Harlequin TBR Housekeeping

by Sunita

I’ve been knocking more books off the Harlequin TBR. For those of you who weren’t around when I started this TBR last year, it came into being when I downloaded all the books I had purchased directly from the Harlequin website (which I began doing in 2007). I went through this because HarperCollins decided to stop letting readers download their (DRM-protected) books to their computers; now they are only readable online or through a dedicated app. Good times.

While I was pretty sure I had most of them backed up in local folders, I downloaded every last one of them just to be sure. I wound up with 620 books, and I wasn’t sure how many I’d already read (Harlequin titles tend to run together). My first pass at the list got me down to 516 books. Then, as I would peruse the covers looking for new reads, I realized I had read more of them that I initially thought, so I went through and struck off a few more.

My next move was to get rid of author backlists if I didn’t like a book I’d read or was sure I was done with their work. As a result of these purges my last TBR read was #466.

But I’m still culling. A recent and very persuasive review by Miss Bates (Kay) sent me to see what I had by Maisey Yates in the TBR. I only had one book from my Harlequin purchases, surprisingly, and it was a novel in a Harlequin connected series in the Presents line called The Santina Crown. I’ve enjoyed some of Harlequin’s themed series, and I bought a number of these. But when I started reading her prequel novella for the series, The Life She Left Behind, I had trouble with it. It’s well written and it features reunited lovers, which is a trope I enjoy and which works well in a shorter format. But the hero is an Arab prince (named Taj for some reason) and I realized that I just can’t read Sheikh or Fake Middle Eastern Royal Hero books anymore. I’m probably also going to balk at books that glorify men in the military or the police, unless maybe if they are Regular Joe kind of guys (I’m pretty sure Janice Kay Johnson has written a few of these).

One title that has been staring at me is The Marine Next Door. It’s in the Intrigue line, which is one I have a lot of books from. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to make it through that one no matter how good it is on other dimensions. If he’s an active Marine, he probably shouldn’t be living next door. And if he’s retired from the service, why is Marine his main attribute? I went in search of answers to these questions and discovered that not only is the hero an ex-Marine, the heroine is a police officer in the Kansas City (MO, not KS) Police Department, and she’s also a single mother and a sexual assault survivor. First, that is way too much going on, and second, my ability to read genre romance set in police departments (especially in Missouri) is indistinguishable from zero at this point. Kaetrin’s review sealed the deal for me. She didn’t hate it, but what either of us could read in 2015 (and even that’s post-Ferguson) is not necessarily what we can read in the same way today.

So I’ve done another purge, and I’m down to 374 books. That’s quite a few deletions, but getting rid of all the Special Forces, other military, and police department books, along with the ones with guns in the title (more than you’d think), got me there. I also deleted more books by authors whose other books haven’t worked for me and a few short erotic novellas that I don’t see myself getting through any time soon. Maybe I’m overdoing it, and I’m keeping copies in a backup folder just in case, but I want to enjoy my leisure reading and so much feels fraught these days. I’ve been able to read “problematic” books my whole life, but it they seem more effortful today. And I’m certainly not saying no one should read and enjoy the books I’m putting aside. They’re just Not For Me Right Now.