This tongue-in-cheek foray into the world of Texan romance writers has a problem: some of the book reads like a romance novel itself. Its characters can be endearing, and there are whacked-out zany moments, but Bird (Alamo House, 1986) finally lets too much cutesiness spoil the soup. Gretchen Griner, a photojournalist with the Austin Grackle, a dilapidated biweekly, is assigned by her editor (and philandering lover) Trout to cover a romance writers' convention, the Luvboree, in Dallas. Instead of stereotypes, Gretchen meets Juanita Lusada and Lizzie Potts—two savvy, hard-boiled creatures who become her fairy godmothers. Gretchen, of course, gets the romance bug herself after sensuality workshops, costume parties, lots of shrieking, and a primer course where she (along with the reader) learns the ins and outs of romance publishing. Gretchen studies the romances and then writes to "transcend" them. She develops Hattie, her alter-ego heroine, and from that point the book alternates between her inventions and real life. Lizzie's brother, Gus, has chased Gretchen from the moment they've met, and she's fled from him; but, hungry for a boyfriend, she meets Rye St. John, a "natural man" from New Zealand, and falls head over heels. He won't sleep with her, though. Is he gay? Well, no. Is he married? No, not married. He's Gus, in disguise, a "handsome rogue" romance fantasy that her fairy godmothers have helped create. Quite a trick, of course—different accent, more muscles, etc.—but not to worry: we (as well as Gretchen) get to read Gus' journal, and he explains it all. Gretchen will finish writing her romance and decide, natch, that she wants Rye, or Gus, as is. Happy ending #23. Strictly for romance writers, would-be writers, and their fans.
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