INTERNATIONAL

Now, personalised books

Details, including names woven into pre-formatted novels

Subject: romance Option for cover photoTouchy topics avoided

PORTLAND: This Valentine's Day, one publisher wants you to be the one doing the romancing.

Canada-based Book By You says it sells thousands of personalised romance novels each year with titles such as "ER Fever" and "Pirates of Desire," where the reader is the star. It is not Bronte, but customers are going crazy for the novels that make them the main characters.

Customers answer 20 to 30 questions about themselves and their beloved, ranging from body type to pet names. Then the details are woven into one of the company's eight pre-formatted novels. Clients can even have their photos added to the book jacket.

One customer had a marriage proposal included at the end for $34.95, plus shipping and handling.

Turnaround time is quick. Publisher Michael Pocock said if customers order their personalised book on Monday they will get it just in time for Valentine's Day. Virtually all the orders are done on the Internet.

Kym Sprague, who bought a book for her boyfriend of three years, said she got a kick out of seeing her and her boyfriend's names and lives played out in the book. She even let her daughters take a quick peek, but only at certain pages.

The books have no explicit sex scenes, but the company says there is "lots of heavy breathing and rolling around."

Carefully crafted

Mr. Pocock said each book is carefully crafted to avoid alienating any customers, avoiding topics like marriage or religion. The books are modelled after traditional romance novels a tense plot, a happy ending and a few stolen kisses along the way.

Romance novels make up nearly 40 per cent of all fiction sold, according to a survey by Romance Writers of America. So it is little surprise that the twist on the traditional receipe seems to be doing well.

"I've been the victim of boring Valentine's Day gifts for many, many years," said Wendy Pickett, a 38-year old nurse who wrote "ER Fever" and "Racing Hearts." "Any time I can help the opposite sex is very cool."

The company's busiest time of the year is Valentine's Day, followed by Christmas. But the company said it is busy year-round with books for wedding anniversaries and, lately, for spouses who are overseas at war.

Richard Flynn, 23, bought one of the books for his fiancee last Christmas. "It's really hard for a guy to pick out a gift for a girl that shows meaning and thought; this does," he said. "But you really have to know your girlfriend or fiancee, if you get the eye colour wrong..."