I tensed when a friend at my house inspected my reading pile. Hidden in the jumble of books were two 1970s Harlequin Romances. I want her to think I’m smart, tackling complex tomes. Yet I have been reading these vintage romances.
It started after a conversation with a friend who writes contemporary romances. “What did the characters do in those early Harlequin romances when the first kiss was on the last page?” we both wondered.
I had read many of these Harlequins when I was an early teen, but I didn’t remember what they were like. I went looking for them. You can buy a whole bunch of them—like a 100 books—for about a buck a piece. I was lucky. I found a couple of old Harlequins at a used bookstore.
The ones I read all had a wealthy hero, but the men weren’t always handsome. They all had a happily-ever-after scenario, as if love and money will take away every problem. That’s not realistic, but we still wish for something like that. Look at readers of People Magazine who follow the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle romance.
I was startled that in the vintage Harlequins, the heroines make decisions and take control of their lives. For example, in The Tideless Sea, the heroine is the widow of a cheating husband. Rather than settling down to a boring job, she takes an extravagant vacation to Greece to heal herself.
All heroines in these novels want to be loved. But don’t we all?
I’ll keep the vintage Harlequins. In the middle of some night, when I’m awake and plagued with worries, I’ll read them again and be consoled enough to fall back asleep. It’s a good reminder that the heroine will always find her way.