Vintage Harlequins

Managed to make a crazy-self-imposed deadline last week and decided to treat myself to a little Vintage Harlequin reading to soothe my overwrought brain. Sara, AKA Harlequin Junkie leant me two of hers. Love’s Tangled Web by Mary Lyons and A Question of Pride by Michelle Reid. Both of these authors are sort of Harl-of-Famers, so I pretty much knew what I as in for. The cover of Mary Lyons was far more appealing…a brick country house in the background, a dark and stormy hero clutching a desperately…wanting heroine. The other cover had a pregnant woman in pale blue overalls who looked like some dude was offering to help carry her groceries. So yeah, I went with Mary Lyons.

Look, there’s always a premise, we have to weave these silly webs to paint these silly characters into these silly corners so then we can watch them squirm and writhe and suffer and then, SIGH, find true love. So I am totally okay with all sorts of preposterous premises. But. There are certain weird moments when I am no longer okay with the preposterousness. If the hero is engaged to your sister…and you are not twins…and you can put a wig on and pretend to be the older sister…and he doesn’t pick up on it…and then actually marries you in a ceremony that you believe to be a fake-rehearsal until your sister comes back the next day. And then—GASP…NO!—it’s a real wedding and a real husband and your douchebag father has already spent all the money the fake-real-husband already gave him as a modern dowry bailout type of thing? Then I am losing it. Because, yes, the fake-real-husband knew it was you all the time…you silly git. He loved you all the time. But he could never tell you because…because…oh no reason. I wanted to shake this book and rattle its bones and say there is so much good in you! Stop trying to be so full of MAYHEM and INSANITY! Why couldn’t they just meet in the same way? Look, her father was a financially irresponsible fool, let’s go with that. Get that rich, rescue-the-family-home-and-marry-me-in-the-bargain plot to kick it off, then get him all controlling and bad-ass in bed, dragging her down to Sardinia or wherever. Also, look, as Annie Hall would say, “He totally opened her up sexually.” (Cue Wallace Shawn).

So, despite all that, I am supremely forgiving when it comes to this stuff. I am here to be forgiving. I am not here to be snarky and petty and nit-picky. I have a soon-to-be 13-year-old daughter for that. When it comes to romance novels, I want to give in! And I did. I loved the part in Sardinia. And I thought of a whole separate blog about how Sardinia and Corsica (and basically anywhere where the sun shines) were weather-porn for the original British reader. Because seriously, I lived there and after a while the weather actually hurts. After one particularly cruel stretch of gray in the late 90s I remember betting houses like Ladbrokes offering odds on when the sun would next shine. That is the meaning of “wanting”….when you haven’t seen the sun shine in 87 days, you feel it…deep in your…core…or wherever. Anyway, that was all thanks to Mary Lyons—and that pushy, non-communicative alpha-hero—that I thought of all that. And I am grateful for all that.

Michelle Reid, on the other hand, gave it to me straight. She forgot to take her birth control pills. We’ve all been there. I buy it. I was hook-line-and-sinker with the no-strings-attached secretary-boss love affair and then how the heroine shot-that-all-seven-ways-to-Sunday-when-I-got-pregnant-but-look-I’m-havin’-your-baby-so-let’s-just-move-the-plot-along. Which she did. Beautifully. A wonderful secondary plot with the mother. A vicious, angry, seriously malicious hero who just BEGGED for redemption in the most delicious way. It was just all A BIT OF ALL RIGHT! And I didn’t care that forgetting to take her pill made her TSTL or that him almost smacking her across the face was…not okay. It just didn’t matter because there was emotional honesty and tidbits of really beautiful oh-god-I-love-him-so-much-and-will-he-ever-love-me-as-much-as-I-love-him vibrating realness that just made that all fine with me.

Does any of that make sense? Maybe. Maybe not. But there you have it. That’s what happens to me when I read a vintage Harl. I FEEL. And I like it.