The Problem with Harlequin titles.

I get that current Harlequin titles are designed to shove in certain keywords to raise sales. I do. But aside from sounding same-y and somewhat silly, the real problem is that it makes it nearly impossible to remember which title went with what story.
Which, I know: Harlequin’s business model has historically been built around BIG SALES NOW and then the books disappear from the shelves and are replaced by the next crop. You aren’t SUPPOSED to remember the titles and go looking for old ones you remember fondly. But…now that you can backorder them for months from Amazon or the Book Depository, or download out-of-date ones onto kindle, wouldn’t it make more sense to make the titles a little more memorable?

All of which is a long lead-in to my point: I loved A Not-So-Innocent Seduction, but boy, I do not love that title. If I’m not actually looking at the cover I cannot even remember what it is called, and I finished it five minutes ago. Christ.

Author: Janice Maynard
 Harlequin Desire
Published: April 2014

Reasons I Might Actually Remember This One: The heroine was a secretly-rich flower child who travels around in a vintage volkswagon van named Bessie, and the hero was a boringly responsible hotel owner-manager who was kind of a jerk but in an understandable (because of his past) way. HOW COULD I NOT REMEMBER THIS ONE? Although I may have to make up a private nickname for it.

a not-so-innocent seductionSo the hero is uptight and reliable, having once fallen in love (back when he was sixteen) with a woman who turned out to be 1) sleeping with his father and 2) a gold-digger. His father went looking for the family’s old silver mine and disappeared, and has since been declared dead. Liam, as the eldest child, was left to help his mother run the family’s very exclusive hotel. There are a bunch of grown-up siblings (seven in total, I think) but they’ve all moved on and had, you know, lives. Liam’s 36 and in kind of a holding pattern.
So obviously he needs someone like Zoe, who enters the scene in a flower-painted vintage volkswagon van which promptly breaks down, stranding her in Silver Glen. She has a limitless platinum credit card, which she uses to check into Liam’s hotel for a six week stay. She tells herself that since she’s recently been sick she needs to recuperate, but throughout the book it becomes increasingly clear that she’s reached the point where she needs to break out of her restless wandering and move on to the next stage of her life.
So both of them bump up against each other abrasively, pointing out things they’re ready to see but not eager to be presented with, and it makes for some realistic fights. Not just arguments for the sake of making the heroine seem feisty, but real confrontations about the things that are so obvious from outside, but which they’ve been unable or unwilling to verbalize for themselves. IT WAS AWESOME.
Also, they have romance-novel sex. I don’t mean that in the obvious “since they are in a romance novel” way: I mean he pretends to be a viking marauder and she pretends to be his helpless captive. No, really.
“You are determined that I will obey you, so you stretch out on your back and force me to service you.” (p. 96)

That goes on for several pages, and I love it, because it reads exactly as though Zoe has read way too many bodice-rippers. They do it again near the end of the novel, too. It’s hilarious both times.

But  aside from the hot sex, they keep clashing because she has secrets and he has…a stick up his arse.

He’s immediately suspicious when she checks in, because she doesn’t look like the platinum-visa type, what with her flowing hippie-ish skirts and battered VW van and guitar and all that. See what I mean about him being kind of a jerk? Liam apparently has never seen a conclusion he wouldn’t leap to. It’s understandable that he’d be suspicious of people keeping secrets, what with his father’s affair and all, so I don’t actually hate him. But seriously, people get to keep secrets.
He’s also snide about her rootless, mobile lifestyle in a way that would have made me leave…and, to her credit, Zoe doesn’t put up with it either. She’s been avoiding her abusive, controlling father, which she’s able to do since her grandmother left her millions of dollars. But Liam manages to sound as if he’s siding with her father when he criticizes her lifestyle, and because there are wads of cash concealed in her van he ALSO believes she’s stolen money from her father. Which is lousy of him, but to be fair, most people lining their vehicles with cash aren’t going to turn out to be secret millionaires, you know?

“Wait,” Liam said, lurching to his feet and grabbing her by the shoulders. “I told you I love you. Doesn’t that warrant a response of some sort?”

She smiled at him politely, as she would a stranger. “Of course, it does….Go to hell, Liam.” (p. 175)

Her father shows up and she confronts him, and she can finally see that he really can’t control her anymore, and the threats (to have her arrested, to keep her away from her mother) are just the blusterings of a bully. She leaves Liam behind (since he basically just called her a thief) and returns home, able to visit her mother now that her father’s been defanged.

And then Liam shows up in her repaired van and grovels, and they ride off for an extended road trip, because he’s finally realized he can take time off without the world collapsing. Yay!

Active Ingredients:
Vintage Volkswagon Van (Bessie)
Guitar-Playing Flower Child
Limitless Platinum Credit Card
Lavish Hotel Setting
Responsible Head of his Family/Business Empire
Opposites Attract
The Odd Couple
Romance Novel Sex (Viking Variety)
Controlling Bastard Businessman (the heroine’s father)
Huge Oirish Family (the hero’s siblings and mother)
Secretly Wealthy Heroine

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