A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

The Probably-Not-So-Big Harlequin Presents Read #8

Harlequin Presents  #8:  The Sanchez Tradition by Anne Mather

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I’m having trouble making this cover illustration out — are those scenes of local color in the heroine’s hair? Quite beautiful otherwise, though. I don’t know if it always looked so delicate and romantically faded, but like the book itself, it’s worn pretty well.

Most Memorable Line:

“There was a refrigerated cabinet for drinks, hi-fi equipment, and a portable Japanese television set.”

The world depicted in Harlequin Presents usually bears no resemblance to any I ever knew, but this actually brought up a sense of zeitgeist. 🙂

I was a little surprised that the recent digitizing of Anne Mather’s backlist went this far back… but aside from a touch of casual racism, and Andre yanking Rachel by her hair, (!) this hasn’t aged badly at all. Its primary difference from more recent HPs is the closed bedroom door, the large cast of characters, and the heroine’s constant smoking. (Don’t worry, she cuts back when pregnant!)

The romance is one of those tumultuous relationships in which the hero is controlling and the heroine is childish, and they never really work out their problems, but there’s a sense of underlying passion that keeps it interesting.

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Rant: The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe

(Minor spoilers)

Monroe went from being my favorite Harlequin Presents writer to being one of my worst romance “allergies” — the meandering, circular conversations make it almost impossible for me to get through one of her books these days. But Ros Clarke’s recent comments got me to try this one, and it was interesting enough for me to finish. I’d agree with pretty much everything Ros says, except for me there was an extra level of cringe. I’m still trying to decide if it was funny-cringe or omg-burn-it-with-fire cringe.

Monroe often writes books with medical/reproductive themes and generally does a decent job, given the space and fantasy limitations of an HP. Her story with a heroine with severe endometriosis, The Scorsolini Marriage Bargain, is one of my favorites.  This story involves IUI, which I know very little about, and I’ll assume the description was reasonably accurate. (By the way, what is going on with the term IVF being used as romance shorthand to indicate “any kind of fertility intervention”? That is very annoying.) It’s what happens right after the painful  procedure (it’s considerably more invasive than a turkey baster) that really made my eyes roll. I don’t know how I’m supposed to enjoy a sex scene when I’m wincing so hard, and worried about the heroine’s safety.

The story is… insensitive around disability, to say the least. Rico is partially paralyzed and impotent after an accident, so he feels like he’s not “whole” on several levels. This is understandable enough for someone only recently disabled, but couldn’t there have been some counter-balance to it, aside from Gianna worshipfully assuring him that she doesn’t feel that way? Like Ros, I thought it was cool that their sex life is shown as very satisfying despite the lack of intercourse, and I wish there hadn’t been so much undermining that positive side.

The end of the story brought on one last face-palm. See, having twins is all about how studly the dude is. His sperm is so powerful it even brought on an extra egg release, I guess.

If this sort of thing doesn’t bother you, it’s a pretty emotional story. But I couldn’t turn my brain off enough to really enjoy it.

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