Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Romance Atheist

Amazon readers warned me about Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon.  "Huge, tough book. . . . very clearly a masterpiece."     "Talking dog. . . . Mid 18-century prose style."

I mean, the size alone:

Sheesh!  Eight-hundred or so pages!

I dug in anyway. I found it delightful, got right into the pirate-era lingo, had no trouble "hearing" the two famous surveyors joking with each other.

At least until page 18 or so, when the talking dog entered at stage left.

And I couldn't do it anymore.

So, what else is out there?  

Well, since I've dipped my toe into the self-publishing ocean, maybe I should take a look at who else might be swimming around, particularly those paddling in my same little cove, the bay of LDS fiction.

I found a string of possibly delightful offerings and saved them to my wish list.

First try goes to The Husband Maker by Karey White.

Before we look closer at White's book, let me clear up a thing or two  This book is a romance. I can no more write a romance than I can sing a solo, which is to say that if I tried, people would beg me to stop, please, you're hurting us..

I couldn't come up with a Love Interest. Romance books are liberally supplied with men pretty enough to make your palms sweat and your mouth say inane things. Rich enough to buy their own islands. Interested enough to ignore entire sororities dressed in short shorts while you make up your mind whether you want them around or not.

Oh, and available.

Has anyone ever seen this creature?

Me neither.

And if I cannot see it with my own eyes, hear it with my own ears, I cannot believe in this . . . this being who dwells somewhere out there in the ether, and makes the earth move. Which makes me, I guess, a romance atheist. 

Not that books full of impossible characters can't get themselves sold. Weren't we just discussing a talking dog?  And don't we know that books full of wizards, vampires and aliens fly off the shelves? 

But in the end, all fiction is, um, unreal, right?

So I swallowed my prejudices and opened White's book and met Charlotte, a mid-twenties graphic designer in San Francisco.  White gave her some adorable flaws.  The girl snorts when she laughs. She's 5'11".  We all know it's hard to find a good man, but Dear Charlotte's got it even tougher, because she'd like to find one that towers over her.

Back in high school, one prom date was four inches shorter. When the photographer lined up all the couples for pictures, he switched Charlotte to the back row with the boys, and the date to the front, humiliating two teenagers in one fell swoop.

Anyway, everybody she dates marries the next girl they find after they break up with Charlotte. People are starting to talk about her little jinx.

Into Charlotte's life comes Kyle--rich, handsome, attentive and available. But somebody named Angus hangs around a lot, too. He's known Charlotte since high school, never dated her but witnessed all her awkward proms.

I'm only part way through Husband Maker, but strongly suspect that Angus is meant to be more than just Charlotte's guy-confidante. I will have to let you know.

White's easy humor greases the gears of this story, even if she tosses in a few too many stories of Charlotte's long-ago dates, the ones before the jinx took hold.

Husband Maker never calls anybody LDS, but Kyle and Charlotte definitely dwell outside the hook-up culture, even though they live in the age of iPhones and Pinterest. They go on planned dates, like a cheese-making adventure, which might be even more datey than real LDS kids manage to do these days.

Hopefully Charlotte will find the right guy, settle down and fix wonderful dinners like Chicken Pineapple Stir-Fry.

This might be my favorite stir-fry. The tasty secret is--ketchup! Bye-bye Nesquik really doesn't need fancy sauces to be happy.

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