Apr 23 2011 11:00am

Please Turn to Page 99: Romance and the Page 99 Test

Flip to the FutureCan 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?”

Naked in Death by J.D. RobbThe developers have taken the idea a step further on their site and give authors, both published or unpublished, the opportunity to post their work on the site page99test and have readers critique their 99th page, which I think is an interesting approach, but I’m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?

Open book image courtesy of Horia Varlan via Flickr


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.

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Taryn Kincaid
1. Taryn Kincaid
I was a couple of years out of college and on vacation in Jamaica. As an English major, I was fairly snobby about trash books and beach reads. My roommate left a book open and spread-eagled on her towel while she went off somewhere. I idly picked it up and began to read where she'd left off. And continued on through the chapter. And then went back to the beginning. She had to pry it away from me.
And that's how I discovered romance novels! I've been carrying on a very happily ever after love affair with them ever since.
Donna Cummings
2. Donna Cummings
I've never tried this, since I hate to read ahead in a book. LOL Plus I usually give a book at least 100 pages. But there have been a few books that hooked me on the first page and then kind of fizzled out. So I might use this technique as a "Plan B" when I'm buying books. :)
Regina Thorne
3. reginathorn
I don't do this when buying books (though maybe I should, considering how many books I own and haven't yet read!) but I have given myself permission to stop reading a novel if I'm really not into it by page 100. I think that's enough of a fair shake for the author!
Taryn Kincaid
4. A Buckeye Girl Reads
I am going to have to try this test!
Jessica Turner
5. TheSpinecracker
@Taryn: Your meet-cute with romance novels is perfect. :)

@Donna: I hate to read ahead too, but I didn't feel like one page gave too much away.

@Regina: It's kinda interesting. Try it next time, before you buy a book.

@Buckeye: Lemme know how is goes
Karen Cherubino
6. kcherubtx
While I, too, hate to read ahead, I did try this approach on several books - and found that I would turn the page and buy the book. What a fun thing to do! And I still have Naked in Death (along with all the rest!).
Carrie Strickler
7. DyslexicSquirrel
I had someone at work (one of my former bosses, as a matter of fact) tell me about his version of that, which is the 69th page rule cause he was being a smartass while I was reading a book at work with a particularly steamy cover. So, I of course had to turn to page 69 and read it and it was in the middle of a sex scene. I laughed so freaking hard.
Taryn Kincaid
8. JulieYMandKAC
I am so going to have to play this game! It sounds fun. Neat post Jess!
Jessica Turner
9. TheSpinecracker
@kcerubtx: LOVED Naked in Death :D

@DS: I almost just snorted diet coke out of my nose, that story is perfect!

@Julie: Try it, it's pretty interesting.
Carrie Strickler
10. DyslexicSquirrel
@Spinecracker: Snorting diet coke out your nose hurts. Although, surprisingly grape juice is worse. It burns lol
Keira Gillett
11. Keira
When I first started reading romance I would go into bookstores and browse the romance shelves, read the back blurbs, and if I liked the back blurb would search the novel for the first sex scene. I would read it and decide if I was interested in the characters enough to buy the book and read about them further. Not quite a page 99 test, but similar. lol :)
Jessica Turner
12. TheSpinecracker
@DS: LMAO, glad to know this. Grapejuice = danger

@Keria: That's an interesting approach! I guess technically since we all kinda know that they're bound to get it on at somepoint it doesn't ruin too much. Do you still do this?
Carrie Strickler
13. DyslexicSquirrel
Oh. My. God.

So, I went to B&N yesterday to pick up some books with a gift card that I got for my birthday and I decided I would try out this test. I was prmarily looking for authors I had never read before, so I started at the new release section and picked up a book that was obviously about vampires (even if the word hadn't been in the title). I flipped to page 99...

And almost threw the book. I jumped into the middle (almost end?) of a three-some that I was not prepaired for! Now, I'm not squemish and there isn't a whole lot that I haven't read, but I was not prepared for that lol
Keira Gillett
14. Keira
@TheSpinecracker - Nope. I rely on back blurbs mostly now and just plunge into the first chapter and keep going. My friend had another test similar to mine, which I don't think she does anymore either, which was to scan the book for the first sex scene like me, but instead of reading it she would note what page it was on. For her it had to come before the halfway mark or near it. If it didn't she'd move on and check the next book.
Jessica Turner
15. TheSpinecracker
@DS: OMG is right *giggling* You KNOW you wanted to turn the page ;)

@Keira: Yeah, I have such an obsession with buying books (when I already have a shelf or 2 that need to be read) that I read the back and then buy if I like, but then put away -usually- for a couple weeks then when I just to read it, all the details from the back are foggy, making the experience totally fresh. Obviously this isn't really a technique, it's more of a nerosis but you get where I'm going. LOL
Taryn Kincaid
16. Vivian Darkbloom
You might be interested in the books at the original Page 99 Test blog; see
Taryn Kincaid
17. T.J.
Naked in Death looks like it would be a good psychological horror novel with Roarke creepily breaking into the heroine's apartment and then using reverse psychology to convince her that she isn't going to shoot him. And she gets points for wanting to shoot him but not doing so because that would make a lot of extra trouble for her and he's not worth it.

However, just the prospect of Nameless Female Cop ending up with Creepy Rich Stalker Who Plays Mind Games makes me sick to my stomach. I can think of a lot of things this is, but romantic isn't one of them.
Carrie Strickler
19. DyslexicSquirrel
@The Spinecracker: Lol I actually didn't. The way the guys were talking and the fact that the word 'rammed' or 'reamed' or something of the sort was in there somewhere. Harkens to the Squick Me Out post hahaha.
Carrie Strickler
20. DyslexicSquirrel
@The Spinecracker: Lol I actually didn't. The way the guys were talking and the fact that the word 'rammed' or 'reamed' or something of the sort was in there somewhere. Harkens to the Squick Me Out post hahaha.
Taryn Kincaid
21. Cammy
@DS. You totally picked up an Anita Blake book.
Carrie Strickler
22. DyslexicSquirrel
@Cammy: Actually, it wasn't lol. It was an author I'd never heard of before, so I figured, "Why not do the test and see if it makes me want to read the book?" XD
Taryn Kincaid
23. rsangel127117
Interesting test. Years ago it was the first 50 pages. By that page the first love scene was supposed to have taken place ... and it had. You could practically count on every author writing this way. Now not so much. I like it better when the sexual tension is drawn out. Makes for a better love scene when it happens. I digress. I don't think I'll try this test. I love to be surprised. The blurb on the back is enough for me. Besides, I buy books by good authors and good writing. That hasn't failed me yet!
Taryn Kincaid
24. silence
@rsangel127117 maybe the formula has changed but my Dad would pick up Mum's romance books and read page 140 as that nearly always had a love scene.
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