It’s a rare day indeed when I don’t receive an e-mail offer to “ENHANCE YOUR ROMANTIC LIFE!!!!!” This usually entails some very uncomfortable looking pumps.
On the other hand, who doesn’t want to enhance their romantic life? Especially if they could do so without the aforementioned pumps?
And within the safe confines of a romance novel?
The concept of enhanced e-books has been around for several years. It makes perfect sense with works of non-fiction. History books can be enhanced with interactive maps. Cookbooks can offer video of the proper way to separate eggs whites. Exercise manuals are naturals for step-by-step instructions, and any rock star’s biography can only be made better via audio clips of their best performances.
When it comes to fiction, however, the applications are less obvious. Some horror titles have added creepy sound effects to compliment the action. Children’s books boast touch-screen games. Mystery novels prompt you to hunt for clues along with the sleuth.
But, where does that leave romance? What kind of sound effects would you expect to find (that you won’t be arrested for playing in public)? What precisely would the screen encourage you to touch?
Among the first experiments out of the gate, Jude Deveraux’s “Promises,” an enhanced novella (http://store.vook.com/promises.html), told the story of love on a Gothic plantation – complete with videos hinting at the deep, dark family secret buried within.
It’s telling, I think, that even though Vook.com launched with “Promises,” it has remained the only romance title on their list to date.
Vintage Romance, which appears to primarily be re-releasing copyright free classic romances such as Ethel Dell’s The Keeper of the Door, The Shadow of the East, and Greatheart, along with Edith Hull’s The Sheik, call their books enhanced. But, the extra features involved are of the purely non-fiction variety: A hyperlink table of contents, a biography of the writer, pictures of Rudolph Valentino as the titular Sheik. In other words, these are DVD extras, not features that truly enhance the narrative. The same is true for the enhanced version of “Pride & Prejudice”.
The Deluxe Edition of David Nichols’ “One Day” strikes a bit closer to a truly integrated experience, interspersing clips from the movie with the original novel it was based on. In this case, though, the enhanced features can seem somewhat redundant, as viewers read and view what amounts to the same thing.
Other books offer detailed illustrations, a complete audio version of the text, or videos of the author discussing the work.
Personally, I’m looking for something different. When it comes to enhancing my romantic life in book form, I want content that genuinely makes the story I’m reading more enjoyable.
Maybe audio of a conversation that’s being eavesdropped on to make me feel like I’m actually the one doing the eavesdropping.
Maybe the romantic song the characters are listening to the first time they see each other across a crowded room.
Maybe I want, with the click of a button, to be able to decide whose point of view – hero or heroine’s – I want to read a given scene from.
Maybe I want to direct the story, Choose Your Own Adventure style.
I don’t know, really. All I know is that, so far, I haven’t exactly found what I’m looking for.
How about you? If you were going to enhance your romance novel reading experience, what would you want added?
Alina Adams is the NYT best-selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries, and romance novels. She is currently trying to figure out the best way to enhance her backlist. A variety of fledgling attempts can be found on Alina’s Website here