What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 44
Haughty Beauty 

[p.141]Winter is not a good time for me. Each year the combination of pale days and cold nights nearly does me in. In short, I get the blues. Knowing this, a friend of mine tried to cheer me up recently.

“What you need,” she said, “is a good book. Nothing high-minded. Nothing serious. Just pure escape literature.”

I told her that I already had a shelf full of cozy murder mysteries featuring lots of homicidal old British people who like to garden in their spare time.

She stared at me. “No wonder you’re depressed,” she said. “What you need is a little historical romance in your life.”

“Historical romance?” I said. “You mean like Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart?” I remembered the books I’d read in junior high school about plain but spunky governesses serving moody masters in spooky mansions.

My friend let rip with a mighty snort. “Hey, forget Victoria Holt,” she said. “It’s time you graduated to bodice-rippers.” And before I knew it, my friend had me in tow at B. Dalton’s where she and I perused the Romantic Fiction section. The books had titles like Tame the Wild Heart, This Fierce Splendor, and Texas Spitfire. The covers all featured couples in a clinch. The women had lots of hair (“manes” my friend told me) and gauzy blouses undone to there. The men, all of them shirtless, looked like they did laps together every day at the gym.

“Here’s how these books work,” said my friend. “The man is virile and arrogant. The woman is beautiful and haughty. Naturally there are lots of fireworks when the two come together.”

“Naturally,” I said. I picked up a book called Texas Captive and read the jacket. “Victor Maurier had sworn never to trust a woman. Then he glimpsed the nubile nymph that frolicked in the dappled sun and the hot-blooded man instinctively knew this exotic sprite was in a class of her own.”

“Nubile nymph?” I said. “Exotic sprite? Who are these people?” Already I knew I liked the spinsters in my murder mysteries better, [p.142]even though they sometimes slipped each other a little digitalis in their tea cups.

“How about this one?” asked my friend, holding a book titled Silver Rose. She read the cover copy to me. “When she fled Wyoming to escape her lecherous boss, golden-haired Silver Dupres was sure she’d be safe disguised as a boy on an expedition to chart the Colorado River. Then she gazed at the explorer’s rugged, towering scout, and her powerful response reminded her full force how much of a woman she was …”

I looked at the cover. Silver and Scout were grappling in a canoe like a couple of  wrestlers.

“I guess the disguise didn’t work,” I said.

“Well,” said my friend, “here’s one called River Temptress.”

I read the jacket cover. “Rugged Louis Saint-Denis had journeyed from Louisiana all the way to Mexico, intent on succeeding in his daring mission for France. Then he met the restless, ripe Manuela …”

“Oh please,” I said.

In the end I bought a book just so that I wouldn’t hurt my friend’s feelings—The Raider by Jude Deveraux—and I read all 346 of its steamy pages in a single sitting. While I can’t say it is the best book I’ve ever read, it certainly has given me a new way of looking at things. Indeed, The Raider has helped me redefine what I want to do with my life. I’ve decided that one day I’d like to be a Haughty Beauty—just like proud-tempered Jessica Taggert. I’m working on a resume now that looks something like this:

NAME: Ann Edwards Cannon
EYES: Sea-mist blue
HAIR: Ebon
VITAL STATISTICS: 15 pounds too ripe
SPECIAL SKILLS: Flaring my nostrils, tossing my ebon mane, lifting my chin defiantly, making saucy retorts, storming from rooms, slamming doors behind me, driving arrogant men wild.

REFERENCES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.

I can see it now. With resume in hand, I go to interview for a position as a junior high school English teacher. The principal, a proud man named Deke de Wilde, walks into the reception area. Our eyes lock. I lift my chin. He narrows his eyes into hard yet appreciative [p.143]slits. I notice he isn’t wearing a shirt. Maybe he forgot to pick it up at the cleaners, I think.

“So,” he says with an insolent drawl, “you think you can teach seventh graders to diagram a sentence, do you!”

My eyes blaze. I quiver with outrage. But it’s no use. In the end I know that passion will claim us both—on the wild frontiers of public education!