Romance novelists attempt to cash in on millennial computer chaos.

Published December 6, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

The romance industry always manages to squeeze a dollop of love out of almost any dire situation, whether it be fire, flood, disease or disaster. So it's not surprising that several romance novelists have cannily embraced the trendiest scare-story of the year: The Millennium Bug.

Two Y2K romance novels materialized in the Salon office this week -- and while it's perhaps premature to declare Millennial Disaster Romances an official subgenre, we decided to take a peek at them so you won't have to.

First, we were entertained by "Yours2Keep," a collection of short stories from five noted romance authors in which "the millennium bug plays matchmaker!" Then there's "2000 Kisses," a more traditional novel by Christina Skye, which boasts this enticing subtitle: "A year 2000 computer glitch got her $1 million and a cowboy -- and the wildest adventure of her life ..." Would that we were all so lucky come New Year's!

All of these tales open just before midnight on New Year's 2000 and spin out from the chaos that occurs in the minutes after the champagne corks are popped. An exhausted public relations diva discovers an extra $1 million in her bank account thanks to an apparent computer glitch; a beautiful wizard uses a Y2K power surge to travel 100 years back in time and meet a dreamboat inventor; a dying man falls in love with an angel named Noelle on the stroke of midnight; avowed enemies get stuck in an elevator and -- surprise! -- fall in love.

Not surprisingly, the intricacies of computer programming and Y2K debugging don't feature prominently in any of these tales; the millennium bug is merely a gimmick to ignite the plot -- and the heroine's heart. Trains grind to a halt, lights flicker and gorgeous spoiled socialites get to polish up their hacking skills when trapped in high-tech RVs with hunky lovers. The latter plot, from a short story called "Close Quarters" by Donna Kauffman, does boast a wee bit of light programming -- when was the last time you read a romance novel that mentioned BIOS clocks? -- but nothing a computer newbie couldn't handle.

And of course, since this is the heady and happy world of romance novels, the world suffers only a few minor glitches thanks to Y2K. There are no riots, nuclear disasters, sewage spills, airplane crashes or cult suicides. In the moments after the computers crash, there's just love, sweet sweet love.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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