Don’t be fooled by the title. I was, and before I read more than a couple of pages of A Girl Walks Into A Wedding, I loaned it to a 17-year-old, thinking that it was teen lit. To her blushing credit, she returned it to me quickly with a sweet review leaving out all the raunchy bits that I suspect, well know, she at least glanced at.
This homegrown book is the second in a series of “Choose your own erotic destiny” novels by Helena S. Paige.
It is just as compelling as 50 Shades oO Grey if you have a taste for erotica. Actually it’s compelling even if you don’t, as you can pick a rather less adventurous storyline that evades, though doesn’t entirely avoid, naughty boys with one thing only on their mind.
The first in the series, A Girl Walks Into A Bar, was the first adult book that tried out the “Choose Your Own Adventure” structure of children’s books.
My initial reaction to the concept of A Girl Walks Into A Wedding was, how is this going to play out in adult erotica – boring good girl versus wild vixen storyline? In other words, is only half the book actually worth reading?
But what makes this work is that not only does your good(ish) girl also get the action, but the plot is well constructed so that whatever path you choose is full of dynamo characters and interesting events, leading inevitably to another raunchy scenario.
As my dutiful teen reviewer wrote: “The characters are crazy, lovable and very seductive, and your choice will take you on an adventure with all of them!”.
It begins with you being your best friend’s bridesmaid at her country weekend wedding, and deciding whether to ask the gorgeous mystery man you met online to escort you, or go alone and check out the talent.
The scenario selection is as complex as it can be in your own world. To give you an idea, you have to choose between a karaoke night at the local pub or a girls’ night in at the hotel. Choice one lands you being serenaded by “Steve” who has slipped away from the stag party, and choice two has Aunt Lauren turning up with several bottles of Moët and your bride-to-be friend drunkenly admitting she’s in two minds about getting married.
Whatever your choices, just around the corner is a salacious adventure with you at the centre, or maybe someone else that you secretly get to watch.
The rich texture of each scenario is undoubtedly due to the fact that this is the creative potion of not one but three authors.
Helena S. Page is a pseudonym of three friends. Paige Nick is an advertising copywriter, novelist and newspaper columnist, Helen Moffett is a freelance writer, poet and editor and Sarah Lotz is a screenwriter and novelist. She is the S in the pseudonym, and she also writes urban horror novels under the name S L Grey with Louis Greenberg.
Yet how, you might wonder, do three creatives agree on plotlines that web out like this?
Explains Paige: “It was like literary Sudoku. Once the skeleton of the book was decided, we had to sit down and carefully decide on the different streams branching out. Any discord was handled by majority rule.
“Because we are all so different, it was a case of, ‘I want to write the car scene’, or ‘I’ll write the pilot sex scene!’. There was no shortage of takers. Once the scenes were allocated, we were on our own. Afterwards the other two would add their touches.”
It was a lot of fun, she adds. “We’d have these ridiculous conversations, like whether you can have sex in a helicopter. We introduced cock rings, so the discussion about how those would be used had us screaming with laughter,” she says.
A clever technique is to leave “you”, the main character in the story, undescribed, so “you” could be a 20-year-old student or 90-year-old widow of any ethnicity or cultural background.
Paige is the first to admit, “this is not high literature, it’s fun for women”. And although you can get through the book without having sex, you’d certainly be hard pressed – excuse the pun – to avoid it.
Judging from the success of A Girl Walks Into A Bar, which launched last November, reprinted in December and is now selling in 21 countries around the world, the trio are on a winning streak.
The third book, A Girl Walks Into A Blind Date, is the next in line and is scheduled for launch in November.
“All three of us are workaholics. For me, work is life. The more I do, the more ideas I get, so advertising feeds my columns and along the way, people share with me their erotic adventures, which feed into these novels,” says Paige.
The A Girl Walks into.. series evolves not at face-to-face meetings but through “millions of e-mails” – “Helen and Sarah live in Noordhoek, Cape Town, so we don’t meet often,” says Paige, who is in Joburg.
It was over a casual lunch that the three friends hatched the idea that started them on their erotica joyride.
“We came up with the ‘choose your own adventure’ idea and jokingly plotted some sexy scenarios over lunch, then dinner. It took hold of me, and overnight, I wrote 5 000 words. I was self-conscious about it, but when I showed it to the other two they loved it. Helena wrote the next bit, and it just breathed its own life from the start. The most intense work was the editing, which took nearly three months of bouncing around,” says Paige.
The result is a great weekend read that, unlike real life, offers you the option to replay your choices and live out other ones. Even if you’re a romantic, you are well catered for, thanks to the intuitive guidance of three worldy women who clearly know their way around malehood and what sparks off a girl’s mojo.
But be warned, A Girl Walks into a Wedding, like the book before it, will bring out the voyeur within, the wanton temptress, the hedonist you’ve been hiding. As the dust cover boasts, your rules, your decisions, your happy ending.
* A Girl Walks into a Wedding (published by Delta, imprint of Jonathan Ball) costs R110 and available at Exclusive Books.