She saw him again in her mind's eye, tall and large with a physique that wouldn't tolerate an ounce of fat, and she couldn't help but think that a woman would have to be more than pretty to gain his notice. Only beautiful women would get a second look from the virile-looking Grant Harrington, she felt sure. She was tempted to get out of bed and take stock of her fine boned face. Then she remembered tomorrow, and wondered why she should have a sudden yen to be beautiful.
-- Jessica Steele, Tomorrow--Come Soon ( 1984)
Standing before the spring, he washed his hair and his body. His hair was dark and luxuriant, and his complexion sunburned. . . . As she watched him, Chloe realized for the first time how handsome he was. . . . She washed his back for him and felt how soft his skin was; stealthily, she touched her own several times, testing to see whether it was softer. . . . Young country girl that she was, she did not understand what was happening to her.
-- Longus, Daphnis and Chloe ( A.D. 200?)1
Nearly two millennia separate these descriptions of innocent female sensuality. In each, love lays a gentle hand on a young girl, who remains but vaguely conscious of her own emotions. Next we find, in each case, a series of episodes arranged to frustrate and confound the nascent desire. Each story ends with the heroine's full erotic initiation--after the wedding, of course.
During the early centuries A.D., a few Greek writers produced what may be viewed as prototypes of the modern romance novel. Of these works, it is Longus's Daphnis and Chloe that most nearly anticipates those present-day romances often called "Harlequins." I, too, will use this convenient term, although Harlequins are only the most notorious of a genre which admits much variation in quality and which, by one account ( Thurston 1987), has developed greatly over the decades. Books in this group have recently drawn attention from feminist critics who see in