Harlequin Presents Class Reunion

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This reunion is made possible by WWW.PAPERBACKSWAP.COM.

Send a book; get a book. You only pay postage.  Paperbackswap is better than eBay for finding books that you’ve loved and lost. 

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With very little effort on my part (the best kind), I found several of my old Harlequin Present favorites from when I was young.  Wow, what a revelation to read them now.  I want to say that it’s a coincidence that the males are overbearing, arrogant, abusive, and violent, but that was de rigeur in 1970s romance.  So not so coincidental after all. 

The other element that ties these books to their times is that the men are wealthy owners of corporations.  The only variety that you see is with the female characters.  I hesitate to call them heroines because they are not heroic.  They are trying to not be bullied.  It’s easy to fight back when you are arguing with a hot guy.  Not so easy when hot guy starts kissing you.  How sad that the authors had so little sense of what makes a man.  The men are all little better than paper dolls, whereas the women undergo psychological overhauls of Shakespearean proportions.

 

Pagan Encounter
Charlotte Lamb
Pagan Encounter

Wilder Shore

Daphne Clair

A Wilder Shore

Portrait of Bethany (Castle, Bk 1) (Harlequin Presents, No 541)

Anne Weale

Portrait of Bethany

The Loving Trap (Harlequin Presents, No 506)

Daphne Clair

The Loving Trap


Rachel Lindsay
Forgotten Marriage

Mortimer, Carole - Lifelong Affair - Harlequin Presents - # 627

Carole Mortimer

Lifelong Affair

 

The Sea Master (Harlequin Presents, #512)
Sally Wentworth
The Sea Master

A Frozen Fire (Harlequin Presents, No 380)

Charlotte Lamb

A Frozen Fire

Charlotte Lamb
Sensation

Velvet Touch (Silhouette Desire, No 11)

Stephanie James

Velvet Touch

Make No Promises (Silhouette Desire, No 8)

Sherry Dee

Make No Promises

 

A Land Called Deseret (Harlequin Presents, No 326)

Janet Dailey

A Land Called Deseret

 

 

The one thing that ties the Presents together that I never could grasp is how the women could fall in love with men with whom they exchanged maybe a half dozen words and most of those barked by the men while the women were stunned into silence.  Even now, a couple of decades later, the logic of it still escapes me.  The guy is in absentia for a hundred pages but she falls in love with him.  He’s mean and judgmental, but he’s nice to his mom, so she falls in love with him.  How is that romantic???

And yet, these books are the ones I remembered 30-40 years later.  The “happiest” one has to be FROZEN FIRE.  A man and woman fall in love, but the woman’s married.  She sees how her husband is awful and the man she loves is wonderful.  It’s the most logical one of the bunch.  Everything in the plot makes sense and has a logical continuity.  A WILDER SHORE is #2 in the logical plot winners list.  It takes place over several years, but everything that happens is logical and even the problems make sense.

Sometimes it’s not the plot.  Sometimes I learn something.  I learned about Meissen porcelain from PAGAN ENCOUNTER.  When people were leaving Germany in 1939, they converted money to Meissen porcelain because it’s valuable and could easily be converted to cash outside the country. SENSATION would never have caught my interest if it had been set anywhere but Paris.  Seriously, that’s the only thing this story has going for it.  The story has a romantic plot – a man decides that he wants his wife to live with him after years of living apart.  But he was a bitch most of the time.  No innovation there.

THE SEA MASTER is older guy with older teen.  No big deal according to the writer’s logic.  Nowadays, it’s just icky.  The girl gets a hard lesson in growing up and not being so self-absorbed.  But not in a fun way.  There’s an unusual amount of housework.  The only reason I stuck with it is because it happens on a boat in the ocean.  It was super unusual for a commonwealth author to write anything about America.  A LAND CALLED DESERET is in the same vein as SEA MASTER – where the heroine learns to be a useful person instead of a pampered hothouse flower.  The hero is an inconceivable departure from the norm.  He’s a rancher, not wealthy, no luxury to speak of.  He’s more Elizabeth Lowell than Harlequin Presents.

I’ve mentioned before, I think, how Janet Dailey changed the playing field.  Most of the men in her Americana novels were not wealthy, but they were men of power or consequence.  She also introduced a more human, more gentle gentleman without the aristocratic arrogance that goes hand-in-hand with old money.  And let’s face it, you’re more likely to meet a Janet Dailey-type man than an Violet Winspear-type man or Carole Mortimer-type man.

It’s funny how I can get through the book in a few hours.  I spent way too much time as a teen reading these.  And now, it still takes me 3 or 4 hours to get through one.  I don’t rush. I like to enjoy certain scenes, the banter (such as it is).  For example, in A LAND CALLED DESERET, I like to read the references to the heroine’s “nice” cousin from A DANGEROUS MASQUERADE.  In fact, LaRaine Evans shows up an unprecedented 3! times in Dailey novels:  A DANGEROUS MASQUERADE, SONORA SUNDOWN, and DESERET.  Funny, though, when she showed up in SS, there was no indication that she would get her own novel.  Series were not the thing in the late 70s/early 80s.  And yet, again Dailey was at the forefront.  Her first Americana novel NO QUARTER ASKED had a sequel: FOR BITTER OR WORSE.  Then 1978’s THE MATCHMAKERS had a sequel – THAT CAROLINA SUMMER (1982).  Dailey was the queen!

No Quarter Asked (Harlequin Presents #124)         For Bitter or Worse (Harlequin Presents, No 267)

The Matchmakers (Harlequin Presents #264)       That Carolina Summer (Harlequin Presents, No 488)

LaRaine Evans Trio ~~~

      sonora sundown  (Harlequin Presents # 239)     A Land Called Deseret (Harlequin Presents, No 326)

Other scenes I liked:

In LIFELONG AFFAIR, I love the hero! He’s awesome.  Thank you to Carole Mortimer for keeping his arrogance tangible but not overwhelming, so that when Glenna fell in love with him, it was logical.  Suspension of disbelief is all well and good, but jeezy kreezy, you know what I mean!  A really good scene was when he and Glenna were in the honeymoon suite and he felt sheepish at being caught out – you know – in the “honeymoon” suite. Wink, wink, nudge. nudge!

THE LOVING TRAP reminds me of early Elizabeth Lowell Silhouette Desire novels – the heroine was psychologically scarred from a prior event and the insensitive man tries to get her past it – with mixed results.  A good scene from that one was when the hero gives the heroine a “Mr. Darcy”-style shite marriage proposal.  After he gets through explaining all the ways that she annoys him and confuses him, he’s all “marry me.”  And she’s all “okay.”  It’s kind of WTF, but I had gotten to like him by that time.

Some popular posts from the Romance category:

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Greeks party like it’s 193 CE

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THE LEARNED BANQUETERS BKS I-III.106e (Vol. 1)

This fun little volume is a catalog of the party habits of the ancient Greeks – probably around the first two hundred years of the Common Era.  It’s the single source of “over 10,000 lines of verse” and quotes from around 1000 authors – some familiar: Aristotle, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, and Homer.*  So many unfamiliar names are quoted or mentioned with lip-smacking, teeth-cracking abundance:

  • Astydamas
  • Theopompus
  • Hellanica
  • Agatharchides
  • Philomides
  • Xenophon
  • Cratinus
  • Thucydides
  • Philippedes
  • Mnesithius
  • Hermippus
  • Dichaearchus
  • Democritus

How funny that my spell-check only recognizes Xenophon, Democritus, and Thucydides out of this list.

The structure of the volume is similar to the Platonic dialogues.  Party guests represent different areas of knowledge or schools of thought.  Musicians talk about music.  Physicians talk about medicine.  Everybody talks gossip and WINE!  There’s wisecracks and sarcasm enough for a Friar’s Club roast.  Some guests represent social classes and some are real people.

Mundane and profane, chatty and catty, cynical and clinical. TLB is painfully detailed (or do I mean painstaking?).  Can you imagine a party where the host is entertaining experts in “every field of knowledge” at his pimped-out crib (to use a pimply adolescent hyperbole)!

From page 18 to about page 39, it’s like an episode of “Bizarre Foods—Ancient Greece.”  The early part of the book also details party protocols. How to entertain soldiers.  How to entertain politicians.  How to prepare seafood.  The temperaments of cooks.  There’s even ancient Greek charcuterie and canapes and bizarre cocktails.  For example, a guest named Nestor prepares some wine for another guest – Machaon – who’s been wounded.  Nestor sprinkles some cheese on the wine and drops an onion in it.  Just like those martinis that have a pearl onion! The cheese? Who can say. Nestor was trying to get him drunk.  Cheese coats your stomach and you can stomach more alcohol that way. Jus’ conjecture here.

At one of Homer’s parties, the women of the house have to bathe the guests.  Ugh! Was that a reality or just wishful thinking on Homer’s part?  (He’s a genius, not an angel.)

P. 63 shows us the words for meals according to Philemon and corroborated by Aeschylus in general terms:

  1. akratisma: early meals; breakfast
  2. ariston: evening meal
  3. hesperisma
  4. deipnon:  second course

Another Aeschylus-related version shows arista as breakfast, deipna as dinners, dorpa as suppers (a third course).

Homer calls the fourth meal deilinon, and it comes between ariston and deipnon.

There’s a bit more, but you can see how nitpicky the telling gets.  The book even goes into who eats sitting down, who eats reclining. nicknames for people who do particular tasks, like carving the meat and serving drinks.

Speaking of drinks! Oh Em Gee the catalogue of wines! How would you like to see a wine list with the type of wine, the region it comes from and it’s health effects. Whether it’s sweet or sour, pure or mixed with water.  Imagine seeing the word “diuretic” with ridiculous regularity when reading the wine list.  The exhaustive catalog even tells you which wines get you drunk fast, and which ones are good for your health.  It’s a looooooong section!  Again –  the word “diuretic” is mentioned A LOT!

I kid you not – a section on almonds and other assorted nuts. Their health benefits, roasted or green, disputed names for nuts; whose nuts are better; different ways of serving and eating nuts.

Water:  where the best water comes from; health benefits of water; water mixed with wine. The word “diuretic” is not mentioned as much as in the wine section.

Fruits and vegetables: where do the best fruits come from; disputed names of fruits; ideal cooking methods for fruits and veg; health benefits.

The last section of Book I (Proton Biblion) covers sea food.  I’m not to that part yet, but if it’s like the other sections, there will be a lot of quotes and nitpicky details.

When it comes to discussing a particular item, like almonds or water, several quotes about the item are reported, so you get a cocktail party perspective on whatever the Alpha-foodies are talking about.  Basically, ancient Greeks making small talk about food and drink, making wisecracks and good-natured insults.  There’s always a know-it-all and a smart-ass.  Everyone tossing in their two cents.  So even though it the text is fragmented, it still flows logically.  It seamlessly flows from one topic to another.  Before you know it, you’ve gone from hosting soldiers in your home to what to do with olive mash once you’ve extracted all the oil.

Now that I’ve got the gist of it, I don’t think I’m going to shell out for the other two volumes.  At the end of the day, it’s an entertaining read. It shows the ancient Greeks were very much like us when we gather over food and drink.

Other posts that mention Loeb Classics:

Nyah-Nyah  Bizarre Foods in Greece

*I am not hyperlinking these names because all you need to do is Google them and you get like a gazillion hits.

 

Read the Printed Word!

Academic Writing Put to the Sword

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LINE6

…the sword of Damocles? No. The sword of Helen.  No – not that Helen. The Sword of Helen: Helen Sword. You ‘member! ‘Member?

I’ve come to realize that whether I like a book or not often depends on timing.  Is my book du jour a good fit for my current state of mind or not?  If it is, I may be more open to its positive qualities.  If it’s alien to my mood o’the day, it’s probably going to be extra critical and snarky.

Stylish Academic Writing is the perfect book for me to be reading right now.  I’m working on my graduate thesis and I need affirmation that I’m doing it right.  This book gives me just the affirmation that I need.  In addition to being a style guide, it’s also a book about research. 

I know:  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

But the thing is, Sword takes her own advice – writing clearly about complex things, and she managed to make her research sound interesting – to a person who is currently doing a lot of research.  I wonder how much I would have enjoyed reading Ch. 2 if I had just finished one of my umpteen papers that I’ve worked on these last two years.  Or if I didn’t have to do any at all!  Would I have shkipped it or admired the detail and moved on?

THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL! GET IT! YOU CAN WRITE BETTER ACADEMIC PAPERS.

I’ll tell you this for free – romance novels where the couples are always at odds?  Tiresome and tedious.  But if you are going through the same thing?  You are SO buying it.  Buying into the catharsis of it all.  Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying Sword’s book so much.  She did way more research than I have, but I really feel the drudgery of  it — both hers and mine.  Catharsis makes the difference. 

A book doesn’t have to be a work of fiction for catharsis to be possible.  There’s a little discovery I’ve made for myself.  So timing seems to affect the quality of catharsis when you read something.  If you’re lucky enough to read something that meshes with your mindset perfectly, that’s beautiful!  If you read something that is so alien to your mindset, it might be worth considering reading it some other time.

Another example:  the novel Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakiswas recommended to me by someone whom I thought was a kindred spirit, but who was really a vain, pretentious asshole.  So I was in a humbuggy mood when I read it.  Right off the bat – fault-finding.  Clumsy translation, dead-end scenes, trite male/female dynamics, etc.  Well, now it’s been a few years.  The asshole is history.  In light of what’s been going on in Egypt, I’m curious to give the novel another shot.  I think I may be able to find something in common with an ex-soldier whose life is an ill-fit and subsequently finds himself at odds with his environment.

LINE6

 

Button 3

Ending a cycle only to start a cycle

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BOOKS BOUGHT

41NkIL-4siL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]41qjNlFdCjL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]51EOcQEADoL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]

51J88NvSjmL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]41VaxX7N7OL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]61sRGVxrP9L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]

51V 34eRJiL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_[1]

BOOKS READ

Simulations  by Jean Baudrillard

Classical English Rhetoric by Ward Farnsworth

Selected Poems of Thomas Hardy (Penguin Classics)

It’s not been a good reading time.  I’m going through things pretty slowly.  And I’ve given up trying to write during the day.  I’m too stressed out.  The writing bug stings at night.  After 8 p.m., a switch goes off in my head and I’m suddenly reading to the exclusion of all else or writing to the exclusion of all else.  I’m going to stop fighting it and arrange my priorities around the fact that night time is the write time.

There is a mildly Gallic flavor to my current crop of pulp.

Graduate school has really expanded my reading repertoire.  If you read my post on Barthes “The Pleasure of the Text”, then you will know my feelings on swampy translations of French philosophical prose.  However, Baudrillard’s collection of translated notes that make up Simulations has qualities that TPoTT does not, specifically, continuity, organization, essay format, and better sentence structure.  You get more out of each paragraph without a lot of apologizing about how no equivalent phrases exist in English that would do justice to French subtleties.  The down side is that the phrasing is often clunky.  The information is solid gold, but it’s raw, rough gold.

Object Lessons probably has the most subtitles of any book that I’ve ever seen. “Object Lessons” – The PARIS REVIEW Presents “The Art of The Short Story.”

Another gift from the Academia fairies is reading about rhetoric.  Those Greeks had a word for EVERYTHING!  When you overuse conjunctions, there’s a word for that.  When you leave out conjunctions, there’s a word for that.  When you repeat words, there’s a word for that.  When you repeat phrases, there’s a DIFFERENT word for that.  This pattern of repetition that I’m doing here – there’s a word for that!  So, so bitchin’ rhetoric!

I have high hopes for Stylish Academic Writing. Wisely, Sword points out in her book that “[a]ny of the ‘smart sentencing’ principles outlined in this chapter can, of course, be temporarily suspended for rhetorical effect.” (p. 59.)

My graduate thesis is on Thomas Hardy’s poetry, and I’ve been working with poems from the Penguin collection.  Hardy poetry is wonderfully easy to read, and has great depth in spite of the light lyric feel of his work.  No wonder T. S. Eliot was annoyed by him.  It was like Salieri and Mozart.

Bowerstock’s From Gibbon to Auden: Essays on the Classical Tradition.  The cover made me buy it.  Also, I like reading essays.  (…said no teacher ever! LOL!)  However, I feel like I’ve been played.  I should know better than to buy these professional collections.  I want to get published.  Maybe I should just gather a handful of essays, slap a cute title on it and declare myself a high-end scholar.  It’s such a racket.  It’s like when you buy those romance story omnibuses and one story is awesome.  One story is so-so.  The rest are crap.  But you paid for five stories and only one of them gives you your money’s worth.  I hope this book won’t be like that. 

 

Anthologies – A Good Way to Sell Crap Stories

Button 3 (lefty/skinny)

Art & Articles of Faith: Brand and Perugino

Articles of Faith

 

It’s a good thing that I’m not a religious fanatic because I would probably not have bought this book. (You notice I never mention “borrowed” or “stole” or “never returned to the library”? Every book is mine via purchase or other form of moral acquisition. I’ve  been given books by friends, but you know how it is when you are given books by people who are not great readers of books. They end up being books that I would not write about. “The Best of Shakespeare” or “Emily Dickinson’s Greatest Hits”. Something quite vague.)

“Art The Wrong Way” has a double-entendre. Layer one involves how Brand, an attention-whore of Byzantine proportions, re-Brands Perugino’s painting of Christ and angels with himself (as the Christ figure) surrounded by some talking heads of English soccer. And Britney Spears. As if any of her fans would ever buy this book. Or read. You know, it’s a good thing that he’s a West Ham fan because if he was a Man Utd. or Liverpool or Arsenal fan, then I probably would not take him as seriously. West Ham is a good fringe team – they bounce up and down the chart all season long before ending up in the top 10-15. When you are on the fringe, you see things with a clarity not enjoyed by the popular rich kids who cannot conceive of someone not dying to be them. That said, if I ever see the original of the painting, I’ll never forget that it is a Perugino.

The other layer of entendre involves Brand’s commentary on the sport itself. If you have only ever seen Brand the “entertainer”, you will not recognize the man you see through these pages. He is a good writer. He’s not posh, but his writing is studied, careful, his tone suitably serious – and then he meets David Beckham. Then the jester is back. But the guy knows his team. He knows a goodly amount of soccer history and has seen so much change and the jingoistic bollix that the English game has become. God Bless Him because he gives me hope that I am getting it! So perhaps there is a third layer to that Perugino/prophet-on-high imagery. Reading this book confirms that I am learning what I need to learn, and that I am developing some decent instincts about the game.

“Who the hell takes soccer advice from Russell Oh-What-Daft-Hair-I’ve-Got Brand?” you might say to yourself. Well, who takes advice on politics from a bunch of arrogant, clueless actors? People do have layers. Apparently.

 

 

West Ham dodgy business practices re: Carlos Tevez

West Ham Home Page

Pietro Perugino

Making Hay While the Sun Shines: Little Britain

Inside Little Britain

At the www.amazon.com page for this book, one of the pull-quotes states that the reader read it cover to cover in one day. Bull! Shit! Even doing a “David Walliams-swim-the-the-channel-marathon” of reading, it would not be possible without skipping over a lot of stuff. Maybe skipping the stuff that’s in sans serif type.  I read it while I was sick at home and it took me the better part of three days. 

What I do agree with and that is not a total lie is that you really have to be a serious fan of the show and the duo to stick to reading this book.  It’s a good account of their 2005-2006 tour, but I’m reading this in 2013.  And I bought it in 2009.  So they have pretty much come and gone.  I saw David Walliams in A League of Their Own with James Corden. Haven’t seen Matt Lucas in anything other than Graham Norton.  So I don’t know if they are still at it.  (According to IMDB, they are doing a lot of stuff, just not LB stuff.)

The book is very intimate and yet glosses over a lot of negative stuff.  But the negative stuff was never the point.  It’s not meant to be an expose.  (I don’t know how to do the accent over the e.)  You do get a sense of how the media are total scums. They are basically in the business of lying through their teeth to sell papers or magazines or whatever. 

My favorite stuff about the book is its hidden wisdom on handling the vagaries of fame.  The truly successful famous are business-minded.  They get involved in all the decision-making; they broker deals; get involved with information technology.  They know how to honor engagements and be diplomatic.  Doesn’t sound like your average stoner/doper/drinker celebrity.  Not just them. Their families have to deal with a lot of crap from truly crap people. I especially love how Matt Lucas is a total Gooner! Then David goes and swims the freaking English Channel! In a record 10 1/2 hours!

So, it’s a damn long book. It has its tedious bits and its riveting bits.  Boyd Hilton has done a good job of assembling an ass-load of information and distilling it to something quite wonderfully atmospheric.  I would love to see a book about behind-the-scenes at The IT Crowd.  Did anybody take notes?

 

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