Reading Out of My Comfort Zone: Harlequins

On Saturday afternoon, my husband threw down the gauntlet and issued a reading challenge.  We were wandering the aisles at our local Target and came upon a wall of bodice-ripper romance novels.  We spent whole minutes admiring and comparing the covers, reading blurbs, and generally have a good laugh at the genre’s expense.  I fessed up to never having read a Harlequin and debate ensued about my book blogging credentials.

Anthony argued that being a book blogger who avoids an entire genre is akin to being a dermatologist who won’t lance boils because he or she finds that aspect of the job distasteful.  With that half-assed simile, he decided to pick a Harlequin (based on cover image and premise) for me to read and review on Book, Line, and Sinker.  I drew the line at covers featuring bare chests, heaving bosoms, or any type of undergarments.  This was our compromise:

Gotta love that title...

I zipped through the 192-page book in an hour or so and when it came to serving up cliches and insipid dialog, Kendrick didn’t disappoint.  Angie, the mousy secretary is transformed into a wanton hussy with the change of an outfit.  Her Italian boss is part playboy part chauvinistic pig, but the two manage to find some middle ground (her bed, his bed, his office floor, etc.).  Thankfully, the book wasn’t as graphic as I feared, and the sex scenes were positively tame compared to Jackie Collins and her ilk.

Can meek little Angie get Riccardo to change his fickle ways and finally settle down?  And can she also manage to repair her sister’s failing marriage and help Riccardo’s sister escape an arranged marriage and find true love?  You bet she can.

With that, The Italian Billionaire’s Secretary Mistress secures the dubious honor of being the first book to ever receive 1/2 of a bookmark on my rating system. (One bookmark is  ‘Not my cup of cocoa’, so you read into 1/2 of a bookmark however you see fit.)

Thanks to Anthony for suggesting this fun and adventurous challenge (and for footing the bill).

25 Comments

  • At 2010.01.31 06:18, Lenore said:

    As a teen, I used to read harlequin historicals (the ones with “spunky” heroines) but I never dared read one from the harlequin presents line. Very brave you are!
    .-= Lenore´s last blog ..Friday Fabulous! (19) – On a Saturday… =-.

    • At 2010.01.31 09:07, vivienne said:

      I do hope my hubby never dares me to read a Mills and Boon. I would rather sit in a bath of cold baked beans! You are braver than me.
      .-= vivienne´s last blog ..Sunday Salon – Monthly Roundup =-.

      • At 2010.01.31 12:22, softdrink said:

        I can’t get over the title. Had The Billionaire’s Mistress been used, so they just decided to add some adjectives and call it good? They couldn’t have come up with something a little more clever, like Doing it on the Desk?

        • At 2010.01.31 12:24, Beth F said:

          LOL!!!! These and the Loveswept Romances are too funny. I edited a few way back in the late 1980s…
          .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Let the BLOB Game Begin! =-.

          • At 2010.01.31 13:13, Ti said:

            I read these in High School. I found them incredibly entertaining. You need to read some Johanna Lindsey. I read Captive Bride when I was like 13 and it was like porn to me. LOL.

            I could never pick these types of books up now. Although some are well done, I just don’t care for them.
            .-= Ti´s last blog ..Friday Finds: Under This Unbroken Sky =-.

            • At 2010.01.31 13:17, claire said:

              Lol. My aunts loved reading Mills & Boon and I’d see them lying around everywhere while I was growing up, but when I was a little older and tried reading one, I couldn’t get past one page! You are so brave! 😀
              .-= claire´s last blog ..To the Lighthouse =-.

              • At 2010.01.31 13:53, Anastasia said:

                Ha! I still haven’t managed to get through an entire Harlequin, so I admire your fortitude.
                .-= Anastasia´s last blog ..Review: Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin =-.

                • At 2010.01.31 18:10, Jane Steen said:

                  My grandmother lived with us for a few years when I was a preteen, and she had boxes of Mills & Boon and Barbara Cartland romances. In a house with scant reading material (my parents were not readers) I would read anything so I went through all of them, learning a certain amount about male/female interactions in the process. I was a bit disappointed when I grew up to find that most men were not gorgeous, ripped, suntanned, rich Greeks who always ended up marrying you.

                  I don’t read them now, although when I read Twilight I was instantly reminded of the formula: waiflike heroine lusted after by every man in the vicinity, constantly rescued and eventually bedded by gorgeous overbearing male who totally respects her. I suspect that the growing popularity of e-readers will cause a boom in romance sales, because we’ll no longer have the shame of displaying those covers for all to see what we’re reading.

                  Well done for managing to read and review a Harlequin. Few would have the courage.
                  .-= Jane Steen´s last blog ..THIS IS POST 49 =-.

                  • At 2010.01.31 19:34, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                    You and your husband are both hilarious. At least the cover has a bookshelf in the background. That probably brought it up 1/4 of a bookmark, right?

                    I have to admit I went through a Lisa Jackson phase in high school but at least that was more romantic suspense. So instead of it just being about people having sex on a desk, it’s sex on the desk but one of them may be the killer. It’s so much more classy.
                    .-= Jess – A Book Hoarder´s last blog ..Snow Day!! =-.

                    • At 2010.02.01 19:41, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

                      anthony is the funny one while i’m the sidekick, along for the adventure but none of the glamor of being the super hero.

                      as for lisa jackson, haven’t heard of her but may have to investigate. the plot sounds much richer. 🙂

                    • At 2010.01.31 21:11, Jenners said:

                      This was sooooo funny! I wonder if you’ll get hate mail from Harlequin lovers!?

                      I read them when I was in grade school … they almost all followed the same formula. I haven’t seen the “modern” ones though.

                      That title is hilarious!
                      .-= Jenners´s last blog ..Show Me 5 Saturday: "Black Out" by Lisa Unger =-.

                      • At 2010.01.31 21:19, Kathy R (Bermudaonion) said:

                        What are you going to do to get even with your husband for that one! There is no way I would tackle that book! You are brave!
                        .-= Kathy R (Bermudaonion)´s last blog ..Our Life in France – banking, money and numbers =-.

                        • At 2010.02.01 02:30, Books We Read said:

                          I read a couple Harlequin books (sent to me free to entice me to join their bookclub…) when I was a freshman in college and I was so bored by them that I swore I would never read another cheesy Harlequin again…. This wasn’t my type of book when I was 18, and I don’t see how it can be my type of book now…..I don’t think I will ever pick up another Harlequin again….

                          • At 2010.02.01 03:51, bybee said:

                            [shaking head and laughing like hell]
                            .-= bybee´s last blog ..Remembering Salinger =-.

                            • At 2010.02.01 10:05, Stephanie said:

                              With a name like “The Italian Billionaire’s Secretary Mistress” you were expecting something different?

                            • At 2010.02.01 15:41, Meg said:

                              Oh boy. I’m definitely not opposed to a good, well-done romance novel, but some of these are just… well, laughable! And this would fall in that category, methinks! 🙂
                              .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘Fat Cat’ by Robin Brande =-.

                              • At 2010.02.01 19:32, Dishy said:

                                Ant’s dermatologist analogy – brilliant! At least now you can truthfully say been there, done that (and ne’er again.)

                                I have never read a Harlequin or any other romance novel. But having just watched (though not read) Twilight, I totally agree w/Jane Steen above for pointing out its similarity to the genre. Does that mean I’d enjoy a good bodice ripper? B/c I TOTALLY DUG TWILIGHT. The movie anyway. Went to the library to check out the book – yep, out.
                                .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Simply irresistible. =-.

                                • At 2010.02.01 19:35, Dishy said:

                                  BTW, do you think Ant was hoping the “Mistress” would add fuel to your proverbial fire? What if you’d actually enjoyed it??
                                  .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Simply irresistible. =-.

                                  • At 2010.02.01 19:44, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

                                    are you suggesting that i should become an italian billionaire’s secretary mistress? where do i sign up? mwa ha ha.

                                  • At 2010.02.02 14:24, Lisa said:

                                    My husband would be more likely to dare me to read sci-fi (which I have, for the record read, but don’t care for). I’m not sure which would be worse for me!
                                    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..The Day The Falls Stood Still =-.

                                    • At 2010.02.02 17:35, Kari said:

                                      Ah they spell it “cooky!” That is just too awesome for words.

                                      I love old nostalgic books. My mom got rid of my favorite, a 1980s book for children of places to go and things to do in Nashville, and I was so upset that she tracked down a copy in a used bookstore and gave it to me last Christmas. Best present ever!
                                      .-= Kari´s last blog ..Chunkster: Dodgy history =-.

                                      • At 2010.02.02 23:17, Hayden Tompkins said:

                                        Le sigh! I know these books are like the deep fried twinkies of the literature yet, alas, I cannot help myself. They are everything you’ve said and more – ill-written, chauvinistic, and lacking in almost any redeeming feature!

                                        • At 2010.02.03 08:21, Chrisbookarama said:

                                          Wow, he sure can pick ’em. That title alone screams cheeziness.
                                          .-= Chrisbookarama´s last blog ..Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail: Review =-.

                                          • At 2010.02.05 13:12, sammy25 said:

                                            OMG gurl I’m totally reading romance novels myself! I just finished a trashy gay one and just picked up Nora Roberts “Midnight Bayou”. Talk about reading out of comfortzones 🙂
                                            .-= sammy25´s last blog ..Alive and Well =-.

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