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Love story

Ever imagine you and your partner as lead characters in a romance novel? For $50, a North Carolina couple will make it happen.

By Dalia Wheatt
Published February 1, 2007


I write for the newspaper and wear Givenchy perfume. My boyfriend works for the library and likes Bod Man body spray. He drives an Acura. I'm partial to pink underwear. I call him "babe." He calls me "bae." We sometimes speak Spanish together. And now a complete stranger knows all of this.

She's Kathy Newbern of YourNovel.com. Together with her husband, J.S. "Fletch" Fletcher, the Raleigh, N.C., couple have written a series of customized romance-adventure novels. Fill out a short online questionnaire describing you and your partner, and for $49.95 the two of you can star in your own love story. Find yourselves hobnobbing with F. Scott Fitzgerald at a North Carolina spa, riding the open range at a Wild West dude ranch or escaping diamond thieves in Rome. There are 21 titles from which to choose, each available in a "mild" or "wild" version.

In the name of research, I went online and filled in the details on myself and my boyfriend, Braulio - our hair and eye colors, favorite music and a few other personal details. I opted for the mild adaptation of Jamaica Rendezvous: A Couples Ocho Rios Romance, a 167-page tale of two lovebirds vacationing at the Caribbean resort.

A few minutes after I'd completed my order, Newbern called me to review my responses.

"Ooh, Stevie Wonder! I know so much about you now," she joked. I felt strangely violated.

The next morning, under the pseudonym Fletcher Newbern, Jamaica Rendezvous arrived on my desk.

For the record, I hate being the center of attention. I squirm when people sing Happy Birthday to me and avoid wearing my black high-heeled boots because they jingle when I walk.

So knowing that there was an entire book with my name on nearly every page, I did everything I could to procrastinate: I ate lunch, ran errands in the rain, got $5 worth of gas, stopped by the company cafeteria to replenish my supply of plastic forks.

By late afternoon I'd run out of excuses. I settled into my desk chair and peeled back the book's cover.

The scene is set

It began with a dedication to Braulio - my way of coming clean to him about the novel.

This Book Is Lovingly Dedicated To

The world's

most understanding boyfriend

Braulio

From

Dalia

who adores your sense of humor

Te amo.

February 2007

 

Chapter 1. My first impression of the characters was, we don't talk like this. As their plane prepared to land in Jamaica, this version of Braulio said, "It seems like ages ago we left St. Pete, packed up the Acura, and headed out for Tampa International Airport."

"Yeah," the paperback me responded, "the radio tuned in to 95.7 the Beat and both of us anxious about being late."

The authors never really nailed us with the dialogue, but eventually "we" found ourselves having a great time snorkeling, sailing and shopping in Jamaica. On Page 22, we met a woman from Ohio. Being from Cleveland, the real me wanted to jump into the scene and ask what city she called home.

On Page 29 we got a room upgrade:

 

"Oh, my goodness," Dalia gushed when she stepped inside.

Braulio moved past her and joined in her enthusiasm. "All right! Ava was not kidding when she said she had good news."

The bellman lifted one of the suitcases onto a folding luggage rack inside the closet, then asked, "Do you like the room?"

"Very much," Dalia answered as she walked into the bedroom area of the suite. "And these swans are precious!" Set on the cream-colored comforter of the king-sized bed were two swans fashioned from white bath towels. Their necks were crooked and beaks were touching, forming a heart.

Art imitating life?

Last night, the real Braulio and I brainstormed ways to jazz up our cubicles at work. Perhaps Christmas lights, I suggested, or a plant. He has no window, he reminded me.

And so it went. The fake Braulio and Dalia found a mysterious locket on the beach; she wore it for the rest of the book. In real life, we once found a plastic sword on the ground at Disney World; I gave it to my 4-year-old neighbor. This Dalia spotted an outdoor hot tub, immediately disrobed and jumped in. I sleep in socks because I'm always freezing.

As it turned out, the "mild" version of Jamaica Rendezvous was plenty graphic for my taste. At the resort, the make-believe Dalia pranced around in a pink swimsuit. She skinny dipped. There was a shower scene and even talk of a nude beach.

Don't you dare send us there, I silently warned Fletcher Newbern. He didn't. Still, things got pretty steamy and by Page 44 I'd closed the book, my pupils dilated. I needed a moment.

A few pages later the couple headed to a beach party, complete with tiki torches, a reggae band and mounds of oysters, prime rib and mahi-mahi.

 

Walking hand in hand, when they came to a shadowed spot on the walkway, Braulio paused, stepped into the darkness and turned to Dalia so he could grasp her other hand. "I just wanted to tell you how pretty you are tonight," he spoke very softly. "That pink dress you chose was an eye-catcher at the reception."

"Oh, how nice," she said back to him, looking into his brown eyes. "You look eye-catching, also. And I liked how you told the manager we were having a good time."

"Ha," he said lightly, "I had to do that to get his eyes off of you."

 

I thought back to the night before, which the real Braulio and I had spent eating cheese and crackers while we watched American Idol.

"It should be against the law," he'd said, "to drive someone to the auditions if you know he can't sing." He reached across me for his can of pink lemonade.

"Can you imagine going to jail for that?" I countered. "Someone asks, 'What are you in for?' and you say, 'I drove my friend to his American Idol audition.' "

After Idol, the president's State of the Union Address came on, and we took bets on how long Bush would speak.

"I think it'll be over at 10:12," I said.

Braulio disagreed. "He'll be done before 10."

Reality preferred

Perhaps we could learn something from the Jamaica Rendezvous versions of ourselves. This Dalia gave her boyfriend massages and dressed up for him. The couple rode horses and drank flaming coffee. They had a song.

I put down the book and turned to my computer. It wouldn't kill me to poke around for a pink bathing suit on VictoriasSecret.com.

After a few minutes of Web-surfing, I polished off the novel. Not bad, I decided. Weird, but not bad. I'd taken a vacation in the middle of the workday, right at my desk. And it was cool that our unusual names were made to seem normal in a book.

But the best part of finishing the story would be getting my boyfriend back. Not the smooth-talking, conga line-dancing version of him, but the real guy - the one who picks up my car from the work parking lot to get it washed, makes a perfect cup of gas station coffee and says it should be a crime to chauffeur a bad singer to the American Idol auditions.

Dalia Wheatt can be reached at dwheatt@tampabay.com.

On the Web: www.yournovel.com Valentine's Day orders must be received by Friday.

 

For your book

Sample questions from yournovel.com

- Woman's first name she goes by

- Her favorite radio station

- Her favorite color for clothing/lingerie

- Make of car he drives

- His pet name for her

- His best friend's first name

- Her perfume, his cologne

- How long the couple have been romantically involved