For the past three years, I’ve taken the train to go visit my family in the summer and at Christmas time. It’s a 21-hour long ride. I’ve learnt through bitter experience that it is impossible to sleep until past dawn, and then only because you’re completely knackered. There always seems to be a character on board who compulsively needs a drink of water, the restroom, a visit to the dining car or a chance to stretch their legs, regardless of the hour.

I used to pack heavy reading in my carry-on, thinking that a long ride would afford me all the time I needed to finally get to grips with ____________. But serious reading requires serious concentration, and that person in seat 31 just got up again to stomp past my seat and to open the door leading to the next train car, letting in all the noise of metal wheels clanking over metal rails.

Some time ago I struck upon a different strategy, which is to read a couple of Harlequin novels I’d bought at the grocery store the day before my trip. This plan has worked out brilliantly. I am very pleasantly distracted from my surroundings, so that when the cabin attendant kindly comes by to hand out little pillows, I barely acknowledge him : “Attends un peu, le duc Pressé est en train de foutre Mlle Volontiers….;” By the time the sun is up and we’ve crossed state lines, I am fast asleep with a bemused smile on my face.

While I’ve recycled the novels themselves, I can’t quite do away with the book covers. Instead, I’ve trimmed and pasted them on to my bedside table. Pour vous faire plaisir, j’inclus cette photo:

Proceeding from the top row to the bottom and from left to right in each case, my collection thus far includes: “One Night with a Sweet Talking Man”, “Angelo’s Captive Virgin”, “The Tutor”, “His Mistress, His Terms”, “Mr. Cavendish, I Presume”, “Twelve Gauge Guardian”, ”Unlawful Contact” and “Bedded by Blackmail”. My table is a little less than half full, and I will be traveling again. Lurid covers and amusing titles are welcome if anyone can spare the thought.

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