They Do WHAT on Page Six?

They Do WHAT on Page ^?  (or why I almost threw her of the hotel roof!) #funny #romance #Harlequin #books #humor #generationgap

So then…I set up camp on a lounge chair on the glorious pool deck on the roof of my downtown hotel. We’re so high up, you can’t even hear the horns of the Chicago traffic below.

There’s only one other person lounging poolside – a sunbathing girl in her 20’s.

She gestures to the pool and skyline, and says, “Pretty great up here, huh?”

“Yeah,” I agree. “My business meeting ended early so I’m playing hooky to read at the pool for awhile.”

She asks what I’m reading, so I show her the cover of the suspense thriller. I nod in her direction, and she shows me the cover of her book.

“Harlequin Romance?” I ask excitedly. “Oh my God, I haven’t thought of those in years! My sister and I used to read those all the time!”

She sits up. “Really?”

Nostalgia floods me. “Oh, yeah, they’re awesome! There was this huge box of old Harlequins at this little tiny library near our house in Louisiana that would let you borrow six paperbacks at a time.  So we’d ride our bikes over there every week and borrow six Harlequins, read ‘em, and get six more the next week!”

She sips her soda and says, “Wow, you musta really liked them.”

“Yeah, we loved them. They were mostly by British authors so everything was ‘colour’ with an ‘our’ — or ‘realise’ with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z.’ And the plots were always the same every single time.

“The same plots?” she asks.

“Well, like the same formula. You know – gorgeous sweet young virgin meets tall, dark, handsome man – usually 10 years older, very wealthy, and from a different country. They have to work together on some project in the English countryside – or she’s the governess or something.” I say, warming to my topic.

They Do WHAT on Page 6 H Sultan

I continue, “They hate each other and fight the whole book – and his snobby fiancé named Fiona or Penelope keeps popping up in the way of true love. But then toward the end something happens like –”

They Do WHAT on Page 6 H Beloved

I think a moment, then recall — “Oh! Like he sees her teaching orphans how to paint – or she sees him feeding blind puppies or something — so on the last page, they realize they love each other! He proposes, they kiss – and fade out to happily ever after! Fabulous!”

I smile with the rosy memory of those lazy summer afternoons lying around reading sappy romances.

“Oh,” she says, looking like a doctor with bad news about the operation.

“What? Have they changed?” I ask. “I haven’t read any Harlequins since I was a tween, so are they diff—“

“Well, first of all, the heroines aren’t virgins,” she says.


“Oh, no, they’re having sex by page 6.”


They Do WHAT on Page 6 Bikini

“Oh, yeah,” she says. “And Harlequins cover everything these days – divorce, abortion, rape, domestic abuse, bondage, incest – you name it.”

Stunned silence.

“Seriously?” I ask in a very small voice.

“Oh, yeah, they’re great. Very hot and sexy.” She grins.

I hate her.

I hate her and her stupid Harlequin Romance. I want to throw them both in the pool.

How dare she sully such a lovely childhood memory!

Believe me, I love some hot debauchery as much as the next gal – but my sweet little innocent Harlequin Romances evolving into Jerry Springer-type tales?

Such a shame!

I resist the urge to catapult her and the offending tome off the top of the roof deck into the Chicago traffic below.

I smile and make a big show of settling down into my lounge chair to telegraph that I’m ready to read my book.

I self-righteously return to my suspense thriller — then realize that I’m only 40 pages in, and there have already been 3 vicious murders.

Ah – Who am I to judge? It’s not like either of us is reading War and Peace here.

I smile feebly in her direction and she gives me a big grin.

— Darcy Perdu

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(Anybody else out there remember the sweet comforting formulaic Harlequin Romances of yesteryear? Anyone reading the hot & steamy romances of today? Is it all Fifty Shades of Debauchery these days? Do tell. No seriously, DO tell – go slowly, be descriptive, what EXACTLY are they like now? Ha!)

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43 replies on “They Do WHAT on Page Six?

  1. Keyla said:

    Hahaha, I grew up reading the Jerry Springer-type tales… how I miss those books… I wonder if the library is open late tonight…

    • Ha! Get to the library, you naughty chick! If you were atop that rooftop pool reading that stuff, I woulda tossed you overboard! :o)

  2. Debbie said:

    No!! I am equally disappointed. What is this world coming to? Have the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boy books been compromised too? : (

    • Omigosh, Deb, I hadn’t even thought of that! Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have probably already had a three-way!

  3. lol!! I have to admit I fell in love with reading when I was introduced to Harlequin books back in middle school. However, my main ladies started out as virgins and the story plot was similar to what you explained, BUT there were some seriously raunchy sex scenes mid-book and continued to randomly veer back into romantic, passionate love making scenes again throughout the book. lol I think that, and the fact that these books displayed love stories I thought were surreal, that I got stuck reading so many of these books. Let’s just say, when I have kids, I won’t be letting them anywhere near those types of books!! lol

    • I agree about steering the kids away from these types of books. Otherwise our daughters will always be waiting for that tall, dark, handsome, withholding, wealthy foreign dignitary to come sweep them off their feet.

      Wait a minute — I just realized that I’M waiting for that guy! Where the hell IS he?

  4. Judy said:

    I remember them the way you describe them, although I confess to not having read any. I heard about them from friends who did read them. When I was in college our Mormon roomie would read them and gasp and fan herself and say “Oh my!” I just thought, “How silly is she?” Now I’m totally curious which version of Harlequin romance she was reading!

  5. Edi said:

    I used to read hundreds of them. Out loud. For my grandma. The red ones. Blaze, or whatever the name was. I was thirteen. Now that I’m thirty, I believe my grandma scarred me for life. :>

    • That’s hilarious! Can’t believe you had to read them OUT LOUD — and to your GRANDMA!

      Yes, yes, I DO believe that qualifies for a lifetime supply of therapy sessions! :o)

      • Edi said:

        Yeah, well… Even a lifetime supply of therapy wouldn’t help in this case – I used to do different voices for different characters. I still do that when I read books. That’s how twisted I am, and all thanks to sweet harlequin lovin’. And my granny.
        Damn you, grandmama! ]:->

        • that is hysterical! I’d love to attend a reading some time! so funny!

          • Edi said:

            Well, Darcy, if you’re ever in Poland, just let me know. I’d be happy to oblige. ;)

            Veronica, I’m afraid it didn’t work. But thumbs up for trying. ;)

          • Awesome — when I visit Poland, you’ll be my first phone call! :o)

    • D-Marie said:

      My great aunt had me read the early sexy ones to her while she would sun herself by the pool, periodically asking me to re-read anything particularly steamy very slowly…she was a widow, I’m not sure I blame her.

      • omigosh, you’re the second person who’s read these books out loud to relatives! I’d never heard of such a thing! I’m gonna make my kids read my academic journals out loud to me (i.e. People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly)

        • D-Marie said:

          Smart thinking. But if you ever get old and miserly, and decide the kiddies absolutely must read to you, make sure you refer to them as “The Love (pronounced ‘luuuuuuuuuuuuuv’) Books” in the memory of my Great Aunt Beatrice.

  6. I remember everybody reading VC Andrews in Jr High. Flowers in the Attic, Petals in the Wind. I always thought they were sweet stories.
    Then I read one. Holy crap! They are tawdry, incest-ridden stories about hating your parents and only being able to turn to your brother/sister for love.

    • Yikes is right!

      Your mention of junior high reminds me that the forbidden book being passed around when I was in school was The Godfather. Everyone was scandalized by an early part of the book where a woman and man who are strangers to each other are touring a house or something like that. She goes into the bathroom to pee but she doesn’t shut the door which he takes as a signal that she’s hot to trot so then they…well…trot. Like right away. Like she didn’t even take time to clean up or wash her hands. And I remember thinking, “well, that’s not sexy — that’s just plain unsanitary.” Ha!

  7. Hahahahaha! Love your ending. It’s so true. Sometimes I feel like NCIS is way grosser than 50 Shades of Grey because the former is like, “Look at how gross we can make a dead body! Look again! HERE’S ANOTHER! Death is awesome entertainment!” and the former is just two emotionally messed up people doing it. Points to NCIS for being better written, though.

    • Ha! Agree NCIS is better written than 50 Shades.

      Actually, the back of a CEREAL BOX is better written than 50 Shades!

  8. At least she is reading. Which means she may start to read something a little more, huh, more interesting? Alluring? Educational? But who said Harlequin was never educational, alluring or interesting? My personal favourite as a pre-tween was Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair (which I am now reading to my four year old – imagine what she will read when she’s a pre-tween???)

    • omigosh, now I have to go check out the Wishing Chair to see what you’re reading to your 4-year-old!

      And you make a good point, at least the girl was reading a BOOK — and not just sitting there texting selfies of her tan lines! :o)

  9. I definitely remember those, they had them in my high school library and I also used to save up birthday money to buy them…that’s a pretty good memory, thanks for reminding me!

    • that’s adorable you saved your birthday money to buy them!

  10. Oh wow…I remember reading Desert Barbarian when I was like 12. I was at my Grandmother’s for the summer, at the tiny library. Those books were so innocent.
    Nowadays? Vaginal Fantasies to quote a fav actress. The books are written porn now!

    • that”s so cool – I can’t believe you remember reading that book!

  11. Way back when the sex used to start on page 139 (for Mills and Boons) and when I got to that part, I would hide my book under the table so that my mother would not divine what I was up to.

    I never really outgrew them though and once in a while I will grab one just for kicks.

    • So funny you used to hide them from your mom!

      When my friends told me I HAD to read 50 Shades of Grey, I found myself hiding that book from my kids! I wasn’t afraid they’d READ it — just afraid they’d judge ME for reading it! :o)

  12. D-Marie said:

    I’m 23, and the Harlequins I used to borrow from the library with my cousin 10 years ago were neither what you described, not what rooftop debaucher described (sidenote-WHO READS THOSE IN PUBLIC?!). The women were virgins but halfway through…they weren’t anymore. We’d usually skip to the middle and read that part first to see what we were getting ourselves into. I remember one where the woman was from present day, and went back in time to the early frontier days. She fell in love with a man, and was terrified she’d have to explain why her “loins” weren’t “fresh.” Through the magic of time travel….her hymen was replaced. -band plays fight song and everyone cheers!- Sorry darling, the sexy ones have been around for a while.

    • my favorite part of your comment is “she was terrified she’d have to explain why her “loins” weren’t fresh” — !! I can’t TELL you how many times I’ve felt the exact same way. Ha!

  13. There’s a Canadian writer living in my area, and she goes by the name Opal Carew. I’ve read some of her work. Multiple partners, all sorts of positions and combinations, anything goes. A few pages of rutting, fornication, and hot and heavy horizontal tangos, a bit of a break for dialogue, and yet more rutting.

    Sister Mary Frances of the Sisters of Little Or No Mercy would be shocked!

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    • Woo! I got all steamy just READING your comment!

  14. We had a boring old short-sighted nun that taught us biology. My friend loved the Harlequins so I would tap her on the back and ask her to pass one to me. The thing is I found them hysterically funny so I would forget that I was in class and burst out laughing.
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    • ha! I guess if you’re reading steamy literature in school, then BIOLOGY is the right class to do so! :o)

  15. Frankie said:

    Guilty as charged! I read those suckers like it’s no joke. But after I read like 50 of them I take a sabbatical. Since reading this post, I might just crack open the kindle.

    • I sometimes have to take a break from mysteries too, or they all start to run together! I start guessing the culprit and realize that was a character from 2 books ago!

  16. g said:

    My experience goes back even farther. Georgette Hyer Regency romances. When my parents would see them, they would do little skits of the characters, terrible British accents, the stuttering innocent, back of the hand to the forehead, the fierce glower of the hero. Hilarious not. It took me years to wonder how they knew what was in them, when I asked my mom she said “oh your dad and I both loved those books”… Blech!

    • HA! That’s hilarious! I LOVE your parents! They sound like a hoot!