Like many other romance fans, I’d heard about the big Harlequin sale that started on November 10. Harlequin has been selling eBook editions for 10 years. They’re celebrating by having a big sale. Really big. 10,000 titles will be available for $1.99, until November 17. You can buy directly from Harlequin, or from other retailers — including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. To make it easier for you book addicts, Harlequin has a page where you can search for your favorite authors (and titles) to find out if those books are included. Hint: They probably are.

At first, I was reluctant to click any of the links. (“Books, Anne. Booooks,” they said.) I told myself that I still had Harlequin eBooks (and print books) to read. I shouldn’t be buying more. I used to buy eBooks from Harlequin’s site all the time, but that was back in my eBookwise days. These days, I keep my eBook shopping between Amazon and B&N, and I don’t want to add a third big vendor, only to accidentally buy the book at more than one retailer. (Yes, cough, it can happen.)

Then I did it. I looked at a blog post. OK, it looked interesting, even if I wasn’t familiar with many of the newer authors. But wait! I had some Harlequin historicals in my Amazon wishlist. Were any of them on sale? I sorted my Romance wishlist by price drops and found several titles waiting for me to pounce.

What about the other Harlequins? Where were the authors I used to read all the time? I tried Harlequin’s search feature, but couldn’t get it to work at first. Of course, bookworms don’t give up so easily. Those books had to be there! It was time to start approaching this like an ancient library with many paths leading to it. Unfortunately, now that Harlequin had stopped using the Silhouette name (read more on our older blog post Silhouette in the Shadows), changing almost all their lines to “Harlequin,” and had changed the style of many of my favorite lines, it was harder to find things.

Then I learned about something called Harlequin Treasury. If you like ’em old school, this is where you’ll find them. Harlequin titles from the 1990s, and yes, Silhouette titles as well. Clicking that link tickled my long-dormant Harlequin Presents gland. If you’re like me, you probably get excited when you see names like Sandra Marton, Charlotte Lamb, Kay Thorpe, Lynne Graham, Caroline Mortimer, Emma Darcy, Sharon Kendrick, Sally Wentworth, Anne Mather, Roberta Leigh, and more. Or when you see titles like The Vengeful Husband. Or when you see Harlequin Presents covers with a white background and the hero and heroine inside a circle with a colored border. My wishlist was gasping for breath before I was done.

I had lots of fun reading the descriptions of the plots, and especially, the reviews (good and bad). Sure, today’s Harlequin Presents have the Greek tycoons and Italian moguls, and occasional sheikhs. But there’s something about 1990s Presents. How I used to love standing in my favorite used book store, reading the back covers and finding wilder and wilder plots. Last night, Amazon brought me right back there. I remembered the layout, remembered the way I used to pull out the books I was interested so that they stuck out just a little on the shelf, and got caught up in Presents fever. Heck, I could just about imagine the carpet and smell the books, and I could picture myself grabbing something with “Vengeful” or “Deception” in the title to see if it lived up to its promise. And the titles! They could go everywhere from Mistress of Deception to Savage Seduction, to more down-to-earth (by HP standards) titles like Hollywood Wedding. Sure, they’re lurid, but they’re much better than current HP titles, such as Bought: The Greek’s Innocent Virgin and Ruthless Magnate, Convenient Wife. Give me Haunted Dreams and Lace and Satin any day. Even Angry Desire. Or, of course, any title with words like with “Vengeful” or “Deception” — not to mention a plot to match. Heroes who distrust the heroines! Heroines who are too proud to clear up the truth with a few words! 

One of the very first Presents that showed up on sale when I searched the “Treasury” is The Vengeful Husband (The Husband Hunters Book 2) by Lynne Graham. This one has a will that forces the heroine to find a husband in a short time, a secret baby, and a hero who thinks the heroine stole an heirloom from him and is determined to make her pay. Because of poor eyesight, the heroine marries him without realizing who he is. If I found any one of those elements in a romance, I’d probably throw it down, but if you put them all together, they become that crazy fun that is a Harlequin Presents plot. You can have everything from revenge to deception to seduction, often in the same book. This was the sort of book where the heroine would agree to pretend to impersonate her twin sister as a favor, not realizing that her evil sister was using her to escape a vengeful would-be husband. Or the sort of book where the hero is surrrre that the heroine is a gold-digger, a liar, a slut, a thief, and perhaps even one of the Nephilim. (OK, I added that last part to make sure you were paying attention.)

Yes, some authors had over-the-top heroes who should have been arrested for the way they treated the heroines, but I guess that was sort of the point. Although I did roll my eyes at the scores of heroines who proved their ” honor ” when they turned out to be virgins. Uhm, double standards anyone? But again, that was part of the point, too. These were classic fairy tales set in modern(ish) times. Many of these heroes were like possessive alpha vampire heroes, but without the fangs and blood-drinking. The fun was watching them make their way back to their humanity. It was just a damned shame so many of them only did so in the final, say, page or so of the book. At the same time, in some ways, Presents authors had more freedom back then. Not every hero had to be a gazillionaire, and though it was rare, plots could even include mild paranormal elements, such as the mental connection in Charlotte Lamb’s Dark Embrace. And for all the abusive heroes, the first romance I read that dealt with spousal abuse was a Harlequin Presents by Robyn Donald. (Sadly, it’s not available in eBook format. Let’s hope that changes.)

What if you hate Harlequin Presents? This sale will still be the treasure that keeps on giving. Not only did I find Harlequin Presents, I also found Silhouette Special Edition — before they were called Harlequin Special Edition, and before the line had become more of a “heart and home” line. (They have Christine Rimmer and Lucy Gordon books, people!) And yes, they have Silhouette Intimate Moments books from before the line was retooled into Intimate Moments line was renamed Silhouette Romantic Suspense (and now Harlequin Romantic Suspense). (This was where I found my favorite Nora Roberts titles back in the day.) They also have older Silhouette Desires, by authors like Ann Majors and Joan Elliott Pickart not to mention Joan Hohl. If you’re a category reader of a certain age, Silhouette Desire was probably your introduction to hot romances. Even better, older Desires could have plots about everything from industrial espionage to characters getting trapped in a snowbound cottage — and writers like Jennifer Greene! As I scrolled through page after page of titles, I kept thinking, “Oh, that’s right! Jill Shalvis got her start with category.” And so did authors ranging from Jasmine Cresswell to Merline Lovelace and Gina Wilkins (and of course Jayne Ann Krentz, Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, and so many more…).

And if it’s Harlequin you wants, there are older Harlequin lines — Blaze and Temptation, of course, as well as Superromance and Harlequin American Romance titles, and the original Harlequin Romance line. (Older Harlequin Historicals, too.) There are even books from defunct lines such as Sihouette Yours Truly (they have Marie Ferrarella!), Harlequin Laughter Love & Laughter (they have Stephanie Bond!), and the original Silhouette Romance line. Last night, I scrolled through about 14 pages of titles on Amazon, and still had at least half the Harlequin Treasury titles to go. 

What time is it? Is it that late. I should go to sleep. Wait. I just might want to go take a peek at the rest, just in case I missed something. Or just in case I remember that title I was looking for. You know, the one with “Deception” or “Revenge” in the title.

So tonight, I came back for more punishment. Once again, I tried the search page on Harlequin. This time, I learned to read the directions. Just as the site says, type the author name (or the title you’re looking for). Don’t press enter, or that will bring you back to the default results. For example, if you want to find Charlotte Lamb titles (we’re going old school here), start typing Charlotte Lamb. Bang! The available titles will show up.

This is your brain… This is your brain after finding all those books you wanted. My only regret is that my memory for titles and authors is so foggy, and there’s no way to search for “The one where the heroine left the hero because she was afraid she’d become like her abusive mother and hurt her children” or “That book where the heroine was a scientist, and the hero was a journalist who thought she’d faked her research.” So don’t mind me, I’ll be scrolling and scrolling through all these titles. If you hear click click click in the night, it’s not ghosts. Just me ordering more books.

 

AAR’s Anne