Monthly Archives: May 2016

Fervently expecting the answer yes

I bought a secondhand Paperwhite Kindle and it advertises while it sleeps.

I’m particularly enjoying the romance fiction adverts, as they’re almost always built around a question which assumes the answer ‘yes’.

of course 2

Of course she is.

of course 1

Yeah, he totally will.

of course 3

Undoubtedly. Yes!

It’s an inverted parallel to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines! (“Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.”)

This advertising strategy is appropriate because a romance plot is (almost) always a pre-answered question. It’s one of those fictional formats which is less concerned with what happens, and more with how it happens – the destination’s the same, how are they going to pull off the journey? So it’s not a disaster if you already know that the answer, and the end of the novel, is ‘yes’.In my experience, Mills and Boon Temptation novels are some of the most sharply engineered, water-tight plot jigsaws out there.

Some of the questions are a touch trickier:

tangential 3

Yes, eventually.

ouch

Yes, but ouch.

tangential 2

Yes, but gross.

tangentially 5

…I really hope so?

The inevitable ‘yes’ is doubly appropriate as romance is about saying yes – yes to optimism, the ecstatic ‘yes’ of sexytimes, ‘yes’ to a narrative-concluding marriage proposal (the ultimate question-which-assumes-a-‘yes’, or at least hopes for one). As Molly Bloom ends Ulysses:

and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes

Which is why I found this one advert – which ruins my new rule – a bit off-message:

no

No, it didn’t! See, doesn’t it feel wrong to push off a romance plot with a negative?

(In a similar vein, a poster for the upcoming Living Marxism conference asked me this:

marxism

Again, you know the answer’s going to be ‘yes’, but you’re intrigued to know how the text will get there.)

These books aren’t one word long, though. For the sake of narrative pleasure, you have to stave off the ‘yes’ as long as possible, and make it seem at times implausible. I therefore conclude one of the greatest couples in literature, and a forestalled proposal. Peter Wimsey keeps proposing without hope, and his most artful effort is this, in chapter 15 of Gaudy Night:

One First of April, the question had arrived from Paris in a single Latin sentence, starting off dispiritedly. “Num…?”—a particle which notoriously “expects the answer No.” Harriet, rummaging the Grammar book for “polite negatives,” replied, still more briefly, “Benigne.”

 

 

 


Adverts featured were for the following novels

Something More Than This by Barbie Bohrman

Texas Rose Forever by Katie Graykowski

The Wedding Pearls by Carolyn Brown

House by the Lake by Ellen Carey

Shattered Virtue by Magda Alexander

Violet’s Wish by Carolyn Brown

Secret Healer by Ellin Casta

That Way Again by Carolyn Brown

 

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