Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My First Harlequin

Title: The Tycoon's Rebel Bride
Author: Maya Banks
Publisher: Harlequin Silhouette Desire (2009)
Mystery Designation: #1944 May 09

Previous visitors (waddup y'all?) know that I loves me a good romance. It's probably clear at this point that I prefer those of the historical variety but I do occasionally make a foray into the contemporary. I doubled up my latest contemporary journey with a first: a Harlequin! I have to say that it didn't exactly go like gangbusters. (Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I know.) Before I get into the meat of it, though, can someone please explain to me the number thing? Are these released like comic books or something? What does #1944 mean?

Isabella Caplan (of rebel bride fame) has the humpin' hornies for Theron Anetakis (of tycoon fame) but she is a ward of his family and he sees her only as a kid that he is responsible for. He doesn't actually know her all that well since she's more of a fiscal ward than a live-in ward due to their parents' friendship. Isabella has loved Theron for most of her life and has decided her post college graduation goal is to marry him. He quickly realizes she's more than just a kid but he still thinks of her as a responsibility rather than a potential mate. Cue mood music...

What I Liked:

>It was short

>Isabella has a goal and is willing to work for it

>Isabella is comfortable in her own skin and with her sexuality

>Theron asked some dang good questions. For instance, what are your plans now that you have graduated?

>This is a follow-up to The Tycoon's Pregnant Mistress (#1920) and how can I possibly not enjoy that? Very handy to not even have to read the back flap to know what one is getting into. (Note that the #1920 tycoon is brother to current tycoon not actual current tycoon.)

>Isabella's dress on the cover. I'd like to own it and wear it. Perhaps in a helicopter I've hired.

What I Didn't Like:

>Even though it was short it was still more wordy than needed (yes, actually, I do see the irony in this:).

>I realize we're dealing with the uber-rich here so they may not have exactly the same cares/worries as the rest of us but I couldn't stomach the main motivations of the two protags: Isabella appeared to think all aspects of her life would fall into place if only she got married and Theron was insultingly over-bearing. He was so over-bearing that at one point I thought I had misunderstood and was reading an historical but modern technology was mentioned so it was him, not me.

>Everything was too easy.*

side note: For a romance to work for me I absolutely must believe two things:
    1) There's a chance the couple might not get together.
    2) They will remain together after the book has ended.

Think about the wonderful romance that is Persuasion (or Seize the Fire or Bridget Jones' Diary); even though I know better I am genuinely worried things won't work out. But when they do I am convinced they really do.

*again, I realize with people that own jets things are probably a bit easier but, really, you got to make me believe it won't work out or else why I am here reading all these pages of them trying to work it out. There's no point if it's grossly obvious that things will be fine.

>That "gentleman's" club business was the best that could be contrived to bring about action re the true feelings of our protags??

>Unprotected sex in 2009????????????? Give me a fucking break!

In summary, this one was just too empty. The writing lacked even a hint of subtlety - as did the characters, really. I know what I was supposed to think and feel because it was painfully spelled out for me but I never actually thought or felt any of those things. If you're looking for a good romance I can recommend several, but you're definitely going to want to give this one a pass.

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Any Harlequin readers out there want to point me in a better direction?


  1. Hey Babe
    Back from wifiless wilderness and in a frenzy of cybersurfing.

    "....I'd like to own it and wear it. Perhaps in a helicopter I've hired...." HAHAHAHA!

    I myself have never warmed up to category. I like me some subplots and secondary characters, and those pretty much fall by the wayside with the supertight wordcounts in Harlequin series. It also took me a while to figure out that there are many, many lines, designed for various readerships, whereas when non-fans say 'Harlequin' they very often mean the line called 'Presents', of which I think you read a candidate (judging by the title). It is the most easily mockable line because of the cookie cutter quality of the titles. I try hard not to - not just because everyone has a right to their own reading taste - but because some of the members of my writing group are category authors and I actually have tremendous respect for skilled they are at weaving their stories within the tight parameters of their lines.

    Nevertheless, sometimes, matters go overboard. Do you visit 'Smart Bitches, Trashy Books'? If not, take a look at a review for a Harlequin called, IIRC 'Pregnesia' for a mindblowing 'WTH were they thinking?' experience.

  2. Oh I just love wifiless wildernesses AND the web gluttony upon return. :) Hope the celebration of canada day was totally awesome with just the right amount of gratuitous beaver sitings.

    Interesting to learn that these lines have strict parameters. Huh. That would require a special kind of writing skill.

    I do read SBTB and it's one of their reviews that tempted me to try this particular title. I would be more put out about my wasted time if it was not also one of their reviews that led me to THE SPYMASTER'S LADY. I adore LADY and re-read it with pleasure (talk about mad writing skilz - whoa!). What I can't believe is that it only scored one letter grade higher than TYCOON. Holy shitballs and fuck the what???? Are you kidding me? How is that possible????

    What I find really interesting about romance in general is that readers of romance are so much more generous and forgiving than most other readers. For example, If I pick up 10 random novels I would guess I would enjoy ~1-3. If I pick up 10 random romance novels I would guess I'd enjoy ~0-1. I think, in general, there's a pretty high consumer tolerance for shitty novels but it's even higher in romance novels. Why do "we" romance readers allow this? The copy editing alone is sometimes enough to fry my eyeballs. Why are romance readers slightly less demanding in their consumption? I often wonder this.

  3. I don't read much category romance any more, except for a few specific authors. Authors like Nora Roberts, Anne Stuart, and Linda Howard began there; some of their categories were pretty good, too. [Most of NRs have been reissued in the last few years. I would recommend her Night series and the Stanislaski family series.] I think Tess Gerritsen may have written some Harlequin romantic suspense categories early on in her career too.

    Susan Napier's Harlequin Presents are usually good. I think Jane at Dear Author has reviewed a couple of her HPs. I've enjoyed some older ones by Michelle Reid and Robyn Donald, but the quality can vary wildly. And there are some tropes that are just endemic to the subgenre...which is why I don't read them much anymore.

    And then there is Betty Neels, who is in a category all her own. The downtrodden heroine meets the Dutch doctor who sweeps her off her feet ;)

  4. jmc - thanks a heap for the author suggestions. I will feel much better about entering the Harlequin realm well-armed with tips. (and I won't lie, that dutch doctor thing is hugely intriguing:)

    I've actually read a Michelle Reid (non-Harlequin) and I really disliked it. Me and that book did not get along. So much so that my teeth hurt a little just thinking about it. Ah well, not everything ends up working out...

    Thanks again!