Retro Romance Reading: Books 10, 11, 12 ,13

I became an obsessive fan of Mills and Boon and other category romance lines during the 1980’s when I was a young teen. So I decided to read some older titles. I also decided to combine this with the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge. So here I have 4 Mills and Boon written by Australian Women Authors.

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Of the four listed below, my only reread was Lynsey Stevens’ Ryan’s Return. I recall reading this as a teen and finding it – not romantic – but saddened by the actions of the adults around the two protagonists. Perhaps still a sign of the category fiction range at the time, but having a 23 year old sleep with a nearly 17 year old (both of whom were besotted with each other) feels very uncomfortable, though real, to me. For their parents then to insist on a shotgun wedding after which said 23 year old leaves without a word to anyone just worsens the feeling. To add to the mix our nearly 17 year old heroine falls pregnant and has twins. She is lucky enough to have the support of both her father and her in-laws. The main story takes place 8 years later when the hero finally returns to “claim” his wife and children. The strength of the story is that the author does not gloss over the long time the hero is gone. When it comes time to explain his absence to his children (and wife) he talks about how even adults can make mistakes, how having his hand forced made him lash out. How his behaviour during the first two years was abominable and though not excusing himself, it certainly explained some of his actions. As per most Mills and Boon, there is a redemptive Happily Ever After and one that, as a reader, I felt comfortable with. I also liked the sex scenes which, though they were signature torrid, they were not graphic nor did they use eyebrow raising allusions. For a category romance published over 30 years ago, I certainly felt it had aged well and was still readable and I can certainly understand why I have held onto my copy for all these years.

My other 3 choices I found in a second-hand bookshop. 2 titles were by Emma Darcy and one by Valerie Parv.

A Very Stylish Affair by Emma Darcy was perhaps my least favourite of the 4 books though readable enough that I finished it in a day. The out of the bottle red headed feisty heroine grated on my nerves as did the less than professional alpha lawyer hero. Of course, there was the stunning other woman also on the scene with the obligatory lack of communication and misunderstandings between the leading protagonists. I am still not sure why I read this book to completion…perhaps because I really liked the Lindfield/Sydney setting.

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On a completely different note, Emma Darcy’s The Shining of Love was compelling. Part of a series of books around a family of fostered siblings, this Mills and Boon has the out of the ordinary set up of the female protagonist being married (to a man she loved and respected) and turning down the male protagonist who fell in love with her at first sight and begs her to leave her husband (which she doesn’t). The book spans 18 months, there are parallel missing child storylines, the obligatory “other woman” and a series of coincidences that could have been trite but were handled very well by the author. Though I didn’t feel convinced by the protagonists as a couple, I did however, love the rest of the story.

Last of the pick was Valerie Parv’s Tasmanian Devil. Here is another book that I really enjoyed. A twist on the “alone on a desert island heiress learning to fend for herself” storyline, this is a classic Mills and Boon in that there was an alpha man saving his womAn, jealousies, misunderstandings and many other over the top, melodramatic scenes which make for a thoroughly enjoyable story. I particularly loved the sex scenes which were not at all graphic but filled with swoony allusions. My favourite line was:

Having read these four titles, I will continue on my journey for more Mills and Boon Australian publications throughout this year.

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10 thoughts on “Retro Romance Reading: Books 10, 11, 12 ,13

  1. I have a lot of vintage Mills and Boon novels, and some of them are by Australian women authors. I’ll put them aside when I see them and tweet you. If they are up your alley, you are welcome to borrow them 🙂

  2. What a great contribution to the challenge – such an interesting perspective to revisit a book you kept for so long and judge it according to its own time and in relation to our own.

    I started collecting Emma Darcy novels years ago – I had the idea they could be a useful research archive one day – but gave up on one of my many house moves and donated them all to a nursing home. There were boxes full: Wendy and Frank were so prolific! I wish now I’d kept them so I could pass them on.

    My favourite Parv (when I was reading romance) was one where the hero – if I remember correctly – was an illustrator (maybe even a cartoonist?) and there was a whole subtext of what constitutes real ‘art’. Not sure what it was called but it would be fascinating to look at now considering the whole genre vs literary debate still hasn’t entirely gone away.

    As for Lynsey Stevens, she was one of the first writers ever to encourage me with my own writing – so generous! In fact, all these romance authors have played a tremendous role in supporting and encouraging a generation of Australian women writers. Their spirit of generosity certainly influenced my own attitude toward how women can support, learn from and mentor each other. What a shame their achievements aren’t better recognised – though Valerie, I’m glad to see, seems to be better known now than in the past.

    I hope you’ll ping @auswomenwriters on Twitter as you post your reviews throughout the year and/or via the #aww2012 hashtag.

    Elizabeth (posting for read-a-review Wednesday)

    • Elizabeth, I will certainly be continuing to ping @auswomenwriters via #aww2012. I’m taking the challenge as a way to further familiarise myself with Australian Mills and Boon authors (though I will be reading Australian women writers in other genres too). I mostly avoided them over the years as my favourites had UK and US based settings though I did read many of their books. I agree that their achievements aren’t better recognised and would like to see them be considered with a higher regard.

  3. My favourite Parv (when I was reading romance) was one where the hero – if I remember correctly – was an illustrator (maybe even a cartoonist?) and there was a whole subtext of what constitutes real ‘art’. Not sure what it was called but it would be fascinating to look at now considering the whole genre vs literary debate still hasn’t entirely gone away.

    Elizabeth, it’s The Love Artist, he’s a cartoonist, and I discuss it in precisely that context in For Love and Money.

  4. Laura!! I didn’t realise, and thanks for the reference.

    Would you be able to do a teaser/precis of your ideas on Parv’s book which I could include in your guest post for AWW’s blog (with an active link to your book, of course)? That would be great, if you could!

    • An updated version of the post’s on its way to you, Elizabeth.

      [VaVeros – thanks very much for inspiring the revision and I hope you don’t mind me having ended up hogging the thread.]

      • I have just begun my post-graduate thesis in exploring the romance reader, public libraries and gender bias in collection development so I’m happy that my post inspired the thread. It is all food for thought 🙂

  5. shallowreader :
    I have just begun my post-graduate thesis in exploring the romance reader, public libraries and gender bias in collection development so I’m happy that my post inspired the thread. It is all food for thought

    I’d say “Good Luck!” but that doesn’t sound quite right given that it’ll take a lot of hard work and thought. Hope you have a very interesting time (in a good way)!

    It sounds like you’ll end up producing a very useful addition to studies of romance. As far as I know, there hasn’t been a huge amount written about libraries/librarians and romance, and what has been written has tended to come from the US (with the exception of Juliet Flesch’s work, but she was based in a university library).

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