Sometimes a book comes along that makes you drop everything to read it because it’s obviously the most profound piece of literature you’ll ever encounter. Other times that’s a book that looks like the most hilarious of disasters and it’s free and only 96 pages anyway, so why not? Such was the case with KFC’s Mother’s Day surprise Tender Wings of Desire, which has the distinction of being the only romance I have ever willingly picked up (mostly because, let’s face it, I expected hot, greasy foodporn).
I read this book for what it is, which is an obvious viral marketing stunt, so my standards were not as high as they’d be for books that expect to attract actual readers. I expected ridiculous, highly self-aware characterization, and the aforementioned hot, greasy food descriptions.
This is why I was astonished to read a sweet little regency romance that was far better than it had any right to be. It’s still a rather standard story as period romance goes – The protagonist, Madeline, is a gentry girl with a prettier sister and engaged to a man she doesn’t love, so she runs away to be the master of her own fate and ends up working at a tavern where she meets a charming seaman. I’ll stop here to avoid spoilers, but if you’re familiar with regency tropes and have even sort of glanced at the cover, you already know the spoilers.
Still, what’s predictable for some is familiar and cozy for others – and really, for people who like gentle romances, it’s a satisfying, undemanding read. Once you look past the ridiculous cover, you find that the story stands rather strongly on its own merits, with some unexpectedly insightful bits of writing (two of my favorites being “She remembered her father making jokes about the mysteries of women, but men simply did not know that they too carried mysteries” and “Madeline watched him as he went, feeling like every love song she had ever listened to was real to her now; they were all singing for her”). The romantic interest, of course, is Colonel Sanders, even if the story is slow to call him that, but change a select few details and he could be any other love interest in any other love story.
My only genuine complaints about the book are that the cover is inaccurate – but let’s face it, that hilarious cover is what makes the whole campaign work, even if the illustrator does have a severely mistaken idea of what regency costume and hot sailors look like – and, most egregiously, that it doesn’t even approach being foodporn. 😐 In fact, the only character in the story who cooks isn’t even good at it, so foodie readers don’t even get to drool over delicious non-fried-chicken descriptions. 😐 😐 😐
If there is a sequel next Mother’s Day – and how could there not be, with a campaign as hilarious as this? – there better be some sinfully decadent descriptions of fried chicken.
Overall, Tender Wings of Desire is far from a must-read, and really, it’s not a book that’s meant to be read so much as to amuse the Internet and sell chicken, but readers who do try it will find an unexpectedly cozy, easy romance.