I read three romance novels over the last week and a half (don’t mock me… my romance reading tends to come in spurts): Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory; Between Mist and Midnight by Kathleen O’Brien; and Duty, Desire and the Desert King by Jane Porter. The first is a recent historical, the second is an old (1992) Harlequin Presents and the last is a newer Presents.
The Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory‘s heroine is a woman who works in a bookshop, which was my main draw to the book. Historicals always have issues with heroines who are inexperienced with men and just about faint when the man with the Mighty Wang shows interest, which of course he does. I love historicals, but there’s really only so much of these women I can take. They are often interesting and bright and have their own stuff going on, but it really wasn’t *that* uncommon for women, especially of lower classes, to have sexual experience. So why is it so rare in these books? Also, I’d like to see more heroes that aren’t of upper classes. It’s fairly common now-a-days to see women of mostly middle but also occasionally lower class, but I honestly can’t recall the last regency I read where the hero wasn’t a noble.
There was one other major frustration I had with the book aside from the typical-ness of the characters’ experience and social status, but it’s a spoiler so I won’t mention it here. Just… creepy. Also I had guessed it waaaaay before it was revealed.
It sounds like I really didn’t like the book, which isn’t true. But I do regret staying up until seven in the morning to finish it, that’s for damn sure.
So, here’s the thing with Harlequin Presents: the men are always sneering and cold and powerful (but of course they secretly love the heroine and are just douches because they’re either emotional idiots or they’re trying to force her hand and realize that she loves him or whatever) and the women are fiesty, but don’t know how to deal with these assholes that they are either super attracted to or have been in love with for ages. Also the man is always rich. Always.
In Between Mist and Midnight (which I’m not linking to as it’s out of print), Eleanor is coming back to her family home after staying away for five years for an extended family reunion. Also her Gran is dying. Also her hot stepbrother, Edan, is there, taking care of Gran and the family business and being hot and being an asshole. Nell (a nickname for Eleanor*) hates him and loves him. It’s all very emotional and he gets on her nerves and she gets on his nerves and they’re both JUST. SO. SEXY. (to each other, at least). Anyway, eventually, they get together and work on their issues and (presumably) live happily ever after.
One thing I liked about the book is, as overwrought as the drama was (which is very typical for Presents), it was also real. Nell’s father remarried when Nell was 15, and brought in this son that he’d never had and was soooo proud of him. Nell felt neglected. Edan’s own father had left him, so when he, at nineteen, got a new proud poppa, he unthinkingly milked it for all it was worth. And you know what? That’s real drama. Aside from the whole attraction/love thing, that could be real life. (Actually, I had a co-worker once who married her step-brother, so that part could be real life, too. :P) But man, sometimes these characters get soooo annoying.
Oh, and did I mention there’s an old Civil War ghost?
I thought it would be interesting to read a more recent Presents after BM&M to see if the Alpha Hero thing had changed at all. (Alpha heroes were what was it up until the mid-to-late nineties in all romance sub-genres, but they’re not very common in most sub-genres now-a-days.) The answer? Not too much. Rou, the heroine, had a laptop, soooo… :P
Anyway, I have a secret thing for these sheikh books. When I was in middle school and just discovering my mom’s romance stash, there was this one sheikh book that I read at least half a dozen times. ANYWAY, DD&DK was pretty good, if you can get through the typical Presents shit. Rou is a stilted, awkward heroine (with not much sexual experience, though not a virgin, at least) who is a professional matchmaker. Sheikh Zayed Fehr is super hot and a major playboy. But when his older brother, Sharif is lost in a plane crash, he must marry in order to become king. And he remembers that Sharif was a mentor to this young psychologist who became a very successful matchmaker…
Anyway, I liked this. I liked that Zayed starts of thinking that Rou is not beautiful, but then as he gets to know her, he just starts calling her beautiful. I liked that the ways they both underestimated and misjudged each other, even though it resulted in some stupid situations. Don’t people ever talk to each other, like for reals? I did NOT like how Rou lost her brain whenever Zayed was around. I am willing to give some leeway in that regard (mostly because it really is par for the course in Presents novels), but she should at least be able to make semi-intelligent choices SOMETIMES.
Also, and this is barely a spoiler, there is a secret(ish) baby at the end, which is WAY TOO DAMN COMMON in the Presents line. Like, I had to read the summaries for five Presents books before finding one that did not have a secret baby. What the fuck.
*I do know that Nell is a nickname for Eleanor, but my grandma’s name was Nell, just plain Nell, so I tend to forget it as a nickname.