Can romance survive the Page 99 Test?
I first encountered the Page 99 Test in one of those airline mags on a flight where I'd forgotten to bring enough reading material (I know!), and my literary Spidey senses starting tingling.
Lance Jones, Joanna Wiebe, and Steven Luke describe their idea thus: “Rather than judge a book by its cover, turn to page 99 and start reading…. Then answer two questions: Would you turn the page? And, how likely would you be to buy the book based on what you just read?”
The developers have taken the idea a step further on their site and give authors, both published or unpublished, the opportunity to post their work on the site page99test and have readers critique their 99th page, which I think is an interesting approach, but I’m digressing.
It got me thinking about my book at home and whether it could pass the 99 page test. At the time, I was reading my first romantic suspense book, J.D. Robb’s Naked in Death. Then not only did I start wondering about the book on my nightstand, but I started wondering about romance novels in general and whether they, specifically, can grab your interest with just one page.
Wikipedia says, “Novels in this [romance] genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending."
That’s it in a nutshell, but I think of romance as having slightly more to it than that. Sure, it’s about these two characters and their coming together (er, no pun intended), but it’s also about the chase and the tension and the general shenanigans that two people go through when they discover that they have feelings for one another but don’t want to reveal too much of their heart too quickly. For me, I get attached to a romantic book because of those emotions.
Yes, there’s a plot, side characters, and a new world to develop, whether that world is a small town in the middle of Arkansas or a realm where witches rule the earth, but for me, it’s all about the chemistry. And I was skeptical that that could be captured in a single page.
So as soon as I could, I went to my local bookstore to perform my own run of “tests,” picking up six different books from the romance section, and flipped to their 99th page and read.
There were two books that I really wanted to know more about just by reading that one page…. And it wasn’t just because one of those book’s 99th page happened to be the middle of a steamy love scene. ;) Did it mean that the other four books weren’t great books? No, they’re probably fine, but I was surprised that just that small glimpse inside the book I read really did give me at least the a feel of the book.
Is the Page 99 Test the be-all-end-all best way to judge a book? No, definitely not. But, is it a fun and fast way to get a taste of the characters and maybe a small look into a situation at hand? Yes, I think it might be.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering if my current read at the time passed the “test” here’s its 99th page. I would say it definitely did…and I don’t think it’s just because I know the characters.
She’d have to rely on public transportation or just book a car from the police garage and pay the bureaucratic price later.
Still frowning over the hassle to come and reminding herself to contact Feeney personally to have him go through a week’s worth of security discs on the Gorham, she rode the elevator to her floor. Eve had no more than unkeyed her locks when her hand was on her weapon, drawing it.
The silence of her apartment was wrong. She knew instantly she wasn’t alone. The prickle along her skin had her doing a quick sweep, arms and eyes, shifting fluidly left then right.
In the dim light of the room, the shadows hung and the silence remained. Then she caught a movement that had her tensed muscles rippling, her trigger finger poised.
'Excellent reflexes, lieutenant.' Roarke rose from the chair where he’d been lounging. Where he’d been watching her. 'So excellent,' he continued in the same mild tone as he touched on a lamp 'that I have every faith you won’t use that on me.'
She might have. She very well might have given him one good jolt. That would have wiped that complacent smile off his face. But any discharge of a weapon meant paperwork she wasn’t prepared to face for simple revenge.
'What the fuck are you doing here?'
'Waiting for you.' His eyes remained on hers as he lifted his hands. 'I’m unarmed. You’re welcome to check for yourself if you won’t take my word for it.'
Very slowly, and with some reluctance, she holstered her weapon. 'I imagine you have a whole fleet of very expensive and very clever lawyers, Roarke, who would have you out before I finished booking you on a B and E. But why don’t you tell me why I shouldn’t put myself to the trouble, and the city to the expense of throwing you in a cage for a couple of hours?'
Roarke wondered if he’d become perverse that he could so
Page 99 of Naked in Death by J.D. Robb.
So—pull out your current reading material; does it pass the test?
Jessica Turner reviews Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, and Sc-Fi Romances on her site The Spinecracker and is a trained chef who lives in San Diego with her very Irish husband.