I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong. When I rediscovered the romance genre in my early 20s I justified this burgeoning, newfound flirtation by dismissing category romance: “Yes, I’m reading this book about a Regency miss and a dissolute Duke but it’s not like I’m reading Harlequins!” Then, of course, I pulled my head out of my behind long enough to read some category romance, and quickly became hooked. “But, you know, that’s okay because it’s not like I’m reading Harlequin Presents!” Seriously, I really am this slow on the uptake.
Presents tend to get a bad rap because it’s a line that was built on the backs of brooding Alpha heroes. Nothing wrong with that, in theory, until you hit upon an Alpha hero who isn’t an Alpha so much as he is a barely housebroken jackass. The reputation started to stick. Alpha jerk “heroes” and mealy-mouthed, spineless “heroines” who get railroaded by them. Was this assumption fair on my part? No, of course it wasn’t. Although I refuse to sit in this shameful corner by myself, as there were, and still are, plenty of readers, romance or otherwise, who think this too.
It also didn’t help matters that for a number of years there seemed to be a policy at Harlequin to make the Presents titles and back cover descriptions as overblown as humanly possible. Since I feed my category addiction almost entirely off of back cover descriptions, I had a hard time navigating a line that made every book sound so absurd. What ultimately changed my mind, and got me to give Presents a fair shot, were other readers, most notably Lynne Connolly, an author in her own right with, among others, Ellora’s Cave and LooseID. I had always known that Presents books were about glamour and passion, but Lynne also has publicly stated that when a Presents book is done well, it really is a modern retelling of a fairytale. Hey, I love fairytales! So with the aid of reviews, recommendations, and Harlequin blissfully toning down titles and back cover copy, I started a month-long glom on Presents. What I found were several really good reads.
[Beneath the wrapping paper...]