’ hitched to Lady Margo and saving Coldsore Hall from your creditors.”

“But now we have the means to defeat him!” cries Jeremy. Johnno accepts his invitation to stay at Coldsore Hall for the immediate future, in return for free access to the wine cellar. In a theatrical aside to Jeremy, Twombley adds, “Hope he don’t find any of the bodies that I stashed down there!”

The chapter ends with a flourish, regrettably misspelled as “flurrish.”


Ms. Crepuscular’s Note to the Reader (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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We are startled by Chapter CCVIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, in which she sets aside the story and addresses the reader as “a fellow pilgrim on the long road of making sense of a world full of biscuits.” It goes downhill from there.

“Dear Reader,” she writes, “it has come to my attention that, in my efforts to present this epic tale, I have neglected its beginning. This will never do. And so, while we wait for Lord Jeremy Coldsore to learn how to get around on two left feet, the result of a misapplied regime of one-legged jumping jacks intended to cure the gunshot wound in his right foot, I find I must backtrack. So without further ado, I offer this.”

Chapter IA. How Lord Jeremy Coldsore Came to Befriend Willis Twombley

Willis Twombley, a globe-trotting American adventure who believes himself to be Sargon of Akkad, has occasion to pass through Scurveyshire, where he stops for several invigorating drinks at the local pub, The Lying Tart. He is soon joined at his table by Lord Jeremy Coldsore, master of Coldsore Hall, scion of a family that obtained noble rank just in time for the Crusades.

“I say, old chap,” opens Jeremy, “if you don’t mind my saying so, you look a bit down in the mouth. One should never drink alone, you know. Permit me to keep you company, to buy you another tankard of rich brown Scurveyshire ale, and listen to whatever you care to tell me. I perceive by your barbarous accent that you are an American. I am Lord Jeremy Coldsore, of Coldsore Hall.”

“Pleased to meetcha, Germy. Willis Twombley, that’s my name–but only temporary, like. Ditto my being an American.” Twombley’s eyes twinkle in a way that would move anyone else to find an excuse to leave suddenly. He lowers his voice. “Fact is, I’m really Sargon of Akkad, a great king. And not thinkin’ it enough that they stole my throne out from under me, those dadburned Babylonians are tryin’ to plant me six feet under.”

“Good heavens,” says Jeremy.

“They been followin’ me everywhere. They almost caught me in a crummy little place called Peedle, somewheres between Russia and Portugal. Had to shoot my way out. I came here because there ain’t never been no Babylonians seen in your neck o’ the woods. I need a rest!”

Impulsively, Jeremy invites the Akkadian/American to stay a few days at Coldsore Hall. “I’m in rather a sticky situation myself, old thing. The only company I ever get anymore is creditors. My ancestors left me with a lot of unpaid debts, and the creditors are trying to take over Coldsore Hall, ancient suits of armor and all. So I can certainly sympathize with you, losing a whole kingdom and all.”

“Germy, I believe I’ll take you up on that!” Twombley drains the tankard in one gulp. “Maybe we can sort of help each other. I’ve had a lot of experience discouragin’ varmints who want to grab your home sweet home.” He twitches his threadbare drover’s overcoat to reveal a pair of massive six-guns holstered to his belt.

“And that, Dear Reader, is how it all began!” writes Ms. Crepuscular. She goes on to complain about an editor who tore up her manuscript and threatened to have her arrested.


More Mysterious Strangers (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Skipping ahead to Chapter CCVI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, we find that Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s gunshot wound has healed–but only after a fashion, leaving him with, for all practical purposes, two left feet. This will prove a major impediment to his dancing. “Well, that happens sometimes,” says Dr. Fanabla. “Nothing you can do about it.”

But before Jeremy can even try to do anything about it, three more mysterious strangers, from the mysterious Central Asian country of Bogistan, show up in a group. It seems Lord Jeremy’s great-grandfather, Lord Jiminy Coldsore, visiting Bogistan in 1751, made off with the country’s most prized treasure, a great jewel called The Eye of Whosit.

The Bogistanis’ spokesman, speaking perfect English with a peculiar accent that makes him sound like Elmer Fudd, presents his demand: “The Eye of Whosit is ours, and we want it back. We will not leave until we get it.”

“What’s it look like?”

“It is a sparkling bit of fine-grained shale, sir, small enough to serve as the eye of a sacred statute two inches high. We like our statues small in Bogistan. We know it is concealed somewhere on the premises of Coldsore Hall.”

Jeremy sends for Constable Chumley and orders him to arrest the three strangers. The constable demurs.

“‘Tis a right forn daddaly here,” he says.

“Ne’re foth we any shirkens,” replies the spokesman, in Chumley’s own quaint rural dialect. The two of them hit it off and go off for a drink together at The Lying Tart. The remaining Bogistanis start looking under furniture, in case The Eye of Whosit might be there.

“Are you gonna let ’em search the whole house, Germy?” wonders Willis Twombley, the American adventurer. “It’ll take forever. Why don’t you let me shoot ’em?”

“It won’t do, old boy,” says Jeremy. “My great-grandfather Lord Jiminy was a bad hat, don’t you know, and these chappies are only trying to recover stolen property. Let them be.”

A valuable painting by Chico Fernandez falls with a crash as one of the Bogistanis tries to look behind it. He grins sheepishly. His resemblance to a sheep is so startling as to cause the chapter to end unexpectedly.

 


At Last, Black Rodney! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Finally! In Chapter CCII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we are vouchsafed a glimpse of the infamous sorcerer and necromancer, Black Rodney. “Vouchsafed” is Ms. Crepuscular’s word, not mine. I have no idea what it means.

It turns out that Coldsore Hall is full of cunningly concealed cuss bags: no wonder Lord Jeremy’s troubles seem to have no end. The mysterious stranger who looks like a famous game show host, but won’t reveal his name, has teamed up with the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, to find and get rid of all the cuss bags.

“I had a problem like this with some Sumerians,” recalls Twombley, who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad, “but they stopped doin’ it when I sicked the Elamites on ’em.”

Lord Jeremy cannot take part in the search. In his efforts to follow Dr. Fanabla’s regime of one-legged jumping jacks, he has injured his other foot. Lady Margo pays a comforting visit, complete with inedible toothpaste muffins baked by her aunt in Bedlam. “We’ll have our wedding yet, dear,” she consoles him.

But that night, as he makes his rounds of the hall in search of cuss bags, Twombley has a shattering experience. He staggers into Lord Jeremy’s bedroom. Startled, Lady Margo jumps up more suddenly than is good for her and her newly-upholstered wooden leg falls off.

“I seen him, I seen him!” Twombley gasps. “Black Rodney, as large as life! Hidin’ a cuss bag on top of that painting in the billiard room–the one of Queen Victoria on her pogo stick!” He then faints before he can say anymore. Unable to re-attach her leg, Lady Margo can only leave him sprawled on the floor.

“I wish he’d told us what Black Rodney looks like!” she complains.

The mysterious stranger bursts into the room, startling Lady Margo so badly that her wig falls off and her false teeth clatter to the floor.

“I can tell you what he looks like!” cries the stranger. “He wears a black sheet over his entire head and body, without eye-holes, and slinks about at night, avoiding light of any kind. That’s what Mr. Twombley saw in the billiard room.”

“Well, he couldn’t have seen much, then, could he?” snaps Jeremy, who has begun to feel annoyed. “How are we to identify someone who hides himself under a black sheet in the dead of night?”

The stranger tiptoes closer to the bed, looks all around for eavesdroppers, lowers his voice two full octaves, and whispers, “You will know him by his reaction to the words ‘polla-wolla-bing-bang’! Speak them in his presence, and he cannot help but have a tantrum! Anyone else would just look at you quizzically.”

The chapter concludes with a lengthy complaint about the customer service department at Scurveyshire’s Bureau of Unusual Hats–and Ms. Crepuscular’s apology for not including Constable Chumley in this chapter.

We suspect the constable says “polla-wolla-bing-bang” fairly often.


Lady Margo’s Dilemma (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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From Violet Crepuscular’s Introductory Note to Chapter CCI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney:

“I, like you, dear reader, am perplexed that Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s injured foot won’t heal, thus preventing his marriage to Lady Margo Cargo, who isn’t getting any younger! Nor can she marry Willis Twombley, who, overcome by regret for having accidentally shot his friend, is now too soused to marry anyone. We join Lady Margo now in her sitting room, confiding with Oswin the Crayfish in his newly-upholstered aquarium…”

Lady Margo had expected more sympathy from Oswin. “Whatever shall I do?” she cries. “Oh, I could always marry Crusty, I mean Adelbert–but he is my butler, dagnabbit, and I’m not in love with him!” Oswin only waves his claws in a most unsympathetic fashion.

Why won’t Lord Jeremy’s foot heal? He has been doing his level best to try to follow Dr. Fanabla’s regime of an hour of one-legged jumping jacks every day. Finally the shipment of earth from the grave of a regicide arrives from the supply house in Ohio, and every morning, and every night at bedtime, some of it is sprinkled on Lord Jeremy’s wounded foot. The foot looks just awful. Twombley sadly shakes his head.

“I dunno, ol’ hoss–it looks to me like you’re a-headin’ for the last roundup.” Twombley sighs, then hiccups, then belches. “I’m afraid the only chance you got is if you cut it off. Want me to go git my Bowie knife?”

Before he can answer, a mysterious stranger bursts into the room. This one is not any of the mysterious strangers who have appeared earlier in the book. This one looks suspiciously like a well-known game show host. He flourishes a small cloth bag, waving it all about, and shouts “Aha! Aha!”

“Who the deuce are you?” cries Jeremy. Twombley reaches for his gun but is too drunk to find it.

“Never mind who I am!” cries the stranger. “What’s important is this!” He shakes the bag for all he’s worth. “Do you know what this is?” They don’t know, so he tells them. “It’s a cuss bag! Concealed right here in Coldsore Hall, Lord Jeremy–right up there on the lintel of the door to this very room! A cuss bag! That’s why your foot’s not healing. A powerful witch or sorcerer doesn’t want it to heal!”

“What’s in that cuss bag?” demands Twombley.

“Just odds and ends that would be of no use except to one highly skilled in malediction–torn-up baseball cards, bellybutton lint from a baker who has lost his bakery, and a few things which I will not mention in print!” This comes as a shock: neither Jeremy nor Twombley had any notion they were in print.

“But who would put a cuss bag at my door?” wails Jeremy.

The mysterious stranger who looks like a game show host takes a step closer, looks all around the room to make sure he cannot be overheard, lowers his voice a full octave, and whispers clandestinely:

“Black Rodney!”

 


“I Love You, Stupid!” (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Chapter CC of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, is a real pistol. I’ve heard of a reader in Caithness, Scotland, who actually enjoyed it.

Lord Jeremy Coldsore has endless difficulties with Dr. Fanabla’s regime of jumping jacks, prescribed to heal his injured foot. He has to be tied in to a harness hanging from a tree, which is the only way he can do one-legged jumping jacks: a painful and troublesome procedure. He is also waiting for the other ingredient in his cure, earth from the grave of a regicide, to be shipped from a supply house in Bucyrus, Ohio. He cannot be married to Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire, until he can stand on both feet.

“I still can’t think of any regicides who were buried in Ohio,” he complains.

“That’s where you’re wrong, ol’ hoss,” says his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. Twombley still thinks he is Sargon of Akkad. “This stuff comes from the grave of a dude named Watson, who murdered a man who claimed to be the rightful Lost Dauphin of France.”

Twombley lapses into nostalgia. “I once visited the grave of King Bill, who was king of a little one-horse town on the Euphrates, Utu-Mashtu. He got killed playin’ strip poker with some crooked Amorites. I never had no use for Amorites.”

Meanwhile, Lady Margo is getting uneasy about her wedding. “I can’t understand why Lord Jeremy’s foot won’t heal!” she says.

“I can’t understand why you’d want to marry that loony in the first place,” says her crusty old butler, Crusty. “Why don’t you marry me instead, you old bat?”

She is shocked. “Oh, dear! Why would I want to do that?”

“Because I love you, stupid!”

“Oh, Crusty!”

“And stop calling me Crusty! You’ve been doing it for 36 years and I’m sick and tired of it! My name is Adelbert.”

“Adelbert?” She can hardly believe her ears. “I didn’t know your name is Adelbert. And titled ladies don’t generally marry their butlers, Crusty–I mean Adelbert!”

“Batty old cow!” mutters the suitor. “Well, think about it! Meanwhile, it’s time for my trombone lesson.” Crusty is teaching himself the trombone. Honk! Ooomph! Blaaaap! It is really quite intolerable, and it places Lady Margo in a state of confusion.

The chapter concludes with a recipe for cat food sandwich cookies.


The Return of Dr. Fanabla (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CLXXXX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s injured foot is not healing properly, which has caused the postponement of his marriage to Lady Margo Cargo.

“I don’t get it, Germy,” says Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad. It was Twombley who accidentally shot Lord Jeremy. “All I did was shoot a bullet through your foot. It ought to be better by now.”

Lord Jeremy is briefly examined by a man who strongly resembles William Shakespeare. He shrugs his shoulders and leaves. Now there is nothing to be done but to send for Dr. Fanabla, who has taken up unicycle riding. We are not told where he has been all this time.

“Your case is almost identical to that of a patient whom I encountered in Brazil some 60 years ago,” says Dr. Fanabla. “We shall treat your wound as I treated his.”

“How long did it take him to recover, doctor?”

“Oh, he died. But it wasn’t my fault. He refused to follow my instructions, and an anaconda got him.”

Lord Jeremy does not find this reassuring, but he gamely asks, “What is the treatment, sir?”

Striking a pose, Dr. Fanabla replies, “The wound must be sprinkled daily with earth from the grave of a regicide.”

“Oh, is that all?” cries Twombley, striking a pose of his own. Posing has become very big in Scurveyshire.

“No–there’s more. For a full hour, twice a day, Lord Jeremy, you must perform jumping-jacks. No jumping-jacks, no cure.”

“What–on one leg?” Lord Jeremy is distraught. “How am I supposed to perform one-legged jumping-jacks?”

“Follow my instructions,” says the doctor, “and the cure is guaranteed.” With this bon mot, Dr. Fanabla departs for parts unknown.

“I don’t think there are any regicides buried in Scurveyshire,” mopes Jeremy.

“Don’t fret, ol’ hoss,” says Twombley. “We can send away for it. I know a supply house in Ohio where they sell this stuff. People use it for lumbago, too. The big thing just now is to get you started on them jumping-jacks. Here, I’ll help you out of bed.”

“You cannot believe how difficult it is to do this,” adds Ms. Crepuscular. “I have never been able to do it without falling on my face.”

The chapter ends with a descriptive poem about popcorn.


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