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Vintage Harlequin Presents book reviews

Updated on September 21, 2011

good romances

The Harlequin Presents line was created in the early 1980s as an addition to the successful Mills and Boon line. Harlequin Romances had younger, more innocent heroines , whereas Harlequin Presents featured strong women who weren't necessarily virgins. Even if they were virgins, they might not wait for their wedding night for sex. There is less of a difference between the two lines now, but Harlequin Presents tend to be more erotic than the Romance line.

I have a problem with some of the Harlequin Presents, some of the men can be pretty brutal. But some of the titles are very good and I will be reviewing them at this site. I have transferred titles from Vintage Romance Reviews which will now be dedicated to only Harlequin Romances.


When Janis married Perry Caton, after a very short acquaintance, she was in no doubt as to what she was doing. It was a marriage of convenience. If he did not marry by a certain date, Perry would lose his inheritance and the family home he loved above everything else; Janis was alone in the world and penniless—so what, really, had she to lose? In any case, Perry had made it clear that in due course they would “do the obvious thing” about the situation—and Janis understood what he meant by that. As time went on she began to feel that it would be no hardship to put her marriage on a normal footing—until it began to dawn on her that perhaps that was not what Perry meant at all.

Janis has a minor leg injury that turns serious and she takes a long time recovering. She thinks the marriage hasn’t been consummated because she is not strong enough. There is an evil cousin who tries to keep them apart, he wanted the estate.

Janis is walking along the side of the road and is grazed by a car who grabs her and puts her in his car. It is Perry and he takes her to the hospital, leaving her suitcase behind. She wasn’t looking where she was going because she was upset. She has no family and had been dismissed that day from her post as nanny. We find out later she was dismissed because a member of the household fell in love with her. She has no money because until recently she had been giving all her money to the relatives who took her in when she was a child. They have left the country so she is now all alone. So Perry takes her home, he isn’t very nice about it but he does.

Perry had recently been engaged and he was in love with his fiancée, Glenda. But Glenda, was really his cousin’s , Richard, fiancée. They were tricking Perry. Perry has to marry by his birthday to inherit. They planned to have the wedding just before his birthday. Then Glenda would jilt him and he would lose his inheritance. And all of it would go to Richard, who would marry Glenda. But Richard and Glenda were indiscreet and Perry found out a month before his birthday. Richard is not ashamed, in fact, he came to look at Perry’s house . If Perry doesn’t get his inheritance he will have to sell the family home. This engages Perry so much that he proposes to Janis.

There is some miscommunications between Janis and Perry. She thinks this is her home, that she has some place where she belongs. She gets along with the servants and is very happy. But Perry doesn’t understand that , he thinks once she is well, he will send her away somewhere. He will support her, but he doesn’t really see her as his family. These crossed wires, in the context of the story, is believable. I was rooting for Janis, she at last had a home and was happy. But Perry just thought he was letting her stay until she was well. These is some deception on Janis’s part about when she is well, she keeps the doctor’s report to herself. Just so she has more time and she hopes Perry will come to love her. But Perry finds out and is very mad. This is a good story. Richard is a complete villain and not that believable. But I was rooting for Janis the whole time and Perry finally realizes he loves his wife.


Louise's love for her beautiful home, Queen's Dower, was as solid and unchangeable as the house itself. But her love for her stepbrother, Daniel, had subtly evolved over the years. While she had adored him during her childhood, she now loved him with a woman's passion. She couldn't let Daniel hold her at arm's length, shut her out of his life. She didn't want any other man. She belonged with Daniel, just as she belonged at Queen's Dower. And it would always be that way!

This is a book where Charlotte Lamb has a tricky subject and she gets great results. Louise is 17 and just finished with school. The book opens with her coming home on the train and Daniel meets her. It is the first time he doesn't pick her up and spin her around, which hurts Louise. He also brings Barbara, his girlfriend to the station with him. Daniel is her guardian until she is 18, she wants to go to London for art school but he says no. Louise's mom married Daniel's dad when she was 5 and Daniel was 23. They both died when Louise was 8. When Daniel told her about the deaths, she cried and he said he belonged to her and always would. Louise has always had this in the back of her mind.

A friend and her brother come to visit Louise and the brother quickly falls in love with her. She flirts a little with him. He gets frustrated and takes her on a drive and forces himself on her, she runs away and hides until Daniel comes for her. Later she has a nightmare and Daniel stays the night with her. Ducky, their housekeeper sees him in bed with her and is very mad. So Daniel asks her to marry him. He suggests a 6 month platonic marriage, the difference in age really worries him. (18 years!!!) Later she sees Barbara coming out of a hotel with Daniel and is upset.

I like this story because of the way some of it is from Daniel's perspective. I mean he talks about how long he's loved her and how appalled he was when he realized he wanted her, on her 14th birthday. If he wasn't bothered this would have been a creepy book, but he really fought against loving her. And in the course of the book you see incidents in the past that illustrate how he felt. The books about guardians falling in love with their wards walk a thin line. It can be romantic and it can verge on incest or pedophilia. It takes a skilled author to make it work and this book works. It is a satisfying romance.


Joanne was a shadow of her lovely mother. Everywhere she went, Clea Thorpe was the center of attention. And Joanne had been content enough living in her shadows-until Ben Norris arrived at their villa in Nice. Her seemed drawn to Clea, even offered to back her latest film. But his motives were not as simple as they seemed. The day Joanne discovered his real feelings was the day she decided she never wanted to see him again. Now , after 5 years, she thought she'd got him out of her system. Then she opened a hotel room door-to suddenly find herself right back to square one!

Ben Norris wants to back the film so he can pull out at the last moment and ruin Clea's career. She is getting older and the parts aren't coming, she is more a sex symbol than an actress. He hates her because she had an affair with his father and that killed his mother. But his father finds out what he is trying to do, so he comes to the rescue and ends up marrying Clea. Which is not at all what Ben wanted. He is attracted to Joanne but very bitter. He tries to force himself on her while alone on a boat and she has to jump to get away from him.

Ben stays for the wedding and then leaves. Joanne does too, her mother has her maid and her new husband to look after her now, so Joanne is free. She goes to England to get to know her dad and step mom and goes to work in her dad's hotel as a secretary. That's how she meets up with Ben again, he needs a typist. They start dating again until she catches him in a hotel room with her mother.

Her mother has to be admired by every man she meets and Ben doesn't admire her, so she tries to seduce him. Clea said she came to his room to talk about his father's health. And it is true he is very sick, but she also was after him. But Ben didn't want anything to do with her. Joanne has a hard time believing this.

This is one of my favorite romances. They really do love each other, but Clea is such an obstacle to their getting together. She views Ben as one of her conquests and is possessive of everyone she knows. Her world revolves around herself. Her husband is in the hospital possibly dying, and he worries more about her. Everyone has to take care of her. Joanne is just one of her caretakers, not her daughter.

Joanne and Ben have to fight for their relationship. They sneak away to be married and send a telegram, they know Clea would not have a good reaction. When they do eventually go to see their parents in France, Clea accuses Joanne of seducing him away from her. She eventually apologizes but is not a rational woman. They don't dare tell her they think Joanne is pregnant.

I like this story because all the characters are well rounded and interesting and the love story is satisfying. They deserve their happiness in the end. The mother isn't written like a cartoon, you can almost understand her. Her beauty is really all she has , she is not a good actress or anything else, just a beauty. Joanne is not as pretty as her mom, but she is young and her presence shows that her mother is no longer young. And Ben at one time seemed to be an admirer, so she does sort of think Joanne stole him.


Marnie couldn't escape from herself. The Scottish island was remote enough--just the place to recover from her fiance's betrayal and her sister's tragic death. The only trouble was that the neighbors wanted to be neighborly. Marnie finally had to tell interfering Ewan McNeill that she just wanted to be left alone. "Okay, lady, have it your way, " he replied coldly. "But you sure aren't going to last long on Culla the way you're going on." His unsympathetic words made her all the more determined to manage without help--especially his!

Marnie's older sister brings home Alan, her new boyfriend, and he falls for Marnie immediately. Marnie is extremely beautiful and men always do what she wants. She was only 17 so her parents wouldn't let them marry. Alan was also still training as a vet and by the time he graduated Marnie was enjoying being a model and was in no hurry to marry. The engagement lasts 6 years.

Marnie's sister was in love with her fiancé and while Marnie was away, slept with him. Marnie comes home for Christmas and is told about that affair and that her sister is pregnant. She is very upset and runs out of the house to her car and , at the last moment, her sister jumps in beside her. She is driving fast and won't listen to her sister, but she does not cause the car accident. A drunk driver hits a patch of ice and plows into their car and kills her sister. She had a mental breakdown and thought a break from her life in England would help so she comes to Culla.

Marnie acts very rudely, but she is depressed, hates herself and is actually somewhat suicidal. One of her neighbors, Morag leaves her a meal for the first night and this makes her furious. When the woman comes by she gives her back everything she brought and takes her key. Moran immediately goes to tell Ewan. Ewan was born on the island but raised in England. He is a writer with a Great Dane dog named Brutus.

Normally, I would say that Marnie is kind of a bitch, but you can see she is in so much pain that she is acting irrationally. She was in the hospital for weeks before she came to Culla and she is run down and running away from her problems. It isn't so much the fiancé's cheating that bothers her. But her parents wouldn't visit her in the mental hospital and at the funeral Alan called her a murderer.

Ewan is her nearest neighbor and comes to her rescue even though she doesn't want him to. In the story, Marnie perpetually has trouble with the peat fire. She had kicked Morag out before she could tell her how to use peat for a fire. So her fires keep going out. She sets her chimney on fire by using diesel fuel on the peat and Ewan puts out the fire. She is always on the lookout for wood. Eventually she starts breaking down a shed and it falls on her. The metal roof cuts her leg and she lays outside for hours in the cold. Marnie gets herself out of that but being outside so long has left her with a chill. Ewan takes her to his house to recover and Morag comes to care for her there.

Later he rescues her from a mist. Marnie rescues his dog when he is hurt but still wants nothing to do with Ewan. She does make friends with the dog, however. She also makes up with Morag and becomes friends with her daughter who gets married in the course of the book.

But before the friend's wedding, Alan shows up and they get re-engaged. Ewan is away on the mainland when Alan comes. Marnie is very happy about the engagement and it takes her awhile to realize it is not Alan that is making her happy. It was finding out that her parents and Alan don't blame her for the crash. Her dad had a heart attack while she was in the hospital so that is why he couldn't visit. Her father blamed himself for letting the affair happen and felt very guilty.

Ewan comes back and they all go to the wedding where an old man is hurt. Ewan leaves Brutus with her while he takes the man on his boat. He is gone a few days and Marnie realizes she does not love Alan and sends him away. While she is in his house she finds a file on her.

When Ewan had been away earlier he had gone to visit Alan and told him where she was. Marnie is confused by this at first. But she has been intrigued by Ewan calling her mo ghraidh a couple of times so asked Morag what it meant (my love). So she knows he loves her even before he tells her. Which is a little unusual in a romance, usually the heroine has to wait for a declaration at the end, but she knows already. I find this book very satisfying and well written.

Marnie is sort of spoiled but her pain and guilt is so obvious that it is forgivable. A few people in the book think she looks haunted. When she sees blood on a rock she follows it until she finds Brutus with a cut paw. He is a huge dog and she is afraid of him but she doesn't leave him ,she binds up his paw and slowly walks him home, but doesn't take him all the way to Ewan's door. She is just so hurt she doesn't want to see anyone.

But I see why Ewan keeps bothering her. She is all alone on a remote island, she doesn't even know how to light a peat fire. And is obviously going through something serious. He at first thinks she is punishing someone by hiding away but eventually realizes she is punishing herself . That's why he has a detective on her case. He can't stand to see her in pain. He tells Alan where she is so if Alan is what she wants she can have him back.

Having Alan forgive her frees her from a lot of her pain. I can understand why Marnie and Ewan act the way they do. She from her pain and Ewan from loving her so much he wants her to be happy. This is such a well written romance. I really enjoyed it. Normally I would not like Marnie, but she is actually kind of brave. She keeps on living, rescues Brutus and is drawn into the lives of the islanders against her will.


She wanted to punish him--not love him! When she was fifteen Laurel had been the victim of an attempted rape, and Oliver Savage was the reporter who had twisted her story, tearing her reputation to shreds and leaving her fearful of every man who came too near. Now, six years later, he was anxious to right his wrong. "I want to help you, Laurel", he'd offered. But Laurel didn't want his help--she wanted retribution She found it was not that simple He was a stimulating man, and his every caress weakened her desire for revenge....

Laurel's widowed mom used to take in boarders and eventually she married one of her boarders. Laurel was always uncomfortable with him. He started hitting her and eventually he tried to rape her. Her mother blames Laurel. Someone at her school notices the bruises on Laurel and they get her out of the home. There is a trial and her stepfather's lawyer tries to say she lead him on.. The trial is very traumatic but he is convinced. After the trial Laurel tries to visit her dying mother, but she says everything is her daughter's fault. Laurel runs out crying and meets Oliver. She is so upset she left her bus money in the house and so she accepts when Oliver gives her a ride home. He acts very sympathetic and he is the first person she really talks to about the attempted rape.

Laurel had been rejected by her weak mother and learned at 15 not to trust anyone, but Oliver seemed so sympathetic that she talked to him. His article pointed out that only a tramp would accept a ride from a stranger. Oliver had an agenda from the beginning, he thought most rapes were the result of women enticing men. His cousin has also been falsely accused of rape, so he was never going to write a fair story about her. Laurel completely withdraws after this, the one person she trusted betrayed her.

Six months later her stepfather gets out and meets up with Oliver. The stepdad boasts about what he did and Oliver is horrified. Oliver has looked for Laurel ever since to make it up to her. He gets his chance years later when he goes to an accounting firm about his taxes. It turns out Laurel works there and Oliver insists they talk.

She wasn't going to tell him of her mental anguish; of her pain and self-hatred, all engendered by the belief that somehow she had invited what had happened to her; that somehow she was to blame. They had explained carefully to her that she was not, that she was punishing herself for a crime she had never committed and that one day she would be able to accept this. But she hadn't done. The tiny seeds of doubt had been sown and they had grown into weeds of monstrous proportions, and now the man who was directly responsible for some of them was sitting her calmly in her sitting room telling her that he was sorry and that it had been a mistake!

She looked up at him, on the point of asking him to leave, surprising an expression in his eyes and a tautness of his mouth that was like a red rag to a bull. Pity! How dared he pity her! Pity was the thing she had come to loathe and resent the most in the long lonely years. Pity was not always what it seemed. How often had she discovered it masked prurient, avid curiosity about what had happened.

Oliver now works as a novelist. She says she wants to work for him, just to further her career. But really she wants to snoop around until she can find a way to destroy him. Her stepfather is long dead and only Oliver is left to destroy. Instead working for Oliver and getting out in the world help Laurel to recover. This book is an emotional read, Laurel is very damaged by her experiences and is very fragile at the beginning of the story. Her mother, stepfather and Oliver all betrayed her and she coped by withdrawing.

I have read a lot of romance books and many of them treat rape rather casually. Violet Winspear said that all her male characters were capable of rape and some of them committed rape. I read an early romance not too long ago where the heroine said a woman could not be raped unless she was at least partially willing, so the attitudes towards rape in Harlequins can be rather disturbing. But this books is different, the attempted rape did extensive damage to Laurel and Penny Jordan clearly shows the effects. This is a wonderful, emotional book and I highly recommend it.


Adam was now her adversary. Serena Templeton was not a sleeping princess. She was a tragic little figure existing in a shadow world that she had constructed as a fortress to pain. Then Adam Carmichael pierced her defenses and established himself as a force in her life. In time Serena became a lovely, vital young woman. But she jealously guarded her innermost feelings for fear that Adam would use them against her. Adam demanded her love... but first he would have to force Serena to confront her fear.

Adam first meets Serena at the reading of his aunt's will at Serena's home. The aunt was Serena's stepmother. Adam thinks Serena is rude when she won't acknowledge him, but the lawyer tells him that Serena is retarded. Serena's father had died in a car accident and Serena was also injured. Adam had been made her unofficial guardian, she is about 18. But Adam doesn't think she is retarded, he thinks autism is more likely the answer. But he is horrified to learn that Serena had been under sedation for years.

Adam is extremely cynical about woman and thinks he needs no one. But he calls his mother to care for Serena. His mother is shocked, because he hasn't needed her since he was a boy. But the lawyer and Adam are both wrong about Serena, she is not retarded or autistic; she is a survivor of horrible child abuse.

Serena's widowed father shouldn't have remarried, all the love he had left in the world he gave to Serena. And when he died, his jealous wife took it out on Serena. She was very cruel both mentally and physically to Serena. Serena did try to reach out for help, but she was not believed. So to survive, Serena retreated into her own mind. She is convinced that Adam is going to take over when his aunt left off, so she hates and fears him.

But Adam is not her enemy, after he gets a good look at her, he becomes obsessed. But Adam is smart enough to know that he can help Serena. He puts her in his mother's care and has her sent to a psychiatrist. After over a year away, he comes back to a Serena who is intelligent and mostly happy. She will not, however, tell anyone how she got so withdrawn.

A great deal of the book is from Adam's point of view, he loves Serena very much, but knows that he is no good for her and is too cynical to let himself believe they can be happy. But he can't stay away from her, his mother warns him off. But she should have been protecting Adam. Serena seems actually to be the stronger of the two, she had to be. Adam's cynicism covered up a very vulnerable heart.

Book Excerpt : Serena goes to visit her mother's grave and Adam follows

For a moment she was unaware of his presence and he caught a glimpse of the woman she would be in maturity, fulfilling all the promise of her name. And then it was gone, chased away by her first sight of him and the dark, troubled expression displacing the contentment. She hovered, ready for flight, as he slowly uncoiled to his full height and backed away from the grave. This she did not wish to share with him.

And while he stood a hundred yards away, watching her as she knelt by the stone to arrange her flowers, a fear grew in him that she had not intended sharing anything with him ever again. He recalled her assertion of the night before-"I did not leave so you would follow." Somehow he had lost her, and he could not fathom why.

I like a romance with a hard-won happy ending. I don't enjoy the romances that are just light-hearted throughout. I enjoy a romance that makes you cry, and this book is definitely one of those. I would highly recommend this book.


When Joanna had no choice but to turn to her estranged husband, Sandro, for help, he agreed, but on one condition: that she return to his bed -- as his wife. But what would happen when he discovered her secret? Joanna adored Alessandro Bonetti, but knew she could never give him what he really needed. So she walked out on their marriage. Now, two years on, she has no choice but to turn to Sandro for help. He agrees, on one condition: that she return to his bed, as his wife. Joanna realizes she loves her husband more than ever, but a replay of their disastrous wedding night is more than she can bear. Surrender to Sandro means he'll discover the secret she's kept hidden from him all along but maybe that's a risk she must take if she's to save her marriage.
Joanna has to call Sandro because her boss is trying to force her to have sex with him. She borrowed money from her for her sister's funeral and he keeps increasing the amount she owes. So she calls Sandro, he thinks their marriage broke up because she is a virgin who is afraid of sex. But that isn't what happened. When she and Sandro were dating, 2 men raped Joanna in an elevator. She only told her sister and not Sandro. But the sister eventually told Sandro. Joanna is not really afraid of sex, but she is ashamed, it was important to Sandro that she was a virgin. He is a very wealthy man and Joanna feels that then only thing she could really give him is her virginity and after it was taken, she felt she was no good to him.

The situation with Joanna's boss isn't important and is quickly solved. Joanna continually misunderstands Sandro and is furious when she finds out that her sister told Sandro her secret before her death. Sandro keeps trying to help her and her virginity was never that important to him. He absolutely adores her and there is no sex in this book until the end when she is ready. It is a long path and there are many problems along the way. Sandro's mother knows about the rape and tries to help when they are visiting her in Italy. But Joanna feels betrayed by Sandro for him telling his mother.


Joanna was talking to his mother when she realized she knew, then Sandro comes into the room.

"I am no good to you anymore"

"You will stop saying things like that! he snapped. "Because some animals took you against your will, that does not make you untouchable, Joanna!"

"But it does--don't you see?" she cried, her eyes bright, hot and painfully haunted. "I had only one thing I could give to you, Sandro! One small thing that made everything perfect. Because you could give me the world where I had so little to offer you, except for that one small thing that you thought was so special. And they took it!" she sobbed. "They stole the only thing I had that I could give you you! Now I can't give myself at all! she finished achingly, "I can't do it, Sandro. I'm sorry, but I just can't do it!"

"Santa Maria?" Sandro's mother breathed in pained understanding from somewhere beyond the heavy mists of Joanna's own helpless anguish.

Sandro said nothing. He just stood there in front of her with his lean dark features turned white. His mouth was clamped shut, his lips drawn inwards so there was barely an outline left on show. His jaw had locked and his eyes had gone so black they were like twin tunnels leading directly to his darkened soul. He tried to swallow but didn't quite manage it.

Above all, he was trembling--whether he was trembling with appalled comprehension at last, or trembling with sheer bloody anger was difficult to tell.

This is a wonderful, weepy romance. Sandro is forceful, but not a bully. He desperately wants to reconcile with Joanna and will do whatever it takes to make her happy.


This book is one I wouldn't normally like. They go to bed way too fast, the word "virgin" is in the title, which I think is just silly. But this story really hooked me. The characters are vivid and interesting and the hero is actually a really good guy. He is rich, arrogant and very cynical . But in the end he really comes through for the heroine, in a non monetary but very romantic way.

Chantal is at a charity ball when she meets Angelos and his father. We find out later that she was humiliated at the party and the father comes to her rescue. She goes with them eventually to Greece and she starts an affair with Angelos. All of this is very predictable and I would not recommend a book based on that description. But Chantal does an interesting thing once they start sleeping together. She can't stay with him as a mistress, so she starts paying for her keep. I mean paying with actual cash, she goes out and gets a waitressing job so she can pay for the food ahd shelter she is getting. He cannot understand this at all and they fight about it . But she won't back down, she will not let him buy her anything. He wants to take her to a party, and he wants to buy her a designer gown. But she buys fabric at a market stall and makes her own dress. It is a really important for her not to take money from a man she is sleeping with.

Spoiler alert****I don't want to ruin this for anyone who wants to read the book and who hasn't so don't read any further if you don't want to be spoiled.

It turns out her mother was a prostitute. That is why she can't take any money and she was a virgin. She didn't want to be anything like her mom. Someone at the party had known about her past and said something nasty to her and Angelos's father had rescued her. What happens next is my favorite part of the book . Chantal runs away after she tells him but eventually he tracks her down.

He doesn't belittle her insistence on paying her own way. He finds a way for her to make a lot of money so she can take care of herself and still be with him. He sets up a dress designing business for her. I think that is one of the sweetest things a man has done in a romance novel. He doesn't save her, he helps her to save herself. She can have her self-respect and still marry him. He hopes he can one day spoil her with possessions but until then he will show her how to spoil herself. This is a very satisfying ending to a romance. Also the descriptions of Greece are very interesting and his father is quite an interesting character. Angelos and his dad actually have a good relationship, a lot of romance book heroes seem to have father issues, so it is nice to find one book with a good father-son relationship. This is one of my favorites.

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