Christmas Date (First Love From Silhouette #121) By Elaine Harper

I have commented before that Silhouette’s First Love imprint tends to scrape the bottom of the barrel, even adjusting one’s expectations for YA mass-market paperback romances.

Background:  236 First Love titles were published between 1981 and 1987 by Silhouette, “AMERICA’S publisher of Contemporary Romance” (distinguishing itself from its main competitor, the Canadian-based Harlequin, which would fold Silhouette into its own operations in 2012). Perhaps even the younger, less-discriminating readers were complaining about the half-baked First Love plots, as this volume opens with a note from Silhouette’s Senior Editor:

Thank you for your many enthusiastic and helpful letters. In the months ahead we will be responding to your suggestions. Just as you requested, we will be giving you more First Loves from the boy’s point of view; and for you younger teens, younger characters. We will be featuring more contemporary, stronger heroines, and will be publishing, again in response to your wishes, more stories with bittersweet endings.

In the meantime, we get this:

Christmas Date

Are you excited about winning a Christmas Date with American Psycho-era Christian Bale?

The Plot: If so, you are in luck!

High school sophomore-triplets Amy, Adam and Arthur Norwood are looking to supplement their allowances so they can buy those trendy argyle sweaters everyone is wearing. Seized with an entrepreneurial spirit, they take a marketing survey of their classmates to find out what kind of business to start and decide on a prostitution ring.

Seriously!

There is a lot of weird going on in this book, but it is hard to beat the juxtaposition of a chaste, 1950’s-style notion of dating with the fact that Amy, Adam and Arthur’s Triple-A Dating Service is literally pimping out their high school classmates to one another.

Gearing up for the big back-to-school dance, the triplets run off a zillion copies on their dad’s Xerox machine, and are soon deluged with prospective Johns:

Superstar Dates           $1.50

Date of your choice    $1.00

Pot Luck                         .50

(.50 extra charge for large dances)

Ok, so they’re not exactly Mayflower Madams.

Triple-A’s immediate popularity at Blossom Valley High necessitates that the triplets move their business out of the Norwood house; Amy suggests that they relocate to an abandoned tool shed on a neighbor’s property, but the posh Mrs. Westbrook is hesitant:

“Most every year some students from the high school sneak in there and use it as a hideout for their liquor drinking and this marijuana that you hear about nowadays, and I’ve had the authorities over here from both the school and the police. In my day young people never thought of such things.”

I was kind of hoping the triplets would send their enforcers around to threaten some sense into the old lady, but instead they just convince her that they are starting a wholesome social club. Riiiight.

Meanwhile, Amy is mooning over classmate Jack Anderson, who is working with her on a group project in their General Science class. In vain she tries to get Jack to notice her, but she hears rumors that he’s stuck on a sophisticated older woman and must content herself in stealing moments studying arachnids together.

While her brothers have instituted a strict ban on dating the clientele, Amy’s love life is complicated by the appearance of nogoodnik Henry Hampson, who is distressed both that the triplets have taken over his marijuana-shed and that his girlfriend Florrie has broken up with him in order to patronize Triple-A’s services. Harry maybe isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box, but he is soon blackmailing Amy into pretending to date him to make Florrie jealous:

“You got two choices, okay? All you gotta do is be my partner and there’s no trouble. Nobody roughs up your brothers or Florrie’s date. Otherwise, I send for reinforcements. A coach could even get creamed. You won’t have to worry about me stepping on your feet or anything,” he said. “Florrie and me won a disco contest once.”

When he fails to win Florrie back at the back-to-school dance, he announces that he will escort Amy to the homecoming dance to continue his efforts. At this point I am feeling slightly bad for Henry, who rents a maroon tuxedo and went “to the barbershop and had his hair styled” for the event, rendering him “practically respectable”.

Amy is still making no headway with Jack, who is apparently an arachnid expert:

“I already know a lot about spiders, since I did a report on it in the fifth grade.”

What does any of this have to do with Christmas? We’re only up to like, October in the plot. That is a pretty fabulous fluffy angora sweater on the cover, but I am starting to feel lied to, First Love By Silhouette!

Jack cancels a spider-related study session with Amy for reasons he leaves vague, but come Monday morning Amy hears the news:

Jack, along with some other Blossom Valley High students, all seniors, were trapped at the bird refuge by a landslide that had blocked the highway!

WHAT?

Amy goes to Jack’s house under the guise of being his spider-project partner and ingratiates herself into his family, as they worriedly wait for news.

What a warm and friendly family Jack had! She immediately felt at home with them. But what would Jack think when- and if- he ever got home?

MAYBE HE WILL HAVE TO LIVE AT THE BIRD REFUGE FOREVER!

Adam and Arthur are plotting ways to get Triple-A through the dating-doldrums leading up to Valentine’s Day, including expanding their services to adults (INAPPROPRIATE!) and selling gift certificates for Christmas, which is a huge success, since the teenagers of Blossom Valley High have forgotten how to ask for a date without the triplets’ assistance: Florrie buys a gift certificate for Henry so she can get back together with him, since she was so impressed by his bitchin’ maroon tuxedo.

Jack is rescued from the bird refuge and tells Amy that he had a fight with Martha Brewster, the sophisticated older woman that he had a crush on. He finally asks Amy out… to the big tree-trimming party at the Brewster mansion:

Amy’s elation to have a date with Jack was dampened somewhat by the suspicion he was only taking her to show Martha Brewster.

Smoove.

The IRS abruptly closes down Triple-A, and Amy and Jack share a kiss under the Christmas tree, even though Jack is still obsessed with spiders:

“Nothing could come between us, not even an arachnid,” Jack murmured.

Sign It Was Written In 1984 Department: “I always wanted to be one of those makeup demonstrators at a store, or somebody who had an exercise class like Victoria Principal.”

Good Name For a Restaurant Department: The Torrid Pooch

Stylin’ Department: “What are you wearing to the dance? I’m wearing this azure taffeta with three ruffles on the skirt. I can hardly wait.”

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5 Responses to Christmas Date (First Love From Silhouette #121) By Elaine Harper

  1. Pingback: Turkey Trot (First Love From Silhouette #117) By Elaine Harper | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

  2. Pingback: Bunny Hug By Elaine Harper | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

  3. Pingback: Be My Valentine (First Love From Silhouette #39) By Elaine Harper | Lost Classics of Teen Lit, 1939-1989

  4. Susan says:

    Ha, Victoria Principal, in a book — I used a shampoo for a while because she advertised it and we had the same hair color 🙂 .

    • mondomolly says:

      Victoria Principal turns up as an aspirational figure with surprising frequency in YA books of the era! I had no idea she had such a following among teenagers, LOL!

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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