I honestly don’t ever remember reading Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child (though I’m sure I did), but the concept is so appealing to me. It’s kind of like a video game for book lovers… which for this girl means pretty much an ideal situation. When I heard last year that there was a choose-your-own-adventure-type romance book being published (authors Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris call it an interactive romance novel), I knew I had to read it. And lucky for me, it went on sale in the Kindle store.
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 ninteenth-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?
Make choices, turn pages, and discover all the daring delights of the multiple (and intertwining!) storylines. And in every path you pick, beguiling illustrations bring all the lust and love to life.
This book was the most labour intensive novel I’ve possibly ever read for pleasure, and I truly don’t mean that as a bad thing. When I took my first read through, making my decisions, I felt like I got to the end quite quickly… there weren’t any sharp turns or plot twists, and the story was pretty vanilla. When I got to that conclusion, I read through again making similar choices but consciously changing it up every once in a while, and I was disappointed in that ultimately got the same end result. But I wanted to know most (if not all) of the possibilities. So I started to take notes.
Since I was reading on a Kindle, every time I made a decision, I wrote down the page number and came back to that page as soon as the thread finished. It made for a lot of back and forth, but I also think I made it to most (if not all) outcomes. I was surprised at how many different variations there were.
The gist of the story is that there are four main love interests, but you don’t necessarily end up with one of them—there are at least five more characters that are endgame. One thread reminded me of Pride and Prejudice (obviously the thread I followed first), but there was also a gothic ghost story, a jaunt in the Scottish Highlands with some orphans and an exotic trip to Egypt. Every thread had a mystery to solve, which kept me turning the pages. What was especially cool was that every set of decisions didn’t have the same ending, even if you ended up with the same person. Interesting, however, that at least from all the different threads I followed, there was always a happy ending, or at least a not-terrible conclusion Sure, it wasn’t always luxury and soulmates, but things always ended well for “me” (the main character). I would have loved to see a couple of choices mean terrible things, like ending up homeless or (though I hate to think it) dead.
The second-person narrative took a lot of getting used to, I’ll admit. That was the one barrier keeping me from immersing myself completely in the story; I was very conscious of the fact that this was not me and that I wouldn’t be making these decisions. While that part was more difficult, the hilarity of the language was keeping me laughing the whole way through. This book knew exactly what it was and didn’t take itself seriously—especially during the more sexy scenes.
Of course, because the gimmick of the book is the choosing-your-own-adventure part, there was never much substance to anything. Characters fell in love in mere hours and there was a lot that the authors relied on the reader to just trust. But we (and the authors) know that you aren’t reading this book for the great love story and character building—and that’s okay.
Food for thought
When I did a quick search online, I found a couple of lists of other choose-your-own-adventure novels for adults. Have you read any other ones? Do you recommend them? And if not, is there another experimental novel format that you have seen that really works?
“Choose wisely, and you could end up the talk of the ton, wrapped in the embrace of an exciting, eternally faithful, extremely becoming mate of superior charm and devotion. Choose poorly, and you may end up destitute and begging for scraps in the slimiest slums of London. Truly, in matters of love, anything is possible.” —Kitty Curran & Larissa Zageris, My Lady’s Choosing
Thank you to Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash for the featured photo of the signs.