But a lot of it doesn't.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It just means that reading a "classic" of any genre sometimes requires the reader to approach the story from a slightly different angle.
Lightning That Lingers by Laura London (the pseudonym for husband and wife writing tandem Sharon and Tom Curtis) was first published by Bantam Loveswept in 1983, and is a favorite among many long time romance readers. I will say for a 26-year-old category romance, this story held up better than I thought it was going to. That doesn't mean it didn't show it's age though, and it doesn't mean that I'm ready to shout from the hill-tops that this is the greatest category romance ever written.
Jennifer Hamilton is a Plain Jane children's librarian (oh, of course she is!). She's young, fresh-faced, and innocent. So when her friends haul her to a local male strip club (The Cougar Club - no I'm not joking) she practically dies of embarrassment. However instead of the floor opening up to swallow her whole (which is what she wants to happen), she catches the eye of the "star" stripper, Phillip Brooks.
The Brooks family is old money American aristocracy. Phillip is actually an out of work biologist (seriously, I'm not joking) who lives in the former family summer home. He's stripping for a "greater good" - and takes care of injured wild life. The moment he spots Jenny he's smitten, flirtation and pursuit ensues, and a happily ever after is right around the corner.
First things first, this book was published in 1983, so it is dated. That can't really be helped. Jenny has a Dorothy Hamill hair cut. Phillip does a strip tease to a Stray Cats song. Swear to God, STDs are referred to as "social diseases" (which I'm pretty sure was dated even back in 1983) and Jenny mentions "Mr. Greenjeans." All in all though, really not bad for a 26-year-old category romance.
Parts of this story are just patently absurd. The first chapter begins by introducing the reader to Phillip and his pet owl, Chaucer, who lives and flies around freely in the rambling family summer home. Insert major eye roll here. Also, I didn't know it was humanly possible to cram so much purple prose in a story that only clocks in at 180 pages.
"Like frigid poison, the icy water bled through her clothes, lacerating her raw flesh, washing her in agony, convulsing her muscles."Or another gem:
"As she had eased herself gracefully into the bath, he had seen her wince when the sore petals of her femininity touched the water, and he was sorry."Admittedly I'm a "less is more" kind of reader, but I found myself rolling my eyes or fighting giggles more than once. Sigh....but again, 1983. Purple prose was pretty much the standard back then. Just makes me appreciate today's romance genre more, which allows writers to be a bit more....ummm....frank with their language.
So where does that leave me? Well, I can see why so many readers like this story. Phillip is charming and roguish and Jenny definitely fulfills a common reader fantasy; that of the Plain Jane who manages to snag the attention of the drop dead gorgeous hero. That being said, I didn't believe this romance. Yes Jenny is nice and sweet, but I couldn't figure out what Phillip saw in her. What was it about her that kicked his hormones into overdrive? I have no idea - other than it was probably the fact that she was the only woman not throwing her panties at him. And that's just not enough for me to believe that they're in love. Also, one of the things I really loathe about old school romance (and even some new school romance!) is that innocence is shorthand for "heroine" and Miss Slutty McSlut Slut is shorthand for dastardly "other woman."
Ahem, sorry. Got off track there. There is no dastardly "other woman" in this story and no Miss Slutty McSlut Slut. I might have been a tad annoyed however that the socially awkward, shy, bashful heroine just happened to be a librarian. Stereotype much?
I will say that if I read this book when I was teenager I probably would have loved it beyond all reason. I was a very shy Super Librarian-in-training when I was a teen, and thank the good Lord above, largely outgrew it by the time college rolled around. At 16 I would have been a swooning mess of teenage emo hormones reading this story. But now? As a more....ummm....forthright woman in her 30s? Yeah, not so much.
Final Grade = C
Teenage Super Librarian Grade = B+/A-
Contest Alert! Because I love to pass along the Old School Romance Lurve, I'm giving away my copy of Lightning That Lingers. It's pretty beat up. Lots of spine creasing, and the pages are pretty darn close from starting to separate from the spine. But it's a decent reading copy, and I would love to pass it along to another reader curious to read one of "the classics." Winner will be chosen from random comments on this post Friday, June 5 @ 8AM PST.
ETA: Contest is open to everybody - including published authors and those who live outside the US.