Saturday, October 02, 2010

Reality Doesn't Bite

When I heard about our blogpal Alison Kent writing one of the first reality-based romances in HCI's new True Vows imprint, I admit, I imagined someone writing a book based on me and my guy. And laughed, because of all the love stories I've read, not one has ever come close to matching my very strange romance (although the title would have to be Surfer Boy, Story Girl.) I was curious as to how a writer as imaginative as Alison would handle writing a romance based in reality, though, so as soon as The Icing on the Cake hit the shelves I picked up a copy.

Here's a bit about the story: Marketing director Michelle Snow and tech consultant Todd Bracken meet through an online dating service (which was not the way we did it back in my day, so that was very interesting as well as exotic to me.) Lonely but wary Michelle is pressured into trying online dating by her girlfriends, and lonely but well-adjusted Todd is looking for someone to fill the gaps in his life, so they're already a good match before they exchange the first text message. When they meet, that lovely thing called chemistry kicks in, and the whirlwind begins. Not everything is instant Nirvana, however. Michelle dreams of opening her own cupcake bakery, which she puts off because of her dread of failure, while Todd is dealing with his Dad's battle with cancer and Michelle's wariness, which prevents him from sharing her dream.

Thanks to the scrumptious descriptions in the story I'm probably going to be baking a lot more experimental cupcakes in the future, but it's the emotional journey of this couple that really makes the novel a wonderful, deeply satisfying read. I never had to imagine this love affair really happening because it always felt real. It didn't need any artificial drama (aka car crashes, homicidal ex-boyfriends or heart-of-gold bounty hunters) to up the wattage; Alison's skillful retelling brought a terrific intensity to even the most ordinary of circumstances in the story.

I appreciate how much respect was shown the couple in the story, too. This book is about two real people and how they fell in love, and that is not something you want to trifle with or rewrite so it sounds more marketable. This book is going to be a legacy in their lives forever. Alison handled their characters with a balance of remarkable clarity and keen sensitivity; I never found anything in the book I'd consider cringe-worthy or embarrassing for the real Michelle and Todd. Even the cover art is gorgeous and evocative without going over the top (and if you're curious as to how the real Michelle and Todd feel about the book, you can read a neat interview with them about it here.)

The Icing on the Cake is also unique in that it creates a new niche among contemporary romance. As writers we try to invent people and worlds capable of whisking away our readers from their troubles for a few hours; with this novel Alison Kent proves that true love can be just as fascinating and uplifting as any invented fantasy.

But as always, you don't have to take my word for it. In comments to this post, tell us what you would title a book based on your real-life romance (or if you're still looking for love, just toss your name in the hat) by midnight EST on Monday, October 4, 2010. I'll draw three names at random from everyone who participates, and send the winners an unsigned copy of The Icing on the Cake by Alison Kent. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something from PBW in the past.


  1. Mine would be ACROSS THE PACIFIC.

  2. Um, mine would probably be titled, "My God, What Was I Thinking??" and be more of a Shakespearean tragedy than a romance novel. *snerk* And probably filed in the comedy section, to boot. Heheh.

  3. That's such an interesting concept that I have to toss my hat in the ring.

    As far as a title for ours, that's a difficult task. Maybe:

    Can We Hang Out...Forever?

  4. It's been so long since I've visited. When I got to the point in your post where you Titled your relationship, my mind started to spin. This is what I came up with in that whirlwind:

    Hello, Old Friend
    Lust and Love
    Dear Heather, It's John
    I Love The You That Isn't Me
    Tales of Ill Timing and Glorious Symbiosis
    et al.

    What the post really did is helped me examine my exquisite relationship with my wife - our trials and tribulations, our triumphs and troughs. These titles are the tip of the iceberg. The true depth of our relationship couldn't be plumbed my a mere few words.

    I plumbed the depths of our relationship to come up with the last title, so however inglorious the title is, I like "Tales of Ill Timing and Glorious Symbiosis" the best because it is the embodiment of our relationship, especially the symbiosis part regarding benefit to each other.

  5. Anonymous8:14 AM

    As corny as it sounds, mine would probably be 'Against All Odds'. We're a bit of a... unique husband and wife.

  6. I'm going to throw my name in the hat on this one. I am married and our romance was definitely worth a novel, but I'm terrible at titles!

  7. I'm not a big genre romance reader, but this sounds like something I'd try.

    My title:
    There's a Broadsword in Your Car: Let's Get Married!

    I'm serious. I purchased a broadsword the day we met. I told him about it in order to scare him away. He told his mom that night he found the woman he's marrying (obviously there was more than that, but that's the first thing we always laugh about).

  8. Tossing my name in the hat!

  9. "The Vampire and the Gypsy"

    His nickname (before we met) was vampire, because he was a total night owl, staying up til 3 or 4am, and sleeping til 4 or 5 in the evening. And he has crazy-long canine teeth (his "fangs").

    My family has called me "Gypsy" since I moved, in the span of 7 years, from Los Angeles to New York, back to LA, to Alaska, to Portland, OR, to Raleigh, NC, to end up back in Alaska.

    Vampire and the Gypsy!

  10. clairecherven1:18 PM

    Tossing my heart in the hat. No love at this time.

  11. Hrm, a title for our love story... Please forgive my geekiness on some of these! :)

    You Do Get Second Chances
    A mage, a death knight, and a Diremaul ogre walk into a bar...
    Love in the Time of Arthas
    Black Lotus in Love
    Welcome Home
    How Did We Get Here?
    Desert Driving
    LAN Party Lovers
    Green+Blue=Stronger Together

  12. Liz B3:24 PM

    Just tossing my name in.

  13. This sounds so good!

    I'm still waiting so my title would be something like, "Thank God I Waited For You!"

    jenma76 at hotmail dot com

  14. Well, I've been married and divorced twice so I don't have a nice romantic title. I guess for the future it could be, "We Should Have Met Before".

    seriousreader at live dot com

  15. Hmmm... this one is a little tough, and not just because I'm horrible at titles.

    Let's call it The Templar and the Domari.

  16. Mine would be " You Get What you Ask For" (sigh)

  17. "Drawing the Future", since that's what we (an illustrator and an architect) have been doing for fourteen years, and the foreseeabe future will find us with pencils in our hands.

  18. Of course, I had to mispell that LOL

  19. Hmmm... can't think of one. Thanks for the recommendation!

  20. Stuck in the Middle with You

  21. this is a good question! i have a couple for me and my fiance's relationship....

    north vs. south
    matzo balls and cheese grits
    tall drink of water (that's what i call him sometimes - he's 6'5")

    k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

  22. I think "I Hit Him In The Face With A Door...And He Loves Me Anyway!". True story actually. Not the best first encounter but it worked for us.

  23. ONE DAY AT A TIME - that's how you get through to the other side.

  24. i'm married. but still i want to toss my name in the hat for this book. i've been wanting to read this book for couple days !

    uniquas at ymail dot com

  25. Richard and I met in the theatre, so our title would be something like:

    Waiting in the Wings
    A Romance Born under the Lights (my hubby's vote)

    My sister and her husband had a cool romance too, and I'd entitle it

    The Dragon and the Faerie-Queene

    What a cool idea for a romance series!

  26. Mine would be called, FINALLY A BRIDE! Haha.

  27. Haven't found The One quite yet, so throwing my name in the hat :)

  28. The Second Time's The Charm.

  29. Looking for Love - STILL

  30. I guess mine would be Met in a Restaurant.

  31. My hubs and I met at the old Big Network (early games site, pre-social networking)...I was a moderator and had to throw him out of the chat room for being rambunctious. And the rest is history. :-)I don't have a clever title at the moment, but it always makes for an interesting story when people ask how we met.

  32. Hmmm...Sure, I'll toss my name in:)

    I'd say "Two many from both sides to mention"

    I don't know if I'd like my love story to be published, unless it would be written, as vain as it sounds, by me or my beloved.

  33. Tamith5:44 PM

    I'd have to go with "Just meeting for coffee, really."