CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Jensen, Margaret Ann.

Toronto, Women's Press, c1984. 188pp, paper, $8.95, ISBN 0-88961-086-X. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Valerie Hudson

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

Margaret Ann Jenson, having written her PhD thesis on formula romance fiction producers Harlequin Enterprises, has extended her research to the more popular Women's Press forum with Love's $weet Return. Her work has led her to conclude that romance fiction has been ignored and regarded as sentimental trash by the intellectual community, while male formula fiction is elevated to classic status. Jensen interprets this anomaly as resistance to women's culture and traces the origins of romance to a definite female tradition. In this study, Jensen examines the history, corporate structure and marketing techniques of Harlequin Enterprises. She analyses the contents of the romances, from the standpoint of sexual harassment, sex-role stereotyping and the romance formula. Jensen is searching for the possibility of an emancipatory effect in romance reading. The changes she notes in romances from 1950-1980 are barometers of feminine consciousness, reflections of women's changing concerns and social situations. Jensen hopes that in the fantasy world of Harlequin, women can work out problems and concerns related to their changing social position in the real world.

This study is pertinent when we consider the phenomenal rise in the lucrative romance market. Why do millions of people read formula romance fiction? Why do romances have such appeal and what, if any, effects do they have on readers? These are some of the questions that Jensen raises and attempts to answer. Her line of argument is quite often problematic, but she delves into the contents of the fantasies and challenges us to reformulate our conceptions of the reader and the romance.

She concludes that, even if readers of romance escape into an imaginative world, they do not look at it as a way of life to be emulated and desired. In her attempt to liberate the reader, she legitimatizes the process, locking the reader into mute acceptance of the status quo. Jensen is in control of her material and brings together many points of contention under one cover. She has an easy-going style that should be quite accessible to most readers, if the book receives exposure outside intellectual circles. Whether we agree or disagree with her, Jensen raises questions that need to be asked.

Valerie Hudson, Peterborough, Ont.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works