I actually went through a period in my life when I was addicted to Harlequin Romances. It was after I was widowed and I missed loving, being loved, aka sex. I found an HR book somewhere, read it and cried. I missed being held and the goopy little romance reminded me of what I was missing. I read more such books. i called them safe sex. I got over them soon but for a few months I was reading about five a week. Silly me.
I'd forgotten about them until the other afternoon when I was checking out my mini-tablet (no WiFi on the bus) and found some free downloads of Harlequin Romances - no idea where they came from - but I thought, how bad can they be? I used to read them, after all.
In a matter of minutes, I switched off Minnie - aargh! - what a terrible book! The grammar was appalling; the choice of words was ridiculous and often inaccurate; the emotions were unbelievable; and the focus on the wrong kind of details totally insulting. Oh dear.
At one time, when I was flailing around trying to make a living, I thought I might try writing one of those soppy, happy stories, but found I could not. It's trickier than it looks. At times in my career I have been a writer-in-residence at various libraries where I had to read writing samples of wannabe writers. I could spot a fake attempt at an HR in the first few paragraphs, especially the ones by men. They simply were not authentic.
The late novelist, John Gardner, (1933-1982), who was a fine creative writing teacher and a great influence on Raymond Carver, for one, commented on this kind of kitschy writing. He said , "Not everyone is capable of writing junk fiction. It requires an authentic junk mind."
I just don't have it. Too bad, I guess. Harlequin writers make a lot of money.