4 stars

Category Romance Review: Different Worlds by Elaine K. Stirling

Different Worlds, Elaine K. Stirling, Harlequin, 1991, cover artist unknown
Harlequin Temptation #332
4 stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Sexy Book

Before erotic romance went mainstream and long before the Harlequin Blaze category line (now defunct) or the Dare line was Elaine K. Stirling’s Different Worlds. Published in 1991, this book had the first masturbation scene I had ever read in a conventional romance, where the heroine gets off thinking about the hero (this was several years before the often proclaimed “first mainstream romance to feature a masturbating heroine” in Robin Schone’s historical, Awaken My Love.) Come to think of it, many older bodice rippers weren’t afraid to have the heroine indulge in a little self-love, but as all sophisticated romance readers know, those horrid books don’t count (insert eye roll here.)

The Plot

This was the first in a series of books in the Harlequin Temptation line, where four couples had to overcome some sort of separation/distance. Dawn and Michael meet in the jungles of Costa Rica. She’s an American scientist working in Central America, and he’s a businessman thousands of miles from his home in Canada. They’re not dumb kids falling for each other. They’re mature adults; she’s in her mid-30s, he’s in his early-40s. They meet, have a charged sexual relationship, and then have to decide if they can make their long-distance relationship last.

Because they are grown-ups, they know how to make their commitment to each other work by compromising. “What?” you might ask. “A romance, where the protagonists act like reasonable human beings?” Yes, it is, and how refreshing.

For those of you looking for naughty bits: also notable in this book was one of the first instances of female-on-male oral sex in a category of romance. I recall my precocious 13-year-old mind reeling at the scene where Dawn gives Michael a blowjob and hums while doing it, having read somewhere (Cosmopolitan magazine, no doubt) that the vocal vibrations made for a better orgasm, and I filed that info away for later (much later).

Oh, as for the romance? It was well done. I remember reading this one far into the night, as I did with the only other Stirling book I read, Sleepwalker, from the Harlequin Intrigue line.

Final Analysis of Different Worlds

I do miss the old Harlequin Temptations and never really enjoyed the Blazes. As far as the Draes go, I have no clue what they’re about. I read a handful of Blazes when they first came out but found them formulaic, as most were a combo of mild erotica with romantic suspense. Just about every hero was a cop who saved the heroine from some crazy villain. The Temptations were more diverse with their characters and plots. Maybe the Blazes changed, but I never cared to find out. Harlequin destroyed a great line when they ended the Temptations, and they seem intent on ruining the Presents line, at least, they have for the last 10-15 years. Thank goodness for e-bay and Amazon Marketplace, where those oldies are still in abundance!

Different Worlds, despite being a 30 year old book, is still a good contemporary read, just without cell phones or e-mail.

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