Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

Context clues that a series is in the works

7 years later and every time I read this, I think “Nailed It!” Every one of these has come to pass. Series continue to be the hot format this last decade. Not all of them are good, though. In fact, it’s fair to say that there’s a glut of series in the market now. Romance writing tends to go from glut to glut, have you noticed? What will be the next trend after series? Also, the whole alpha male thing is glutted, as well. The next trend would have to be antithetic — like nerds in love or something.

  1. the hero/heroine has lots of close friends/relatives who figure prominently in the story
  2. comments about friends’/relatives’ love lives are interspersed throughout the story
  3. sometime during the story, a gauntlet is thrown down about how the F/R will fare when they (3a) meet their soul mate; (3b) meet their match
  4. F/R declares that they will never fall in love then become sappy and swoony about it
  5. F/R declares that they want someone completely different from the person their friend fell in love with
  6. F/Rs of hero/heroine are thrown together
  7. F/Rs of hero/heroine have a history
  8. F/R is due to do business with someone who will turn out to be a love interest
  9. hero/heroine inform on one F/R to another F/R
  10. hero/heroine take on yenta duties
  11. an elder character or authority figure character takes on yenta duties

 

The Festering Blurb:Bursting Open w/Pungent Prose

 
 
 

 

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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:

Ellora’s Cave Author Links

This is a list of links to Ellora’s Cave authors that I like. (Well, except for Jan Springer.  The one book of hers that I read was awful – full of typos and a plot like Swiss cheese.)

AUTHORS

Gail Faulkner

Lora Leigh

Jaid Black

Lisa Marie Rice

Jan Springer

Rhyannon Byrd

 

http://www.ellorascave.com/

Dara Joy/MoD: Rejar

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RejarTHIS IS THE COVER FOR THE AUDIO VERSION.

Rejar is actually the second book of the Matrix of Destiny series.  It’s arguably the most fully realized, best developed story of the three.  Knight of A Trillion Stars was a bit too “Basil Exposition”, and Mine to Take was extremely good, but did not invest in a lot of back story.  Rejar has just enough back story to lift and separate but not smother.

Here’s the original cover. Nice!  If you click on this cover, it will take you to www.paperbackswap.com.  It’s worth hunting down the original Rejar (Timeswept, Bk 2)edition because of this droolicious cover that is NOT Fabio.  He makes “Lorgin” seem almost pretty in comparison. 

The story picks up where KoATS left off – with Rejar jumping into a black hole of sorts to get rid of a gemstone that bends time. Releasing the stone into space creates kind of a chemical reaction and new space is created.  Like when you read something you’ve never read before and the experience creates new neural paths in your brain.  That’s what the “matrix” is – outer space neural pathways.  Cool!

When I read M2T, I wondered about the phrase Ree Gen Cee Ing Land.  I kept coming back to it, running it over in my head.  When it hit me, I was all, like, DUH!!! YOU ONLY READ A THOUSAND BARBARA CARTLANDS!”  Regency England! The Prince Regent.  The pronunciation threw me off.  The native “Aviaran” language is spoken with occlusives and nasal stops in multi-syllabic words: “Lee Oh Nah” (Leona).  Hence the segmentation of the phrase “Regency England”.  Also, I don’t know if it’s a hearing thing or what, but there’s a case of syllable reversal when Lorgin calls Deana “Adeean”.  I’m not sure what the linguistic precedence is for that is, but it’s interesting.

I felt the same as some other people who wrote reviews at Amazon – “Lilac” was too wimpy, too immature, to handle a mansteak like Rejar.  She was book smart, but life stupid.  It’s not her fault, but as I went through the story, Rejar liked her simple, good heart. She taught him to read. How could I not love that?  They did something very special with The Tempest! Genius! LOL.  While he was trying to shag her, she was trying to make a friend of him.  Respect. 

Lorgin and Deana made a cameo and “Traed” (“Mister Tray Ed”) almost ran away with the story.  His part was written in perfectly. The construction of the character arcs are logically fused and interesting.  This is why it hurts so much that Joy has lost her mojo.  It’s also this kind of great writing that turns readers into fans and fans into obsessives.  Fourteen years later and we are still panting for Traed’s novel.  Don’t freak out if it doesn’t happen.  See Gail Faulkner and Elizabeth Lowell below.

Be careful what you wish for…

Acheron (Dark-Hunter, Book 12)The way Joy is writing now, I don’t want her to even touch Traed. Remember when Kenyon fans were nigh unto screaming for Acheron?  When it finally came out, it was so full of all sorts of awfulness that you were totally depressed by the time you go to the part where he met Tori.  Then…it wasn’t particularly romantic.  Relentless sturm und drang.  Little chemistry between them.  But you know what, we hammered poor Kenyon for an Acheron book and she delivered a big-ass book. For that, I am grateful. 

  • Previous Posts:
  •  Acheron: The Man, The God, The Fiance, The Book
  • Acheron: Half-man, Half-god, Twice-born, All-cursed Bengal's Heart (Breeds, No 7)Lora Leigh fans are possibly even more obsessed.  They want a novel for any man who pokes his head into the storyline.  She gives her fans pretty much whatever they want! God bless her.  So many of us are complaining that we don’t like the current stories from the last year or so.  Again – be careful what you bitch for. (I myself am guilty of said complaining, but I have faith that things will get better.)

    Previous Post: Cabal – The PMS Breed| Heatseeker

    Say No to Joe? (Visitation, Book 1)Lori Foster fans wanted a story for Joe Winston.  She gave us one.  And it was awesome! The chemistry between Joe and “Luna” was believable and fun.  Just a Hint, Clint – not so much.  We made noise that we wanted a book for “Julie Rose”.  We got it; it’s wasn’t good. To me, it was a book just to tide us over until we got a book for “Jamie”.  Oh, the wails and squeals!  The breathless panting!  I think, after ACHERON, JAMIE seemed to be one of the most demanded books from a series, with the added bonus that it was fun and interesting.

    Previous Post: Visitation, Welcome Cty

    (This cover is from a reprint.) 

    Here’s another series that started out firing on all pistons then slowly ran down.  Every story weaker than the last, but with glimpses of fascinating threads of possibilities.  Most of those, like the Khan-Gor arc, will most probably never be realized because writers, like musicians, move on.  They get interested in other things and let older things go. Jude Deveraux started weaning us off the Montgomerys and Taggerts by writing books about other people that included maybe one or two of them, but they were secondary or tertiary characters.  It’s natural. 

    By the time Never a Slave was published, it had been over.  That short story should have been added in to another story because, even as a short, it was insultingly bad.  However, it was probably done because fans were nagging for a story for Julian.

    Previous Post:  Trek Mi Q’an – It’s Like, Out There, Man

    Oh my God! It actually hurts that this series has gone dormant.  Faulkner teased us with a short excerpt from a “new” story for the last member of the “Ghost Unit”, but never got it to the point of publication.  She has moved on and has not been publishing for about three years now.  This was a kick-ass series!  The guys are a blast! But alas, no “Tammy” and “Miguel”.  No “Jackson”.  Waaaaaaaahhhh!!!

    The only thing to do is to start writing fanfiction to fill in the gaps we may not ever get from Faulkner herself.  I don’t hold it against her that she’s stepped away from this.  Maybe it’s just what she needed to do. Again, it’s a writer thing.

    Previous Post:  Gail Faulkner’s “Ghost Unit”

    (Funny how this post morphed into an essay about series that fizzled from talking about  Rejar. LOL)

    Outlaw (MacKenzie-Blackthorn, Book 3)This is one series that is making romance readers – specifically, lovers of EL’s western romances —  nuts!  Elizabeth Lowell wrote this series in the early 90s – then stopped just short of giving us “Utah”.  Series were not the norm during the early part of this decade.  They were special, not like now with our gossip-addicted, privacy-invading habits.  Readers almost expect a sequel or two these days.  I don’t think it has made anything better; it’s just a phase that maybe will (I hope) peter out.  I’ve had enough.  As much as I would ADORE a book about Utah, I’ve let it go.  But judging by my daily stats, where it shows search engine terms, every day someone is looking for Utah’s book.  Is he the most famous “non-character” in romance? I believe so.  All “Tennessee” and “Nevada” ever did was mention him in passing.  The reason we are so fascinated with him is because he’s fair-haired with a dark tan where his brothers are dark-haired and swarthy.  Respect to EL for creating such a crying demand for a character with so few words.  Utah is like the writer’s equivalent to the first two notes of the JAWS theme or the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. They make you hungry for more.  (By the way, she’s so totally moved on and will not be writing a book for Utah.)

    Previous Post:  EL’s Mac-Black Series

    Now getting back to Rejar…

    Some of the bits I liked best – in no particular order — were (1) any scene with Traed; (2) the sewing circle where Lilac spills about how good Rejar is; (3) the bit with “The Tempest”; (4) the bit where Lorgin and Deana come to visit – very short, but cute; (5) when Lilac is teaching Rejar his letters.  Again, she starts out dull and wimpy, but she improves over the course of the book somewhat.  Not everyone is a fan of Lilac, but she needed to be the opposite of Rejar in order for him to experience his psychological overhaul. If they were both exactly the same temperament, you would have DANGEROUS GAMES or LIVE WIRE.

    Don’t bother conjecturing about the threads suggesting a future in the Old West for Traed, and his attraction to Leona.  They will most probably come to nowt.  Do read the series in order if at all possible.  This series of three is one of the best in a medium that’s grown stale.

  • THE TEMPEST entire play online

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Romance Reading Timeline 1970s Pt. 2

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<1970s Pt. 1

Small-Scale Historicals

Ian McCorquodale and Barbara Cartland

Barbara Cartland Bantam Books series

This series came after the Pyramid series below.  They are a scaled-down version of the more dramatic Pyramid books.  Cartland was still holding strong for the first twenty or so, but then she started relying heavily, then exclusively on stock characters (the Mr. Rochester-style hero), and phrases (the stuttering ingenue).  Then she switched to Camden publishers, and at that point, she was too tedious to bother with anymore.  She even had an extra series where she …well, I don’t know what she did, but she basically re-packaged romances written by other people, Elinor Glyn, for example.  Still not sure what that was about.  

I love the covers on these. They begged to be collected, what with the numbers and the artwork.  I think the same guy posed for most of these covers. A tall, black-haired, hawk-faced man.  Who is this guy???  He’s awesome!  And he always looked brooding.  The heroine always looked like she just discovered there’s no bathroom and she’s been holding it in for hours.

I read all of these and about a dozen more besides.  It seems like more than that because I read them more than once.

Product Details
My 1st B. Cartland. I still have it!  Magical! Still take this out to read sometimes.
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I still take this one out sometimes, too. A feel-good book.
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Great story and educational, too.  I think.
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Awful! Hokey logic. I think it contained some local pidgin.
The Little Adventure (The Bantam Barbara Cartland Library #3)
This was #3 of the series and BC was at her peak, I believe.
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Different!  The first romance I ever read that was from the man’s point of view.
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Not bad.   I remember liking it. I remember thinking that I didn’t know farmers in France also wore wooden shoes.
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Did not read it, but it was an awful tv movie with Linda Purl.

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Dull yet enjoyable. Formula writing with lots of stock phrases.

Passions in the Sand (Barbara Cartland #41)

This one was kind of hot. Shocking!

Love in the Dark

She started out as Rubenesque, but then slimmed down by the time he got his sight back.

Man and Maid (Library of Love, Bk 10)

BC did not write this but she re-packaged it.

 

Barbara Cartland Pyramid Books Series

Several of these were in my mom’s closet.  After I read DESIRE OF THE HEART, I went through that closet obsessively and found a handful more.  They kept me busy for many a weekend for a couple of years – because I read them over and over and over.  I was coming into my hormones at the time. LOL Princess

These came before the Bantam series.  They are more fully developed as novels. Cartland was in her prime with this series.  There was some repetition, but she used several time frames in this series, ranging from Elizabethan to the 1930s.  If you can get hold of these, they are very good!  You can even pick up a bit of French in many of them.

Desire of the Heart

The 2nd BC I read after THE CRUEL COUNT. I was well and truly hooked! This is one of the best of this line.

Love in Hiding

The Wings of Love (Pyramid #25)

Product Details

The Coin of Love

Product Details
This one was made into a tv movie with Hugh Grant, Emma Samms and Lysette Anthony.
Product Details Product Details Product Details

 

  • The covers that are flush left will take you to Paperbackswap.  The covers that are centered will link you to www.amazon.com, but you can also find some at www.ebay.com. Also be careful because several of these are listed as lots (a group of books) and the cover may not be representative of what you’re actually buying. 
  • Other books that were made into movies were
    • Duel of Hearts
    • A Ghost in Monte Carlo
    • A Hazard of Hearts
    • The Secret Heart (Cupid Rides Pillion) (The Lady and The Highwayman)

    A Hazard of Hearts

    Original edition

    A Ghost In Monte Carlo

    Original edition

    Product DetailsOriginal edition
     
    DVD with Helena Bonham-Carter and Marcus Gilbert

    Item image

    Video availability on eBay

    Product DetailsThe Lady & the Highwaymanvideo availability

    A Hazard of Hearts

    paperback tie-in

    A Ghost in Monte Carlo

    paperback tie-in

    Could not find a book tie-in.

    A Duel of Hearts

    Original edition

    Product Details
    Only American video available
    Could not find a book tie-in.

Reading these was like eating potato chips.  I could read 3 in a weekend. 4 if I stayed up late enough.  You have to understand: there were only four channels on tv. ABC, CBS, NBC, KLRN. Maybe one or two Mexican channels. And if you were lucky, HBO.  Weekends were cartoons, American Bandstand, then sports until prime time.  So not a whole lot going on during the day.  Hence reading.  In a chaotic, crowded house, reading meant peace.  Reading meant solitude.  Reading and being in the bathroom were the only two ways to be left alone.

The Pyramid series were broad-spectrum adventures without being vulgar.  That’s probably why some of those were developed into movies.  Only one Bantam book was made into a movie and it sucked.  Plus, I loved reading about “somewhere else”.  Castles, mountains, oceans, Monsieur Worth!  The clothes!!!  It wasn’t a Cartland romance without a visit to the most famous dressmaker to the ton, Monsieur Worth! That’s where she would get super descriptive and it was all like a dream!  Seamstresses fluttering about you like butterflies while Worth himself directed your transformation.  I WANT THAT!  LOL! Flirt female 

The Bantam series were sweet and intimate.  There was a lot of conversation in them. Real conversations.  In one of my favorites, THE LITTLE ADVENTURE, the heroine shocks the hero by her knowledge of philosophers and how much she’s read. They actually discuss it. Wow!  Also, the bad guys were never super bad.  They were just sexist assholes.  That’s another thing – Cartland often wrote heroines as seekers of independence – daring, stubborn; remarkably clever and well-read.  Well done Dame Barbara!  Unfortunately, it was always seen as unusual and even anarchic. 

In both series, you could pick up some of the European languages that Cartland peppered her prose with.  Growing up in a bilingual household, I picked up words like monsieur, signore, vicomte, signorina, ton, demimonde, demimondaine, citron presse, cher amie, mademoiselle…well, you get the idea. Princess  I loved all that! (If my spelling is off, please forgive.)  How hilarious is that!  I didn’t know French, per se, but I knew, like, five words for “whore” in two languages!  LOL!  It made for weird conversations at school when I tried to use them, though.  My friends were not reading these books, so I sounded kind of weird compared to the typical pimply patois of adolescence.

Cartland was nothing if not consistent in her character development.  The blueprint for girls was skinny, pale, huge eyes, birdlike physique. And skinny. Real skinny. And really BIG eyes.  Just look at the covers, especially the Bantam series.  The men: tall, broad, dark hair, dark skin (hardly any fair-haired men or ginger), hawk nose or straight Roman nose.  Hawt!!  Sorry…  She’s an innocent, ignorant virgin; he’s a bastard who frequents brothels.  She softens him up, but he doesn’t show it in front of her until one of them is near death.  We’re talking about a couple hundred books made with this erector set.  Don’t be impressed by her Guinness Book of World Records record (top-selling author in 1983 according to Wikipedia).  Most of the books were half-ass regurgitations of stock gimmicks.

When I was 13, I took them WAY too seriously! LOL. Now, I read them as sweet antique pieces of a world of manners we’ll never see ever again.


This video from Little Britain has Matt Lucas as a Barbara Cartland-type author – Dame Sally Markham.

Click for Little Britain online. But it has not been kept up very well. You’re better off going to BBC Comedy.

 


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Romance Reading Timeline: 1970s Pt. 1

1970s: No such thing as political correctness. Women’s Lib completely missed this boat.

First romance I ever read: BRIDE OF ZARCO, Margaret Rome

bride of zarco  

I started reading romance novels in the mid-70s, starting with this tiny tome-ette.   It was my mom’s. One evening, I just picked it up and started reading.  Next thing I knew, I was halfway through (which wasn’t much considering how lean these books were).  Before, I had tried, but could not connect with the text.  I read it again to see what made this one different than the others I had tried to read.  I think… I just… liked the plot.

Maybe, the year that I read it, my mind was finally ready.  I know I was reading a ton of books that year from my school library.  Yeah…maybe it was just time.  Gorgeous dress on the cover. Shitty logic.  Zarco told the heroine that she was too beautiful to be a nurse.  Let the plain women be nurses because they could not hope for better.  What’s worse – I was all like, “yeah, whatever”.  I didn’t question the logic.  Shame on me.  I know better now.

So I went through my parent’s closet – they had bookshelves in their closet – and one by one, pulled them down and read practically everything mom had, specifically the Harlequin Presents® and a handful of basic Harlequins®.  I also went through her stash of Barbara Cartlands.  She had the early Pyramid series of books – first editions!  Then I happened upon a Bantam series book at school,  THE CRUEL COUNT, which I “took”.  Man, I could go through two or three books on a Saturday or Sunday and keep up with my reading from the school library.  It was ON!  I read so many books by English and Canadian authors that I started to sound different from my friends. 

Most of the Harlequin Presents were by Commonwealth authors: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, in addition to the many English authors; even from South Africa.  They were very good about including words from French, Italian, Greek – depending on the man’s background.  ZARCO contained some words from Portuguese as that was his nationality.  As I was already reading/writing/speaking Spanish, it was no problem to pick up the tidbits of all these other languages. 

It’s funny because one would think that romance novels have nothing to offer the intellect.  They don’t now, but back then, I dunno.  It wasn’t the racket it is now. Harlequin has not only jumped the shark, it has kicked it onto the shore where it gasps vainly for breath while people hack it open with rusty butter knives.  But back then, in the 70s, there were glamorous descriptions of far-away places and all those languages, and people doing interesting things.  That the men were assholes for most of the book, well, that was still considered normal.  If I had a penny for every description that included “arrogant”, “autocratic”, “wealthy”, and “domineering”, I could buy one of their mansions. I was shocked when, little by little, books were being written where the man was NOT an asshole.  It was like, “Wow! I like this SO MUCH BETTER!”

Spirit of Atlantis

Towards the end of the 1970s, especially once Janet Daileycame on the scene, the men’s attitudes were toned down considerably.  They were still brooding and insensitive, but not as mean or vengeful.  In Anne Mather’s SPIRIT OF ATLANTIS, the story was really sweet and sincere.  There were a few old-school holdouts: Charlotte Lamb, Carole Mortimer, Violet Winspear.  Lamb and Mortimer, especially, seemed to have a thing for barely-legals hooking up with men about two generations older.  That’s like… 1800s old-school.

Desire Has No Mercy

This one, while being a very good story, did have a “forced seduction” in the beginning of the story.  A near-rape, if you will.  “Forced seduction” is, roughly, when a woman’s natural responses to sexual stimulation are used against her, to take away her power or her will.  Not nice at all. But FS is used to sell a billion books a year.

 

The Valdez Marriage (Harlequin Presents #288)

Under siege.  I liked this book when I read it in 1979, but now that I think about it, Big Brother Valdez was an asshole. He tried to force the heroine to marry his brother because supposedly she was responsible for the accident that crippled him.  Oh right. Like he can just take someone’s life away like that.  AND be in love with her.  THIS is the kind of BS that was being phased out at the end of the decade.

 

The Devil's Arms

Rape.  Some traditions die hard.  The “hero” thought the heroine was her slutty twin.  Then he sees the birthmark. Oops, my bad.

 

 

 

They, among a few other die-hards,  did not catch up for a while.  No, Janet Daily was, I think, the first American to really change Harlequin and its protagonists.

She wrote a novel set in every state.  I’d say about half the men were assholes…

Dangerous Masquerade Harlequin Presents #171       Fiesta San Antonio     The Matchmakers (Harlequin Presents #264)

and half were not – the later half.

Northern Magic (Harlequin Presents)      Reilly's Woman (Harlequin Presents, No 231)   harlequin presents: sweet promise

This was a big deal to me!  Men did not have to be horrible to be interesting.  How about that!  Another thing that changed was that they did not have to be European millionaires with pedigrees.  What a relief!  It was fun and all, but those types are like space aliens.  It was nice to see a man who was a local business owner or an explorer or even a rancher.  Rachel Lindsay and Robyn Donald wrote lovely stories with lovable, adorable men.

Wife for a Year  Unwanted Wife (Harlequin Presents, No 249)  

Country Of The Heart (Harlequin Presents, No 1040)   The Widening Stream (Harlequin Presents No 346)

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Large-Scale Historicals

I read, not knowing what I was in for, some appalling historicals where the ingenue was raped then fell in love with her rapist.  That’s just sick – and not in a good way.  Not only that, but she had to sleep with men on every continent before she found her way back to the rapist/first love.  Nauseating. Truly.

MavreenThis book was very frustrating because it may have been the first book  I read where the hero and heroine did not have immediate access to each other.  They were apart more than they were together and I remember thinking how aggravating it was.  And of course, the woman having so many lovers was agitating and frustrating.  I kept thinking to myself, “this can’t be right!”.  When I would re-read the book, I would give it the “Princess Bride” treatment and only read the “feel happy” parts.  As I got a bit older, I thought the whole living-without-each-other stuff  together with the whole sleeping-with-Europe angle was stupid so I threw it away.

 

Oh My God! This novel, along with SKYE O’MALLY by Bertrice Small were the perfect examples of 1970s long-format historical romance novels.  Rape, kidnapping, abduction, pregnancy, no marriage, gang rape, overseas adventures to be raped and/or seduced by men on three continents…it’s all so nauseating!  This is truly an appalling book, but damn this style was popular back in the day.  I remember grimacing every time I saw it on the shelf.  I read it two or three times over the course of three or four years, hoping it…or I…would change, but it never happened.   Eventually, I threw it away. Relieved to have its evil funk out of my home.

 

Shanna

I’m surprised that I liked this book.  I loathe tropical weather. Just hate it!  And this was nothing if not tropical.   All those references to heat and moisture just irritated me were the reason I did not read this more than twice.  One, it is too damn long, and then the aforementioned heat and humidity were getting in the way of my enjoyment. Same thing with SAVAGE SURRENDER. They never went anyplace cool, like Switzerland.

 

I read more than these, but they represent what I was reading when I wasn’t reading Harlequins or Barbara Cartlands.  I never read any Rosemary Rogers books. I went straight to Johanna Lindsey, but Lindsey was more an 80s thing.  As the 1980s began, you could see a pattern of evolution.  Characters and plots were using more domestic backgrounds.  The industry was exploding.  Then in 1982 there came…Silhouette Desire®…

Dara Joy/MoD: Knight of A Trillion Stars

MAJOR SPOILERS~~~ ADULT (21+) CONTENT

Knight of a Trillion Stars (Matrix of Destiny)Readers tend to mark time by the books they read.  They divide their lives into “the year I explored science fiction” or “The year I discovered Cormac McCarthy”, or even “the month I spent vainly trying to get through one Proust”.  And like that.  For me, the 1990s were when I discovered sci-fi romance, and these publishers – LoveSpell/Leisure, Pinnacle, and St. Martin’s – put out some of the definitive books of their subgenre.  Put out!  Oooh, naughty!  Nyah-Nyah 

Now that I have time to re-re-re-read Dara Joy’s trilogy, I’m wondering if this trend was the harbinger of many of the books put…er…published by Ellora’s Cave and St. Martin’s.  Joy’s weren’t the only sci-fi romance books.  Johanna Lindsey wrote one or two sci-fi softcore stories, and Kathleen A. Morgan (not to be confused with the writer of Christian romances – please!) wrote really sexxie stories.  Linsey’s were straight futuristic whereas Morgan’s included shape-shifters and half-and-halfs.  This one, Heart’s Lair, was one of the Product Detailsbest of its kind along with the MoD series.  That’s Fabioon the cover, by the way.  This book was way HAWT!  It’s out of print, but you can probably pick one up for a song from a used book seller on www.amazon.com or www.ebay.com.  You probably won’t find KoATS or Heart’s in a used bookstore, but you will find a ton of Joy’s non-MoD books like Ritual of Proof, High Energy, and High Intensity.  I’m not going to hyperlink them because they massively suck!  And blow!  It’s a shame because HI and HI have likable characters.  Seriously, don’t both with RoP.  It’s a RoP-OFF.  On second thought…

I started thinking about Mills and Gregor and I could not deny any reader access to that fabulous “almost couple”.

So to sum up, it’s an avenue worth exploring because I believe they lead us to where are are – today with Lora Leigh’s Breed stories, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Weres and the hardcore love scenes that have become de rigeur for at least one brand by every romance publisher – for example, Harlequin  Blaze.

Getting back to KoATS, the cover models are gorgeous.  If you have ever seen the 2003 WB “Tarzan” with Travis Fimmel and Sarah Wayne Callies, the cover models remind me so much of them!  It’s weird.

Here’s a video from “Tarzan” since Lorgin and Deana spent a lot of time in baths.

Divine, innit!  It was surreal to see them and then pick up the book and see models who could pass for them.

My fav part of the novel was when they were at Traed’s house.  Traed is a cousin to Lorgin and strongly resembles Gregor  from HE and HI.  I’ve been using Paul Telfer to picture Traed.  Another thing that’s so cool is that Lorgin lives in a tree house – well, a tree MANSION!  I totally want one! 

The novel is a bit long-winded, but since everything is new, I can forgive and be patient. One thing that should have been planned out better was Joy’s rationalization of everything the characters do.  After every quirk, she inserts a few lines of exposition explaining why they do that voodoo that they do so wellThe pattern gets annoying after a while.  Lorgin does something interesting.  “Oh, well, Lorgin does this and that because his Charl whatever never…always…prefers to…It is their way to…”   See? Annoying. I think the reason it annoys me NOW is because I’ve read the book so many times.  I already “know” him. 

Lorgin is also completely UN-PC!  I’m not even exaggerating.  He’s all “why doesn’t she understand? Why doesn’t she just do what  I say?”  EX-Squeeze ME?  Dude, you NEVER explained anything to her.  You never ask questions. You demand she do something, then when she argues with you, you demand to know why she argues with you? Try asking some questions sometimes.  Jeezie Kreezie!  Confused smile

Deana is cool.  She’s from Boston.  She’s a sci-fi fan.  She’s a working girl – not a career woman, though.  She has a great sense of humor – wisecracky, schticky.  However…having one and showing one are two different things. Several of her remarks which are meant to be schticky or even snide, fall short of real humor.  They – as I have stated about other characters in the same situation – approximate urban humor.  So you get the sense that she’s a wiseacre, but her comebacks don’t kill.  Oddly, you see it done more successfully in the second book, Rejar.  The hammock scene – LOL!

The love scenes? Lovely. They range from warm to HAWT!!  And really human – that is, just ‘cuz you’re having “hot pig sex” doesn’t mean you have to describe it that way. 

To sum up, you TOTALLY should read this book.  It’s available on Kindle© even.  Read the books in order: KoATS, Rejar, MTT. 

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