Annabelle Swift, the fourth writing girl from Maya Rodale’s Writing Girls series, never much attracted my notice. Quiet, shy, and easily overlooked, Annabelle did not strike me as having much potential to be the heroine of a sassy or steamy romance like her counterparts, fiery Julianna, daring Eliza or confident Sophie. Having read and loved the first three novels in the series, I wondered what kind of romance would befall Annabelle. She’s been in love with the newspaper’s owner, Derek Knightly, but that love, so far in the series, had only been expressed in a sigh upon his entrance to the weekly staff meeting. How would Annabelle seduce Mr. Knightly? I found I very much wanted to know.
Mr. Knightly, Annabelle’s employer and the object of her affections is a hard and unscrupulous man. He does not notice her as a woman or writer. He doesn’t even read her column, Dear Annabelle, in which Annabelle gives love and etiquette advice to the newspaper’s readers. Something drastic would have to happen, I thought, for that to change. Annabelle seducing Mr. Knightly seemed tantamount to the seduction of a lion by a mouse. But Annabelle, lovesick and feeling near to death with being sick from love, takes a desperate measure and instead of giving advice in her column, turns to London with a question of her own: “For the past few years I have loved a man from afar, and I fear he has taken no notice of me at all. I know not how to attract his attention and affection. Dear readers, please advise!”
Knightly expects that Annabelle is the last person in London to cause trouble, but as Annabelle discards her old habits by the advice of her readers, he soon learns to think otherwise. Annabelle lowers her bodice, buys herself new silken underthings, learns how to gaze at a man in a sultry fashion, practices fainting, climbs trees, and dares to keep going in her quest for love no matter how ridiculous, silly, or embarrassing it gets. With baited breath, I (and the rest of London) followed the progress of Annabelle’s attempts to gain Knightly’s attention, and fell completely in love.
“That was one amazing woman, sitting there, making herself invisible. She was kind, beautiful, generous, daring and funny. She possessed the courage to ask for help and to share her triumphs and embarrassments with the whole city. She possessed the strength to do the right thing even when it was the hard thing.”
A character like Annabelle is exactly why I love romance novels. Romances open up a possibility for grand gestures, self expression, and crazy daring in love which in real life most of us could only dream about. There is room, in romances, for women to be everything and anything they want to be, and they are always, always loved, appreciated, and accepted for it. Watching Annabelle put her heart on the line and go all the way for what she wants reminded me that getting hurt once in a while (as when Knightly asks her if she has something in her eye when she throws him a particularly seductive gaze) can be worth the risk in the long run, if one but has the courage to laugh, as Annabelle does over the pages of the newspaper: “…this led to a mortifying disaster. Rather than succumb to the fervor in my gaze, more than one person inquired if I had something stuck in my eye.”
Maya Rodale, I am a fan!