Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Harlequins


I've been reading romance novels since I was about ten, at first, pilfering them from my mother, who would sometimes sneak off in the middle of an afternoon to have a wee read and a break from her quarrelsome kids. Now, I download one to my iPod periodically, so no one knows I'm reading such silly stuff.

My mom preferred the white-covered 'Harlequin Presents', I think. There was a fair amount of sex in the ones I stole, nothing too steamy and very rarely anything resembling violence. Certainly, there was no spanking or bondage. 'Bulging thrust of his manhood' is one of the phrases I remember with a giggle about the sometimes hapless writing.

I'm pretty sure those books made a mess of my romantic life as a teen and into my twenties as I looked for the handsome and rich stranger to sweep me off my feet.
In these escapist fantasies, the guy is always rich, always handsome, always damaged in some way. He also always warns the goodhearted girl away but she is drawn to his charisma and looks and while he sweeps her off her feet, she's rescuing him from his damage. There's a formula to it, and I'm not just saying that; the writing guidelines are right there on Harlequin's website.

It appears the author who's raking it in with Fifty Shades of Grey might have read those guidelines.

Yes, I read the damn thing. The first one only and I was relieved (SPOILER ALERT!) that Ana the protagonist left the bastard after he hit her too hard. Yes, the sex scenes are hot hot hot. Yes, they give you a tingle in your naughty bits. But steamy sex scenes are in a lot of books, and so I'm not sure what's causing such a frenzy.

As for the spanking and tying up, it's actually kind of tame stuff, and yet, wow, what breathless excitement from most of my girlfriends!

Here's my happy theory on it: it's testimony to the massive changes in our society in the last few decades. A woman being 'smacked around' by a romantic partner was fairly normal at one time and now it's a crime. And now, it's also erotic, to read about, anyway. But if you've read and were titillated by Fifty Shades of Grey, ask yourself this: if you were cleaning out your bookshelves, would you even consider donating your copy to My Friends House?

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