What’s Your (Guilty) Pleasure?

cuttingedgeAs I was reading A Wedding by Dawn, a book I had to admit was pretty bad, I also noticed that I was sort of enjoying it. Not because it got better (because eventually, it kind of did), but because it was kind of ridiculous. What do I mean by that? Well, the heroine is determined not to marry the hero, who has come looking for her in Malta because her dad has promised him 50,000 pounds if he marries her. She escapes (so many times I lost count) throwing herself into increasingly ridiculous situations and almost deciding several times that losing her virginity to a random stranger would be a great idea. Ridiculous. And yet, so silly and ridiculous that I didn’t mind reading it. Somewhere along the line, silly books have become a new guilty pleasure.

I’m not sure this was always the case. Early on in my reviewing career, think I took myself more seriously, and I think I probably took romances more seriously too. Funny was great, but silly? Weren’t we too intelligent and important for that? I scoffed at madcap Regencies by Emily Hendrickson and Sandra Heath, wondering why we hadn’t gotten beyond such ridiculous fare. On the other hand, I felt no guilt liking funny regencies by Diane Farr or Emma Jensen.

I’m not sure what changed. It isn’t my grading, because something truly ridiculous would rarely merit higher than a C in my book. Nonetheless, I find myself kind of enjoying the occasional stupid heroine or far-fetched plot line. You know, the stuff that verges on parody with cross-dressing heroines who manage to fool people, silly will provisions, zany bluestocking archeologists and the like. I can’t in good conscience recommend them per se, but I don’t exactly mind reading them either – probably because I am laughing too hard.

In order to meet my guilty pleasure needs, it really needs to be so bad it’s good. And lord knows, it can’t be boring. Boring doesn’t qualify. It also works best for me in romance. I recently attempted to get through Clara and Mr. Tiffany, an historical fiction novel, for my book club. I let myself stop after fifty pages of tortuous prose, stilted dialogue, and flat characterization. It was ridiculous alright, but it was no pleasure.

At the risk of opening a can of worms, I’d put the Fifty Shades books in the guilty pleasure category. Granted, I was laughing too hard at the end of the second one to bother with the third, but the point is that I was laughing.

One of my guiltiest pleasures is our own bad reviews. Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll look up old D and F reviews in the database and read them for hours, laughing at how funny they are (because even when a bad book is hard to read, the review is often fun to read and write).

My family’s cinematic guilty pleasure is The Cutting Edge. If you’ve never seen it, you’re missing some of the cheesiest dialogue ever written. It’s a romantic comedy featuring a washed up hockey player and almost washed-up figure skater who skate their way to (presumably) an Olympic gold medal in pairs skating – and of course, fall in love along the way. It’s horrible. And yet brilliant. If you don’t love lines like: “There are two things I do well…and skating’s the other one”…well, you’re probably a better person than I.

How about you? What’s your guilty pleasure, whether cinematic or bookish? And do you like a good, silly book once in a while?

23 thoughts on “What’s Your (Guilty) Pleasure?

  1. This is actually a tough question to answer. Sometimes my silly book is another person’s brilliant and vice versa. For example, I loved Agnes and the Hit man by Bob Mayer and Jennifer Cruise but a lot of people didn’t The silly characters (two wheel, three wheels, four wheels), the rather ridiculous scenarios weren’t meant to be taken seriously and had me laughing uproariously. On the other hand, Regency farces tend to fall flat for me. The big thing for me is was the author intending for the book to silly/funny? Then I can be a bit forgiving about the craziness. Another important question: Was she doing it to write a silly book or was she making fun of the genre? If yes, then it takes me off. When the author intends for it not to be silly and it is? That can be a bit painful

    • Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading too much bad historical fiction lately, but if it’s a romance trying to take itself seriously and it’s silly, somehow that is better to me. But sometimes I’m not really sure if an author is taking herslef seriously or just having us on.

  2. One of my guiltiest pleasures is Impulsive by Catherine Hart. The heroine was an excellent soccer player with an amazing kick and she becomes a kicker for a pro football team–nuff said.

    • I love Catherine Hart’s TEMPEST and FOREVER GOLD. Corny dialogue and unrealistic plots abound but they still make me laugh and cry so I put those in the win column.

  3. Thanks for mentioning The Book That Shall Not Be Named (FSOG). It was my first electronic book buy when I got a Kindle because I was too embarrassed to be seen with the actual book. Even now I find the whole series a comfort read.

    I probably have more cinematic guilty pleasures because I grew up in the 60′s and 70′s. Watching movies during the summer both on TV and at the theater warped me forever. I love the old beach movies (Gidget, Annette and Frankie, silly older Cary Grant (Walk, Don’t Run, Father Goose), anything with Sandra Dee and Hayley Mills, the politically incorrect humor of Bill Murray in Meatballs. I don’t know if this is a guilty pleasure or a bit of an obsession but I love the movie Love, Actually because it has almost every British actor and actress I currently adore- I ran it in a loop during Christmas.

    • I was going to say Spice World: The Movie. So you’re really classy compared to me.

  4. My guilty pleasure is reading about or watching TV. Seems like a waste of time to just sit and watch but I love it. I was lucky to have found a fantastic historical type read on 1950′s TV called Strange Birth, Short Life and Sudden Death of Justice Girl. SO fun to read how the networks came about. And to see them now it’s just incredible to me. Julian Stone is the author, juliandavidstone.com is his site. I recommend his novel, as it’s really a great read.

  5. The Cutting Edge is not a guilty pleasure! What’s a more legit pleasure than watching the toepick scene? It is unrealistic, however, since American pairs are barely medal contenders (at best), let alone gold medal ones. Not to mention that a hockey player would most likely end up looking like the guys on Battle of the Blades – good, but not competition-level good.

    Anyway, I don’t buy into the whole idea of guilty pleasures, as though we should apologize or feel bad about enjoying something. If you like something, it should just be a pleasure, period. Even my brief telenovela addiction back in the day…

    • Gasp – I was going to say the same thing – I LOVE :The Cutting Edge”!! One of my favorite movies of all times. No, it wouldn’t ever be considered a must-see or winning any awards for dialogue, acting or the like. But yea, “Toe pick” is classic!

  6. I completely identify with the joy in reading bad reviews :) Reading reviews in general is a great pleasure for me, especially if the writing is top-notch. To join you in this guilty pleasure, I love the late, great Roger Ebert’s writing in general and particularly his books, _Your Movie Sucked_ and _I Hated Hated Hated This Movie_. His reviews are works of art on their own terms but he could eviscerate a work unlike anyone else. So fun to read!!

  7. Coincidentally enough, my guilty pleasure is also named The Cutting Edge, but it’s the book by Linda Howard. Technically I know it’s kind of awful, but I just luxuriate in the OTT emotion. Whenever I need a good dose of heartwrench, I go for it.

  8. My guilty pleasure is the Twilight series. Oh, the angst!! The first person point of view so that half the time you have no idea what Edward is thinking and why.

    Why would any girl in her right mind want to become a part of a family that has to fight wanting to kill people her entire existence? (oh yea, it was easy for Bella after all – no cravings- how lucky!!!!). Jake!, Edward!, Jake!, Edward! And Jake gets to marry my daughter!

    Still, it was a lot of fun. I won’t go back there, but I enjoyed the whole experience.

  9. I was just thinking about this, so funny you should ask. Is FSIG a guilty pleasure? Sure. Twilight Series? Absolutely. But my guiltiest pleasure of them all is Harlequin Presents. Pretty much any of them, but I have a special fondness for Emma Darcy and Michelle Reid. When nothing else is working, when I “don’t have anything to read,” an HP always seems to fill the bill. I can’t even ask for absolution cause sorry, not sorry, lol!

    • Thank you for your willingness to list her! Barbara Cartland is truly my guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Although the terrible dialogue, constant use of “…”, breathy TSTL virginal heroines, judgemental heroes – almost all of them Dukes, archaic class assumptions, plots cribbed from Georgette Heyer, and overuse of unbelievable coincidences or ‘deus ex machina’ to solve all problems, are apparent to all readers, I have an MA in English List from an Ivy League university and would be beyond mortified to be caught reading her. My huge collection of her books lead a shamefaced existence in a box well hidden under my bed. If I find one in a used bookstore, I explain to the cashier that I am buying it for a bedridden elderly lady with terrible taste in literature.

      And yet, when I’m feeling down and my life seems completely out of control (I have two awesome kids but both have special needs – hmmm. I guess I still feel the need to justify here!), nothing helps like re-reading a Barbara Cartland book. More than nostalgia for my untroubled childhood, when I began reading them, I think it is the very silliness listed above that allows everything else to fade away.

      • English Lit, not List. Doesn’t matter how many times I proof, something sneaks through!

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  11. Regencies ARE my guilty pleasure. There are so many on the market that quality is all over the place. I will try a new author occasionally just for the heck of it. Sometimes you find a gem; sometimes, well. . .

    Example: I recently read The Impossible Bachelors series by Kieran Kramer. I had bought the entire quartet (thanks, amazon, for grouping them together) and started reading. I had read the first and was about a quarter-way through the second when I almost chucked them all because they were just so silly and over the top. But I persevered and I’m glad I did. There was something about the ridiculousness that I know I will remember for a long time, which, IMHO, is much better than being totally forgettable.

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