Multiply this by a thousand & you’ve got my love for romance!
If it’s not already obvious from the title of this blog, I am a romance book junkie. While I love reading all types of books, I gobble up romance like Hershey’s kisses. It’s a shameless addiction that I fuel by perpetually downloading genre titles on my Kindle, which currently holds dozens of romance titles from both well-known authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson and Carly Phillips, to newbies like Rae Renzi and Karen Bostrom. In the past, I mostly consumed contemporary romance, but was recently presented with an opportunity that introduced me to a new type of romance: category romance.
Category, or series, romance are books that are shorter (usually 200 pages or less) and are released as part of a numbered series each month (like comic books), as opposed to single titles that are longer and aren’t released as often. Category titles also follow a set plot-line, often based on whatever imprint they fall under. The most popular and well-known category romance publisher is Harlequin, which has more than 15 different categories and releases 120 titles each month.
By now I’m sure you’re wondering, “what’s the point?” Well, over the years category books have developed a stigma for being “trashy romance,” more often than not, because of the titles and cover art of the books. I’ll admit, seeing something called The Playboy Sheikh’s Virgin Stable-Girl with a scantily-clad couple breathing each others’ air with pouty lips doesn’t exactly lure buyers. Whoever said to never judge a book by its cover clearly never worked in advertising.
That being said, I finally decided to ignore the “trashy romance” stigma and give a corny-titled, embarrassing-cover Harlequin category romance book a try. It actually happened by accident. A few months ago I received a package from a friend — thanks, Lizzie! — with a cheeky (and humorous) note about how she thought of me when she came across two category romance titles: One Night With His Virgin Mistress and Pregnant by the Boss! (Yes, there’s actually an exclamation at the end). At first I laughed, turning my nose up. But then, faced with deadlines and desperate for any means of procrastination, I figured, why not? I’ll give it a try.
And so I cracked open One Night With His Virgin Mistress.
SYNOPSIS: Tallie is a young, small town girl who moves to London to write a book. After saving money from doing odd jobs, she finds a gig house-sitting for a millionaire bachelor. Tallie, however, doesn’t know that the person who gives her the job isn’t the owner of the house, and when Mark (the real owner) returns and catches Tallie in the shower, the two shock each other with their presence.
Mark begrudgingly agrees to let Tallie stay while she finishes her book and the two live in a tense, but sometimes comfortable silence. One night, after returning from a bad date, Tallie propositions Mark to “deflower” her, no strings attached. Of course, there are always strings, and they pull heavily on Tallie’s heart. If only she can decode what Mark is thinking and – better yet – if he feels the same about Tallie.
“Trashy romance” connotation aside, once I got into the story I realized that it was actually written quite charmingly. This was also the first British romance story I’ve read and it took some getting used to – both grammatically and syntactically. I don’t know if all UK books are written the same way, but the author (Sara Craven) definitely has a way with words, and spun them together to create lyrical sentences. As someone obsessed with words, I appreciated her use of flowery language to depict an otherwise simple scene.
In regards to the plot, it too was enjoyable. The ending was predictable, as with most genre romances, but the path leading up to it was interesting and filled with delicious scenes – and not just sexually-related ones either. While Tallie may have been a virgin, she was not stupid or naive in any way, which was refreshing. And Mark, though brooding and mysterious, was subtly compassionate, which made his affectionate moments that much more precious.
Millionaires and their virgins and mistresses have taught me a valuable lesson: Do not judge books by their titles! This book was such an unexpected surprise that it inspired me to scroll through other Harlequin category romances in search of an equally captivating story – this time, however, I will be ignoring the corny titles.