And We Thought Romance Titles Were Bad

The other day, AAR’s Ellen Micheletti dug up some new Harlequin Presents
titles: The Ruthless Magnate’s Virgin Mistress, Bought for the Sicilian Billionaire’s Bed (I bought a new duvet the other day, does that count?), and Claimed by the Rogue Billionaire. She had me thinking titles couldn’t get much worse.

At least those titles have a purpose. They help fans who like wealthy domineering alphas find the books they want, and they tell other fans to stay away from those books. There’s no question what sort of book you’ll get if you buy Bought for the Sicilian Billionaire’s Bed. It’snot about buying duvets.

But what do you make of Scouts in Bondage? Is this some new erotica trend? Nope. As blogger gyrovagueness tells us, it’s a tame children’s story from 1930 about a troop of BoyScouts who search for a hidden treasure. This is one of those books where the boys say things like “Crumb!” It’s from a time so innocent that publishers could release children’s books with titles like Scouts in Bondage and even The Boy Fancier.

The strangest titles come from more innocent times. As featured in Memorable Balls and My Poor Dick: The Title Says It All, book dealer Michael Bell collected the best of these titles in Scouts in Bondage: And other Violations of Literary Propriety. What modern reader can’t laugh upon seeing a title like Old Dykes I Have Known or Queer Doings in the Navy? Still not enough? Book dealers Russell Ash and Brian Lake have also rounded up bizarre titles in Fish Who Answer the Telephone and Other Bizarre Books which showcases titles like The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry. You can read more about their book here.

For more strange titles, check out the Cracked.com article The 13 Most Baffling Book Titles. “How baffling are they?” Let’s start with Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them by Roger Welsch. Maybe that book answers the age-old question: Do tractors prefer flowers or chocolates? What about The Great Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories? Are the horses lesbian? Is it about lesbians who ride horses? That’s why they call them baffling titles.

Suddenly The Ruthless Magnate’s Virgin Bride; doesn’t seem so bad, does it? OK, it’s still bad. But at least it’s not The Day Amanda Came or Drummer Dick’s Discharge. Let alone Cooking with Pooh.

-Anne Marble

6 Responses to “And We Thought Romance Titles Were Bad”

  1. RfP says:

    When Harlequin published general pulp, they had some howlers of titles. For example, Harlequin #1 was The Manatee: Strange Loves of a Seaman. It appears to have been a romance of sorts; I found two versions of the cover.

  2. Anne Marble says:

    RfP:
    The Manatee: Strange Loves of a Seaman?! Oh my God, what were they thinking? :)

    I think a lot of these covers fall under that category. I can understand an older book with “Gay” or “Queer” in the title because those words didn’t mean the same back then. (Even today, they have multiple meanings.) But why didn’t someone in the publishing company look at that subtitle and say “Maybe we should retitle this…”?

  3. RfP says:

    Well, it was pulp, remember; I have a feeling they *meant* it to sound lurid :)

    That was really my take throughout my post: that crazy titles, from The Manatee through The Billionaire’s Virgin Mistress (and in nonfiction and literary fiction) are meant to convey a tabloid “shocker” feel. However, you’re certainly right that the current Presents covers are also designed to signal to readers looking for a particular dynamic.

  4. Gwen G says:

    I found “Scouts In Bondage” at the New books section of my Public Library and laughed my behind off. Subsequently, a similiar book appeared, equally entertaining called “Bizarre Books: A Compendium of Classic Oddities” by Russell Ash and Brian Lake. The 2nd book is longer than “Scouts” and has a few of the same books but is just as hilarious.

  5. Anne Marble says:

    RfP:
    Good point. Which book was a 1940s more likely to pick up? The Manatee: Strange Loves of a Seaman? Or The Sailor Meets Some Women? I know I’d want to read more about the manatees.

    Gwen G:
    I really should have asked for those books for Christmas. My “Stupidest Things Ever Said” calendar included some of these titles. I love Fish Who Answer the Telephone (yeah, my fish did that all the time) and The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry (although it really is self-explanatory :)).

  6. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks for a good laugh, Anne!