After sixty years, Harlequin Romance books are still enslaving readers. What’s their secret?

Especially alluring for the theorists is the natural dialectic: i.e., are these books perversely, even dangerously anachronistic, trapped within a dated, patriarchal framework? Or are they in fact empowering: fiction written by women for women, in which there is always a happy ending for the female characters? If you factor in reader demographics — Harlequin reports that 53 percent of its overwhelmingly female readership has at least some college education, and 45 percent work full time — you have the makings of a feminist studies seminar, the central question of which might be, what is the appeal of these books, and is this a bad (in the critical theory sense of “bad”) thing?