I’ve been in bed for a week with the flu for the past week, and all I could do was read. So, being woolly-headed, I went for Harlequin, my comfort reads of choice.
Apart from my fave Sara Cravens, I discovered Olivia Gates’ Throne of Judar trilogy, and Sandra Marton’s The Billionaires’ Brides series. Totally preposterous plots, but if you go with them, you find interesting characters and situations that the authors work hard for you to believe in.
Throne of Judar Trilogy by Olivia Gates
I’m not fond of children in my romance books, but the baby in the first book was necessary to the plot, acted its age and didn’t take up too much page time. It was also a Secret Baby, but in this book, it worked.
The writing is lush and romantic, the hot scenes tended towards the purple, but worked in the context and I found that, for me, the books improved as the series went on, mainly because of the quality of the writing. As a writer myself, I love reading writers who “come on” in their writing, and I believe Ms Gates really does.
For the Throne of Judar, B-, mainly for the purple in the sex scenes, and the fact that I couldn’t always work out what exactly was going on in them.
Overall Grade: B-
|The Desert Lord’s Baby by Olivia Gates
Contemporary romance released by Silhouette Desire 13 May 08
|The Desert Lord’s Bride by Olivia Gates
Contemporary romance released by Silhouette Desire 8 Jul 08
|The Desert King by Olivia Gates
Contemporary romance released by Silhouette Desire 9 Sep 08
The Billionaires’ Brides Series by Sandra Marton
Sandra Marton’s Billionaires’ Brides series is about three European princes finding their American princesses, and consists of The Italian Prince’s Pregnant Bride, The Greek Prince’s Chosen Wife, and The Spanish Prince’s Virgin Bride. (I cringe at the titles, why do they do that?)
Again, there is that pattern to the stories, but I found that interesting, to see what a good writer can do with a restrictive format. Each book conformed, but the characters in the books treated their situations differently.
Sandra Marton is an experienced Harlequin writer, and her books are really easy to read. That kind of skill isn’t in itself easy to acquire, and I found myself admiring it while I was reading. Scenes and situations flow naturally, and it’s only when you stop reading, you start to realise how daft the whole set-up really is. But it doesn’t matter, because Marton takes you into her world and lets you play there. Beautifully written and constructed, with the characters making the difference between believability and preposterous over-the-topness, they were all great reads.
|The Italian Prince’s Pregnant Bride by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 1 Aug 07
|The Greek Prince’s Chosen Wife by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 1 Sep 07
|The Spanish Prince’s Virgin Bride by Sandra Marton
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents 1 Oct 07
Although one series (the Gates) was a Desire, and the other a Presents/Modern (Modern in the UK, Presents in the States), I didn’t actually find a lot of difference in the heat level. Although the Martons had one less sex scene per book, it was more explicit than the Gates ones.
These books are really hard to write, and very easy to read, which is why many women find them perfect in certain situations. On long journeys, ill in bed, or just looking for a read to accompany a break and a cup of coffee, they’re excellent.
I’ve tried a number of times to write for Harlequin, and so I know how hard it is. Taking a restrictive set of requirements (not a formula, because you can do what you want within those requirements) and writing a believable, enjoyable story within them is so much harder than writing whatever you want and letting your imagination dictate the story completely.
Actually, I have a couple of submissions in right now. Just sayin’.