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.