Thursday, November 9, 2017

Throwback Thursday Double Review: A Very Private Love and Forever

Jen's got another Throwback Review for you, but this time it's double the fun with TWO Old Skool Harlequin Presents titles. Let's take a walk down 1986 romancelandia lane -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A Very Private Love by Melinda Cross
Publisher: Harlequin; First Edition edition (May 1, 1986)
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- Category

No doubt about it, he was really the one

All her life Valerie had believed, without question, that when she finally met the man she was destined to love, she would know it in an instant. And she did.

It hit her like a thunderbolt when she happened upon Charles Rissom, a reclusive American entrepreneur, disguised as a buyer at the Egyptian Arabian horse show in Kentucky.

The odds were stacked against her. If she were to tell Charles who she really was, she risked losing more than the story of the century - she risked losing her lifelong dream for love. 

Where to Buy*:
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Forever by Lynn Turner
Publisher: Harlequin; First Edition edition (May 1, 1986)
Genre: Contemporary Romance -- Category

Together they faced a dangerous ordeal

Somehow Bernadette knew she could stake her life on Colonel Sam Forrester. And when their plane was sabotaged and she and Sam were left behind in the jungle so that the plane could take off again, she knew she would have to.

Fortune had it that a devious, conniving guardian angel led Sam to believe Bernadette was a nun. How else could safe passage be guaranteed for the woman who set Sam's renegade heart on fire?

An affair with Sam would be assuredly glorious--but brief. And Bernadette wanted Sam's love to last forever.

Where to Buy*:
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Jen's Review:

You know, you can buy used books on Amazon, and you can find just about anything you want...including old-skool 80s romances. Once I started this romance-reviewing gig, I bought 3 books that I remember reading when I was a teenager. In this first post, I’m going to tell you about two Harlequin Presents I loved so much that I checked them out of the library over and over again. I also recently live tweeted a reread of a REALLY TERRIBLE romance by Elizabeth Lowell that I completely loved when I was a teenager. I made a storify of it in case you’re not on Twitter, but you should be on Twitter! Romancelandia twitter is honestly the best thing!

The first Harlequin Presents I remember was called A Very Private Love by Melinda Cross. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why I liked this book so much. Although, the x-factor for all of my favorite books is a strong heroine, and this book absolutely delivers a self-assured, confident woman. In this book, Valerie is a 26-year-old world famous journalist. She’s traveling to Kentucky to do a story on Arabian horses. I’ve never liked books about girls and their horses, so that certainly wasn’t the draw. However, Valerie is proud of her work and determined not to let any man distract her from her goals. Early on, she meets Charles Rissom. He’s a reclusive millionaire, and she’s the only one who has figured out his true identity. Like many other men in these books, Charles accuses Valerie of being a tease and although he doesn’t rape her, there’s lots of threats about how he might lose control, etc. Interestingly, there is a subterfuge plot. Charles lays a trap for Valerie, telling her a fake story about his background to test her; he knows she is a reporter and wants to see if he can trust her. Of course, Valerie doesn’t betray his trust. I remember loving the fact that she did the right thing and he ended up looking like a jerk for being so suspicious. After she passes his test, he “rewards” her by offering her the chance to do an exclusive interview. She agrees, intending to ice him out, but of course, they end up declaring their love for each other.

Forever by Lynn Turner was published in the same month as A Very Private Love. When I was a teenager, I loved adventure movies, and Forever has a Romancing the Stone vibe to it. Reading Forever as an adult, though. Dude.

Basic plot: Bernadette is a teacher at a boarding school in Zimbabwe. Bernadette, her students, and the headmistress are traveling in Kenya.  Due to some *jazz hands* dangerous political circumstances, Bernadette is hustling to get the kids back to the safety of the school. They have to rely upon the help of Colonel Sam Forrester to get them there. I had completely forgotten that the book was set in Africa, and you know, books starring white people in Africa are pretty much guaranteed to be racist AF. If it wasn’t for the fact that Sam and Bernadette are quickly separated from all the people and on their own in the wilderness, I probably would have quit. Here’s what I remember vividly about the book: the whole time they are alone together, Sam thinks Bernadette is a nun. I thought that was a real fucking hoot when I was a teenager. Even better, she doesn’t put up with any of his bullshit. He says ridiculous, misogynist things, and she shuts him down every time.

Even though there’s all this chemistry between them, Sam respects the fact that she’s married to the Lord and doesn’t try anything. Oh no. Except for that one scene halfway through the book where he pretends like he might rape her in order to teach her a lesson about being a tease. After telling her he’s going to have her no matter what, and then manhandling her, she freaks out and fights back. And literally, here are Sam’s thoughts:

If she’d only known it, she’d never been in danger of being raped. Angered and frustrated, he’d only meant to throw a scare into her, punish her a bit in retaliation.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK? And Sam is like 46 to her 24 or something? He’s almost 50 and can’t control himself? Trust me, the whole scene is completely jaw-dropping and I had not remembered ANY of it. I’m honestly appalled at how little men are expected to control themselves in these books. The messaging seems to be that we should admire a man who controls his base urges to fuck anything that moves. Act like a dick and threaten with the dick, but I guess you can still be an 80s hero as long as you keep the actual dick in your pants.

Near the end of their journey, Bernadette is bitten by a poisonous snake and almost dies. Sam nurses her back to health and when she recovers, they have consensual sex, both of them so relieved that she survived. But Sam is wracked by guilt for taking the virginity of a nun and Bernadette doesn’t know what to do. They make it back to “civilization” and Bernadette boards a plane to return to her school.  She calls to Sam from the stairs to the plane

“I’ve been meaning to tell you--I’m not really any bloody kind of nun!”

A few weeks later, Sam appears at the school and even though he’s “old enough to be her father” he asks her to marry him. It’s the 80s. How else would it end?  They have sex in the back of a laundry truck (idk why) to celebrate their reunion and impending nuptials.

What can I say? I vividly remember the strong heroines of these books, and almost nothing about the heroes. Tl;dr: past me and present me both love a strong heroine! Every single one of the books, regardless of the weirdo 80s problems with the heroes, had awesome, amazing heroines.

Heroines: 5 Stars
Heroes: 1 Star


P.S.: One last artifact about these books that I thought was interesting: the screenshots of their author bios. Why did they have to make sure we all know they can cook, clean, and take care of the family AND write books? It makes me a little sad.

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Jen bought these books.

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Thanks for the reviews, Jen! Oh, man, Old Skool romance was . . . yeah, problematic AF.

We've come so far in some ways, and yet in others . . . *side eyes genre* Well, we're stuck in the Problematic AF Section . . . 

Have you read Melinda Cross or Lynn Turner? Or similar Old Skool HPs?


Until Next Time,

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