You choose your partner carefully: because you know they’re your type, because they have a good reputation, because they’ve been recommended by a friend, or even because their cover is just too lovely to resist. You commit to the times you’ll be able to get together: in the evenings, on anonymous trains, maybe even a sneaky liaison at lunch. You set the ground rules: whether they’re your main event or a light-hearted escape from the heavy-duty family saga that’s been keeping you awake. You might even insist that you’re allowed to stray occasionally with a cheap, gaudy magazine. And then you plunge in; and sometimes it’s a gorgeous, urgent, all-consuming affair; and sometimes, a few pages along, you realise that this wasn’t what you expected after all.
When that happens – when the pleasure turns to drudgery, and the anticipation to resentment – some readers cut their losses, pull out their bookmark and release the dud back into the market, albeit slightly soiled. Others, such as myself, plough on grim-faced; once we’ve started the relationship, we’re determined to see it to the bitter end. We may think it’s our fault that it isn’t working out – we’re too lazy! Too shallow! Too prejudiced! – or we may feel that a bit of discomfort and pain only makes us better readers – but by God, we’re not going to move onto the next seduction until the very last page is read.