The Boyfriend School by Sarah Bird
Pocket Books, 1st printing, 1990
Genre: Fiction, romance, chick lit
Synopsis & Review: Gretchen Griner is an underpaid, under appreciated photographer for the Austin (that’s Texas) Grackle, part-time lover of Peter Overton Treadwell III (known as “Trout”), and major consumer of Cup O’ Soup. That is, until she meets Lizzie Potts—otherwise known as Viveca Lamoureaux, romance writer extraordinaire. Lizzie has a plan for Gretchen’s life—and it includes Lizzie’s brother Gus. But Gretchen has her own plan, and it does not feature a “wispy goon” named Gus. Of course, fate also has a plan for Gretchen, and it doesn’t care what Gretchen wants. So Lizzie will give Gretchen Gus, Gus will give Gretchen the man of her dreams, and among this oddball cast of marvelous misfits, someone just may discover the secret to true romance. (Jacket copy)
The Boyfriend School might have been the only worthwhile thing to come out of my seventh grade science class, other than my ability to flip my stool over while sitting on it and fall very hard without getting hurt. That sort of skill does come in very handy in life. I honestly don’t recall learning anything in the class, though I did get a kick out of the seventies anti-drug films they occasionally showed us (If you do goofballs, then you’ll die under a bridge. I still don’t know what a goofball is. Glue-sniffing?). But I also borrowed Sarah Bird’s The Boyfriend School from my BFF Tina’s friend Jennifer during that class, a really amusing and fun novel about appearances, romance, and a whole lot of meta-fiction about romance novels.
Gretchen gets assigned to cover the Luvboree, a Romance Writers’ Convention replete with multiple pen names and women in Southern belle costumes. Set to mock the women and the genre, Gretchen instead is befriended by Juanita Lusader (contemporaries and family sagas as Johni Lewis, and historicals as Lunita St John) and Lizzie Potts (Viveca Lamoreaux, medieval historicals), who expose her to romance and what it can mean for the women who read and write it. This opens the door for some discussions and asides on the value of the romance genre, and how it affects feminism; I especially enjoyed Gretchen’s reflections on the sisterhood of the genre, and how much that meant to her. Inspired and empowered by what she saw at the Luvboree, Gretchen sets out to write her own romance novel, Gain the Earth. Eager to transcend the genre and still suffering from condescension, she stumbles, and Lizzie and Juanita are there to help her understand the mechanisms of romance–both real and imagined. Read the rest of this entry »