Harlequin Books That Hooked You

Last night on the Twitter feed I had a ripping good conversation with so many people about their favorite Harlequin lines and which authors are absolute never-fail for them. So many people mentioned the Harlequin Presents line,  while I’m partial to the Silhouette Desire line.

Authors that make the autobuy list of many on Twitter last night included Sarah Mayberry, Cheryl St.John and Karen Templeton (from Sybil), Sharon Kendrick, Anne McAllister, India Grey, Day LeClaire, Leslie LaFoy, Julia James, Lynne Graham (from Lynne Connolly),  Allison Leigh, Christine Rimmer Maya Banks), Nancy Warren, Emilie Rose, Kathie Denosky, Yvonne Lindsay, Anne McAllister, Rhonda Nelson (from Limecello).

Note to Harlequin: meta tags for book shopping would be SO AWESOME. Being able to shop by location (Spain! Antigua! England! Australia! Spain! New Zealand! Spain! CANADA!) or by plot hook (“secretary” “secret baby” “cowboy”) would be SO great.

So many of us started reading romance with category romances. Here’s my question for you: which category got you hooked on romance? A recent title? A book from waaaay the hell back when? Titles and authors, please – or as much as you can remember. Which one was the highway to happily ever after?

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  1. 1
    Amanda says:

    The first romance novel I ever read was in the eighth grade and I bought it off of a bargain rack at the local used bookstore for 50 cents.  I felt pretty proud of myself for getting it into the house, but looking back it was relatively tame.  In fact, it was really tame.  It was called “The King’s Doll” and is by Elizabeth Chater.  Looking back, I don’t think it was that great a book.  The plot was jumpy, the characters lacked depth, and at the end of the book I had to go back and read it again because all of a sudden the characters were “in love” and I totally missed it happening.  It holds a place in my heart anyway.

  2. 2
    Anna M says:

    I love Regency Romance and those got me started in college. I notice that it’s getting to be tapped out and I’ve seen a few authors move into other historic times.  Not that I have good examples off the top of my head.  I would like to see some early 20th Century stories.

  3. 3
    KeriM says:

    Harlequin Presents was what got me hooked on romance. It was an Anne Hampson title called Hills of Kalamata. The plot line was the heroine was going to kidnap the Greek Millionaire (I guess million was like a billion is today in 1977) and she ends up being his prisoner instead. It belonged to my great-grandmother and I had finished it at her house over the weekend. When I went to go home I reluctantly handed it back to her and I guess she saw my pout and handed it back to me and said I could keep it as a gift. I still have the book to this day. It is very fragile and worn because I had read it so many times. Thanks Granny Jones, you ROCKED!

  4. 4
    Laura (in PA) says:

    I did read Harlequin back in the day, my sisters and I used to trade them back and forth. But the authors I always scouted for at that time (late 70s, early 80s) were Glenna Finley, whose books were Signet I believe, and Nora Roberts for Silhouette. I loved her books from the first one she wrote (Irish Thoroughbred), and have read her ever since. I haven’t been reading categories in recent years, and moved more from romance to mystery in my reading tastes, but I thank both those authors for my good memories that have me still with a soft spot for romance.

  5. 5
    Jody says:

    The first romance I bought was a Barbara Cartland. Did she write for Mills & Boon?  The bookstore had racks and racks of BCs and I picked one with Leopard in the title because I had a cat.  It was a wonderful story about reincarnation and and had some exotic scenes of India in it.  I wore out my copy.  I’ll always remember the Leopard with fondness though subsequent Cartlands have been hit or miss.

  6. 6
    Elizabeth says:

    Wow.  That was a very long time ago!  I was always a sucker for anything with ‘sheik’ in the title.  If it involved dudes in white with full head dress, I’m there.  Absolutely.  I can STILL remember after probably 20-odd years a Harlequin Romance standard that was probably written by Penny Jordan.  PJ had a way with words that made you think there was just a touch of sarcasm going on there.  The TDH in question was actually an engineer.  He fixed the air conditioner and she ogled his buttocks in blue jeans.  Very, very cool!

  7. 7
    Janet W says:

    What got me hooked was my mum’s Georgette Heyer collection. First one, Regency Buck. I’m sure I read some Cartlands but she’s pretty silly compared to Georgette.

    For me, nope, I can’t understand the concept of buying by group or line or meta tag* (unless, of course, it’s Regency Marriages of Convenience … then you can sign me up for a monthly package, sight unseen :D) … when I buy older Harlequins, usually at a UBS or a library, it’s because I want to see what an author I now enjoy was up to years back. The other day I bought: This Time for Us by Elaine K. Stirling, The Dream Comes True by Barbara Delinsky and Circles by Lauren Bauman.

    I do like many of their historical authors, like Cheryl St. John, Betina Krahn and, Of Course, Carla Kelly. So great to see Miss Kelly in print … I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting: there are some wonderful historical writers that are part of the Harlequin family.

    * not even sure what that is—oh well!

  8. 8
    Anne Calhoun says:

    Linda Howard’s Silhouette Intimate Moments! I was hooked from my first read, which was Against the Rules. I got it from my local library, then spent YEARS searching for it at used bookstores and garage sales. I remember finding it at a garage sale probably 10 years later as vividly as I remember the first time I read it. I loved the Mackenzie series, too.

  9. 9
    Tina C. says:

    When I was about 10 or 11, I was cutting my romance teeth on Rosemary Rogers and the like because I was filching books out of my stepmother’s Brown Paper Bag o’ Books.  (The Brown Paper Bag o’ Books was what she’d bring back every month or so from the Paperback Exchange—an awesome place of wonder and treasure, completely crammed full of books and comic books that were shelved in no particular order).  I didn’t actually start reading category books until I was 13 or so.  I think the first Harlequin that I ever read was by Charlotte Lamb.  I must have liked it a lot, but I recall looking for her titles when I bought more.

  10. 10
    Lisa Hendrix says:

    Way back, I was on a category romance jag, but I was finding a lot of them rather ho-hum. Then I stumbled into a book by someone named Erin St. Claire. Stunningly good. I found another. Then another, until I couldn’t find any more. For years I thought she’d stopped writing. Then one day years later at the Sleepless in Silverdale conference, I found out she’d turned into Sandra Brown.

    As for what got me hooked on romance to begin with: old medical romances, like those pubbed in the 60s. I can’t remember which one in particular, but whatever it was, was a natural segue from the Cherry Ames nurse mysteries I grew up on. And I’m sure it must have been a Harlequin.

    And I’m commenting about medical romance and my Captcha is well97. lol

  11. 11
    BeckyAnn says:

    Meta Tagging would be awesome! I’ve got a customer that is a huge Presents fan that loves all things Sheikh, Greek, & Italian, with a smattering of Spainards and Aussies. She has a great story of teaching her daughter’s Girl Scout troop how to savor the words of a romance when reading out loud after they found a Lynn Graham in her van.

    I started series romance with The Law is a Lady by Nora Roberts in Silhouette Special Editions that I picked up at a church rummage sale at the age od 13 or so, but quickly became a fan of the Desire line. Every time I was sick and stuck home from school I would drag myself out of bed to walk a mile to the closest grocery store so I could pick up an new Desire. My mother would have killed me if she’d known. Not that the romance part would have bothered her, she always encouraged reading, but going to the store when I was too sick to attend school would piss her off no end!

  12. 12
    Heather says:

    Wow, this topic takes me back.

    I cut my teeth on Harlequin Presents back in middle school. My stepdad had written a satire of a Presents (long story). He wanted my mom to read it and had gotten the “four free books!” so she could see how they compared. One by one, I slipped them off the shelf, hoping no one would notice the gap. I want to say there was a Penny Jordan in the bunch.

    Soon after, I discovered Rosemary Rogers and Sweet Savage Love and longer romances (Zebra books with the little hologram!) But through it all, I would bring home Presents by the armful from the library (20+ at a time). It’s also what started my judging a book by it’s cover. lol I couldn’t bear the ones where the hero had gray hair, even at the temples, because my young heart was squicked by that.

    That’s also about the time that my folks started shaking their heads at my reading choices (romances and comic books…oy!) and my desire to write romance. They still laugh, but in a good way.

  13. 13
    Carin says:

    I started with Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, and anything Mercedes Lackey.  Later, I realized what I really loved in those books was the romance.

    My first true romance was The Sherbrooke Bride by Catherine Coulter.  I read that one and the other two bride books many times.  For me, though, once I was more well read, they (and their marriage bed rapes) were not worth the rereads.  It makes me feel icky to think about it now, and I wonder how I didn’t end up with a really warped idea of what sex should be.  Yikes!

    Julie Garwood is who I really remember really liking early on.  In college I would forbid myself from reading romances.  But once I met a goal (test, paper, project, etc) I’d go to the library and check out one of her books.  Then come home and stay up and read the whole thing.  Aahhh.  Still makes me smile!

  14. 14
    Laine says:

    I’ve already bought my ecopies of October’s Harlequin Presents.
    The First Romance I remember reading was The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer while I was in High School. My next door neighbour lent it to me when I was home sick in bed with some infectious disease. Unfortunately the last page was missing.
    Then in my last year at high school my old Infants teacher lent me all her hard cover Heyers. Bliss! I’m now collecting e and audio versions as fast as I can.

  15. 15
    Lori says:

    Then I stumbled into a book by someone named Erin St. Claire. Stunningly good. I found another. Then another, until I couldn’t find any more. For years I thought she’d stopped writing. Then one day years later at the Sleepless in Silverdale conference, I found out she’d turned into Sandra Brown.

    This. I started reading romance at a fairly young age—-6th or 7th grade. I was a voracious reader and had long since gone through all the interesting YA at our public library. Then I discovered the huge collection of Harlequin’s and just got sucked in. That library had 3 or 4 long shelves of them. To this day I’ve never found another library with a collection to rival it.  Erin St. Claire was my first “crack” author. There is one book of her’s that I still look for every time I’m in a UBS.

    As time went by I started looking for longer romances and basically stopped reading Harlequins, so I was thrilled to discover that Erin St. Claire was Sandra Brown. Oddly, I’ve liked a lot of SB’s books, but never as much as I loved Erin St. Claire’s.

    I’ve since started reading some Harlequins again and I’m enjoying several of the authors that others mentioned.

  16. 16

    I’m not even 100% sure what line it was, MIRA?, but Elizabeth Lowell’s Blackthorne Brothers got me so hooked, it was ridiculous. I must have read OUTLAW, GRANITE MAN, and WARRIOR at least fifty times each. Just looked them up, they were Desires. Man, I wonder if I still have copies? Thinking about them makes me want to reread.

  17. 17
    Niveau says:

    His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls is the reason I’m hooked on romance. Anything by her is an auto-buy.

    Sticking to Presents and Desires (because this list would get waaaaaay too huge otherwise) my autobuy authors are: Olivia Gates, Annie West, Jennie Lucas, India Grey, Maya Banks, Emily McKay, Abby Green, and Kate Hardy.

  18. 18
    Katherine says:

    The category that got me into romance was definitely Regency/Historical. Waaaaay back in the early 70’s as a pre-teen I started in on my Mom’s Heyer collection, though that far back I can’t remember which title was my “first love.” Miss Heyer’s books are still the most likely romances to be “keepers” for me and The Grand Sophy is my all-time-favorite romance. I also surreptitiously read several of the Woodiwiss books as a teen; they seemed SO racy at the time. The Wolf and the Dove was my favorite of hers, but I haven’t read it in decades and may never again in fear it would ruin a fond memory. I know I read a lot of Harlequin back in the 80’s, but most were not all that memorable to me.

  19. 19

    In the UK, Presents are known as Moderns. I’ve read both, and there’s no difference apart from the spelling, and sometimes an author is exclusive to one line or the other.
    But in the UK, there is a sub-line called Modern Heat, which in the US is put out as a regular Presents, and I love that line. The heroines aren’t as wimpy or doormatty, and the heroes are a little less like immovable objects. You get to travel some of the journey with him, and if there’s anything I miss, it’s knowing the hero a bit better. Romance is something that should happen between two people, after all.
    Authors who have Modern Heat books include one of my very favourites, Kate Hardy, and Trish Wylie, both of whom also write for other lines, so take care.
    Oh, and I forgot Abby Green. I like her books, too. And Olivia Gates – she has a very distinctive style, but she’s an Egyptian, a doctor in Cairo, so her sheikh books have a touch of reality. Just a touch, mind.
    There are some disasters, and sometimes they can be funny, they’re so awful.

  20. 20

    It’s only been just over a year since my category deflowerment. But once I read Emilie Rose’s The Millionaires Indecent Proposal, Silhouette Desire #1804 . I was a true beleiver. I so admire writers that can produce such wonderful stuff in such a restrictive frame work. Not to mention do it over and over again.

    Going into my first Category I was cautious and a little naive much like laid off accountant, Stacy Reeves. Thank goodness my first experience was sexy and oh so very satisfying. Kinda of like Franco Constantine, millionaire heir to a chocolate covered empire.

    This book shattered all my misconceptions.

    Cheesy titles aside that the author has no control over, I was wrong about everything else. And there was nothing choppy or simple about the writing. It was tight yes, but without losing any sense of the gorgeous setting or the deep emotions. Although the sex scenes were short they had great impact in those few words. The sexiest scene of all isn’t even on the page. He mentions his plans for the night beforehand and she mentions it again briefly after the fact. I couldn’t get the scene out of my head and technically it was only ever in my head. And there is no denying the vocabulary was rich and varied and the whole thing was intelligently written.
    Luckily me, my first time was magical.

    I have a feeling though that all categories, like all men, are not created equal but there are ones that can rock your world.

  21. 21
    Lana says:

    The first romance category to get me well and truly hooked was Belle of Portman Square by Clarice Peters – and I liked it mostly because it was hilarious. The heroine ends up dropping volumes of Shakespeare on the hero from the library stairs and they have many witty exchanges over crab patties.

    The lines that kept me happy were the romantic comedy lines – Harlequin Duets, Flipside. I’m really sad that those lines always seem to falter. I love laughter in my romance!

  22. 22
    Meghan B says:

    I was probably around 10 or 12, and I bought a Harlequin Romance at a local thrift store, Leigh Michaels’ “Baby You’re Mine” and was utterly hooked. 12+ years later, and I still haven’t stopped. I will always have a soft spot for category romances. And I would LOVE it if Harlequin would have meta tags – if I see a sheik romance, or an inherited baby (NOT secret baby) romance, I’m THERE!

  23. 23
    RebeccaA says:

    I liked the Silhouette Intimate Moments for their Romantic Suspense.  I found Justine Davis (She wrote about cops and had wounded heroes, including a parapeligic hero) and Maggie Shayne (her first book pre-vampire was one of my faves- had a latina heroine).

    I also found Jenny Cruise in the categories.

  24. 24
    JinaP says:

    My older sisters used to read Mills and Boons, and I just HAD to read them because they were forbidden.  But the books that really hooked me were the Loveswept Romances.  It’s too bad they stopped publishing that line.

    I still remember reading books by Fayrene Preston and Kay Hooper.  I liked that their storylines weren’t as ridiculous as the Mills and Boons.  To this day, one of my sisters LOVES the ‘high intensity’ storylines, where the hero and heroine basically hate each other throughout the book, right up until the last five pages where they miraculously fall for each other and live HEA. 

    I despise those storylines just as much as I did when I was 12 – I’m all about laid back, fun and flirty romance, which is what the Loveswepts delivered.

  25. 25
    PK the Bookeemonster says:

    The first romance I read was in the 5th grade, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen Woodiweis.  The category line I followed semi-regularly was Loveswept.

  26. 26
    Rosemary says:

    For me, it was A Song Begins by Mary Burchell, published by Harlequin and Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer. They both made my adolescent heart swell.

  27. 27
    Christine M. says:

    I read my first few Harlequins when I was in 5th or 6th grade (thus about 15 years ago) but they dated back from the 70s and 80s, methinks. I was reading them in French back then so I’m sure the series name are different, but one I still remember very fondly is the one with the nanny/cooking lady who moves to New Zealand and falls in love with the Owner of a sheep herd. The angst! I remember the angst, and the sweet, sweet ending. I remember my mum had quite a few set in exotic locations (South America, New Zealand, Sierre Leone, Greece, etc.)  and I loved that.

  28. 28
    Erin says:

    OMG – meta-tagging the Harlequin catalogue?  YES PLEASE!!!  I can’t even start to reminisce about my ‘first’ romance novel because I’m too excited about the possibilities of being able to search for, oh, say, pregnant/amnesiac/former marine.

  29. 29
    Calila says:

    The first romance I read was Storm Winds by Iris Johansen. I found it at a friends house and read it in one sitting. The hero is still one of my favorites. I think I was about 12 or 13.

    The first romance I bought was I think To Sir Phillip With Love by Julia Quinn. The title is what made me want to read it. I love titles that play on movies/song/books.

    Shockingly I haven’t read more than 2 or 3 Harlequin books. I tend to stay in either Regency or Contemporary romances.

  30. 30
    AbbyT says:

    I love all these comments.  I got into romance reading by being a horribly awkward 13 year old on vacation in Key West (circa 1995) in a rental house that was stocked with Jane Feathers and Catherine Coulters.  I’ve always wanted to try category romance, but I find it all so overwhelming, and … dare I say it as an out and proud romance reader … I’ve fallen prey to the idea that category isn’t as “good” as full-length novels.

    This has been super awesome and educational and I am definitely going to be making a list of categories to try.

    Thank you Smart Bitches and Bitchery!

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