The Wonderful-Terrible Bitch Figure in Harlequin Novels

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The Bitch figure, a staple of Harlequin novels as well as other popular romances, is not only wonderfully terrible, the woman the reader loves to hate; she is also terrible because she is wonderful, in ways that the heroines of these novels most decidedly are not, and which I will suggest the female reader herself might long to be. (269)


By comparison with the Bitch-Rival, the heroine has traits clearly marked off and aligned with one another as the only coherent form of femininity: i.e., erotic needs tempered with innocence and self-denial, and assertion tempered by a kind of economic innocence that clears her of the charge of "acting like a man" in the marketplace. By comparison, the Bitch figure is a kind of dumping ground for anxiety and discomfort in gender roles and the desires they do and do not legitimize. (275)