A review by Marie-José des Rivières is available in Territoires 10.2 (1997), pp. 247–248 at https://doi.org/10.7202/057955ar .
The introduction contains some psychological speculations about the attractions of romance for women readers and then moves on to discuss Harlequin in the context of women's writing/women authors.
The first chapter takes a historical approach, beginning with medieval women and courtly love.
Chapter 2 moves from the Renaissance to the French Revolution, discussing a range of women authors, including St Theresa of Avila and Madame de Lafayette.
Chapter 3 discusses Madame Bovary, George Sand, adultery, divorce and the position of women in the nineteenth century.
Chapter 4 moves from the First World War to the 1980s and discusses women and marriage in these decades. There is also some discussion of women's reading.
Chapter 5 discusses feminism, women's writing, the sexual revolution which began in the 1960s, motherhood, marriage and romantic relationships.
Chapter 6 is about Harlequin romances, their readers and core plot.
Chapter 7 is about sexuality in Harlequins.
Chapter 8 is about the happy endings. This begins by discussing transformation scenes, in which the heroine puts on new clothes, then moves on to the ecstatic sexual union. Some comments from readers are included.
Chapter 9 is about the Harlequin hero. He is very virile and acts as a protector, but Houel argues that this in fact demonstrates that he has a maternal aspect, and according to Houel heroines are often lacking in a mother (as well as a father). There is a discussion of heroines and pregnancy, and heroes who have children but according to Houel the heroine is in the position of a child, being cared for, which makes a change for readers who have household chores etc. Comments from readers are included.
Chapter 10 compares Harlequins to fairy tales, because of their dream-like, escapist nature. This leads on to a discussion about whether they are addictive. Again, quotes from readers are included.