Sunday, March 19, 2006

Two Harlequin Presents Novels

Blackmailed into Marriage and His One-Night Stand

I read these two books together because I'm supposed to fill out the same reader form for the Harlequin We Hear You reader survey program. This was a little disconcerting because the female leads have the same name. It's a coincidence, but still surprising :).

Both of these novels are Harlequin Presents and take me back to the very beginning of my reading romance novels. Unlike many of the others, these are pure interpersonal conflicts without an outside situation pushing the issue through terror, stress or what have you.

In Blackmailed into Marriage, a very traditional Spanish grandfather manipulates his daughter into marriage with the man that really is best for her, but she fights the relationship because of its beginnings and must be wooed.

His One-Night Stand, on the other hand, involves an affair with unexpected consequences, both a child and a bond such that neither forgot the other despite him not even knowing her name or face.

These are the true heart of romance for me: the story is about how people undermine their own love life because of reasonable assumptions or life circumstances. There are no dramatic chases, murderers, kidnappings or anything that forces emotions to bloom out of time. These are true love at first sight (or at once they figure it out ;)) stories where two people must battle their own mistrust and the impact of their past to discover future happiness.

Interestingly, Blackmailed into Marriage also addresses a sexual disorder in a manner that is neither preachy nor overdone. Everything else I can safely say because of the assumptions a romance reader has when picking up a romance novel, but I was surprised and impressed at the way this novel made one of the "unspeakable" topics into something that love can conquer, but not in an easy "love conquers all" type of way. Though I love these novels for their essential nature, they do have a framework which makes the unique elements somewhat restricted. I would never have expected one to take on such a delicate topic, much less so successfully.

Therefore, though I know basically what to expect when reading a Harlequin Presents, neither of these felt old or overdone. They both contained the unique elements that arise from a specific situation and specific characters. While the traditional nurse stories of the 80s and earlier grew a bit similar, neither of these novels has that failing. The characters stand out because of who they are and the circumstances they find themselves in. It's wonderful to feel drawn into a novel even when you already know the end. It's not the happily ever after that's the surprise, nor is it some outside element. In these, it is most simply how the characters find their way past the emotional, and in one case physiological, barriers between them and that ending I know they have to achieve. This is how I got sucked into reading romances in my early teens and this is why I still read them today: for the pure emotions they offer to share with their readers.


Nonny said...

"There are no dramatic chases, murderers, kidnappings or anything that forces emotions to bloom out of time."


Sometimes implementing external events to "push" the romance forward can actually have a detrimental effect. I've read books where the "happy ending" didn't feel genuine. It's not uncommon for people who're stuck together in a life-or-death situation to become attracted to each other -- problem is, a relationship formed under those circumstances rarely survives in reality.

I have a reasonable knowledge of psychology, and the endings feel, to some extent, contrived, or like they won't last.

But, maybe this's just me. :)

Margaret said...

Well, I wouldn't say they're all implausible cause those types of relationships do happen and do work out, but the other is much more common where we are our own worst enemy :).