The romance novel that lets you pick your path, follow your heart, and find happily ever after
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?
Unexpected and multiple intertwining storylines make this novel a daring delight to read again and again, with beguiling illustrations bringing all the lust and love to life.
Curran and Zageris's cheeky riff on the Choose Your Own Adventure stories puts readers in the shoes of a feisty 28-year-old Regency miss who's living as a lady's companion to a sour dowager. The pinched old woman's beautiful niece offers the reader a choice of futures, including a romance with a traditional haughty hero who covers his desire with angry indifference. Other candidates for love include a Scottish war hero and a do-gooder with a penchant for helping orphans. Then there is the dowager's son, Lord Craven, a Gothic hero living with his strange servants in the Yorkshire moors, who hires the plucky heroine as his son's governess. Readers may also pursue an Egyptian adventure that includes a passionate affair with the dowager's niece. The authors understand romance novel tropes, and those looking for a farcical romp will find plenty of laughs, winks, and nods in how the stories play out.
Hilarious romp for historical romance lovers
I originally looked up this book because of the gorgeous cover, and when I found out that it was an adult choose-your-own-adventure, I thought I was going to break my mouse requesting it. I loved choose-your-own-adventure books as a kid, and would literally spend hours going through trying to make sure I got every single possible ending. While I know I didn’t actually accomplish that with this book, I spent several hilarity-filled hours cackling my way through different plot lines.
“You arrive at Seven Dials in London, near the notorious slums of St. Giles Rookery. All around you are thieves, murderers, murderous thieves, and at least eight different people exclaiming ‘Lawks!'”
If you’re not familiar with how CYOA books work, you’re presented with a dilemma and then given a few choices at the bottom of the page, including things like “If you are now fully involved with Mac and his drenched abs of intrigue – er, his orphans – and there is no way you are leaving them, turn to page 25.” While each read-through is relatively short, the fun from these books comes from the ability to start back at the beginning and experience a completely different story. Don’t feel like helping out with war orphans? OK, let’s go to Egypt! Feeling less like Outlander and more like a gothic romance? It’s got you covered!
“You reach for a finger sandwich from a tray the handsome manservant produced moments ago. You take a satisfying bite and relish the late-night pairing of watercress and intrigue.”
If you’re a fan of romance novels, especially regency romance, this is a ridiculously fun romp, with lots of tongue-in-cheek lampooning of common tropes. There’s all the familiar characters, including a Darcy-ish aristocrat, a cinnamon-roll Scottish war vet, a Byronesque madman, a spunky adventuress and a villain named Fabien de Mangepoussey. You navigate your character through various events including a ball, caber tossing, shower sex (don’t ask), birthing a foal, a house party in the country, unearthing an ancient Egyptian temple, and ever so much more. In various run throughs, I finished up the story as a English spy, the new proprietess of a classy male brothel, and the wife of an Egyptian museum curator (it was pointed out quite hilariously in this ending, that I became the friendly reoccurring side character in an series of adventure novels). For the most part, when given a choice, I went with the most ridiculous option every time (at one point, the authors called me a hussy!). Boink the dude kidnapping me as a distraction? Sure! Make love while covered in newborn horse goo? Let’s get it on!
“‘You are the charmer, and I am the snake,’ he says before filling your mouth with a kiss that makes you staring against your bindings for more. ‘But let this snake dance . . . for you.'”
I’d like to believe that the authors wrote most of this in an adult slumber party atmosphere fueled of lots of sugar and alcohol, because that’s the level of silliness you’re getting. Now, that’s not a bad thing, in my opinion – I laughed so hard I cried at various spots. The sex scenes are especially purple-prosey (“you play the most beautiful song on the bagpipes of your joined bodies”), and the dialog is witty, if flowery. And then, just when you think the puns can’t possibly get any worse, they do. Also, there’s illustrations to go along with certain pivotal scenes. While, unfortunately, the eARC I received didn’t contain all of them, the ones that were there matched the book’s tone well.
I don’t usually make recommendations as to what format you should read this book in, but at least for the eARC I read, navigating to the various choices was clunky, so I would highly recommend this as a paperback. While I think this could work very well as an ebook – I’m thinking specifically of linking each choice selection to a page, so you just have to click on it rather than laboriously finding the page, though maybe that’s just an iBooks feature and not available on other platforms – the ARC isn’t quite there, so I’d be interested in seeing how it’s handled in the final version.
“I am merely in this house of ill repute to confirm that your repute is the illest of them all!”
I was originally going to give this 4 stars, but while editing my review I went back and read another story line, and gosh, this is probably the most fun I’ve had while reading in a while. Maybe it’s just my childhood nostalgia for this type of book, or maybe it’s just that I really needed something light and hilarious at this particular point in time, but this concept is gold and I would happily read more of them. So, five stars. If you love regency romances, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this book!
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.