If you’ve come up dry for affordable gift options for your mother this Sunday, don’t fret. KFC’s got your back.
Late last week, the fast food chain announced that it’d be releasing a romance novella, Tender Wings of Desire, with Colonel Harland Sanders himself as the romantic subject. It is 96 pages long, available for free on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, and absolutely not a joke.
The novella’s subject is the young Lady Madeline Parker, born into nobility in Victorian England, who runs away from home and takes up a job as a barmaid. There, she meets a handsome, goateed-and-bespectacled sailor named Harland Sanders, a man with a bewitchingly confounding past. The book parrots the language and vocabulary of the bargain bin romance novels you’d find in a grocery store, with cover art to match. Reviews are split evenly down the middle (“This was about as awkward as an Ostrich on rollerskates,” a 1-star review claims—a glowing endorsement). Its subtitle, “A Colonel Sanders Novella,” implies this book won’t be the last of its kind.
Shop the Story
Well, I sure hope so. I spent some time with the book this morning, finding it more absorbing than KFC's middling chicken jingles from late last year, entranced from the first line onward. “Of all the things that Lady Madeline Parker disliked about her life, the one that constantly stuck out in her brain was her hatred of embroidery,” it reads. What a lede! The novella contains a good number of zingers, some of which I picked up on during my speed read. They include:
Mama kissed Madeline on the top of her head again before sweeping out of the room, leaving both ladies with their embroidery and heavy news.
“Would you like to go for a ride, my sweet girl?” Madeline cooed to her. Persephone whinnied.
He was tall, dressed like a sailor with a striped linen shirt and woolen picot crusted with sea salt. His hair was light and fair, framing his head in airy curls, and the eyes that stared back at her were almost the exact color of the sea, perhaps darker, but not by much, and they hid behind glasses with frames.
She barely remembered that his name was Harland. She most definitely did not remember that his hair was such a light blond that it almost looked white, and that his eyes were exactly two shades darker than the sea. She did not think about any of that. Definitely not about how he had been the tallest man she had ever met, and how it made her wonder how he acted as a sailor on a ship. Did it get too crowded below deck? She did not think about how he was the only sailor she had ever seen who wore glasses.
Madeline wished that she could melt into the wood of the docks below her feet, such was her level of mortification.
“Um, Madeline replied eloquently. She felt like kicking herself after every syllable she spoke to the man.
Love was splendid, love was magical!
Harland was fun; he was exciting. He loved to walk with her for hours and talk about nothing in particular. He liked to pull her out into the rain, when the wind whipped the waves up into a frenzy. Madeline loved to watch the sea like this, the waves, crashing against the pier in giant sprays of white and gray.
She liked to picture little Harland, his light hair sticking out every which way, his glasses too large for his face, as he played with a boat and dreamed of something bigger.
Enchanting, no? If your mother’s the kind to appreciate this endearingly silly PR stunt and you’re tight on money, consider the quandary of her Mother's Day gift solved. And if you aren’t a mother, treat yourself.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.