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Friday, March 13, 2009


Who is the first romance author you read who got you hooked?

I'll tell you mine this evening, after I throw a tantrum at a cement mixer (my current love affair).


Ooh, what an assortment of titles you girls remembered! I think our first romance books "date" us and also tells us the emotions we were drawn to then, and perhaps, with our changing tastes, at this moment in our lives.

For example, I remember my first foray into romance were Harlequin-type books. In Malaysia, they were published under the umbrella of Mills and Boons and when us schoolgirls back home would fondly called them M&Bs. There was an "exchange table" outside the temple at which my mom worshipped and yeah, that was actually the very early version of a UBS! I had the greatest time rummaging through all these books from the 60s and 70s.

Being a naive teen, the dynamics of a male-female relationship was my prime interest and I was drawn to those books because they fed my curiosity. Emotionally, I was learning about this thing called male/female attraction and of course, the idea of the tall, dark and handsome in-charge Alpha male was very intriguing because those stupid boys on my schoolbus was nothing like that.

I think my first "big" book romance was Sweet Savage Love, that very, very old-school romance that horrifies readers now. But back then, it was THE book my girlfriends and I passed around. The story came around at the time I was getting bored of Barbara Cartland's elliptical heroines, so pure and sweet they gave me toothache. Steve Morgan's treatment of Ginny was awful but my God, did he give my teenage heart chills because he was so different from Prince Bland and Duke Yawn from Barbara Cartland's stories. And of course, there were no ellipses and closed door secretive groping, no, no, no, we got the real deal, what that Steve did to Ginny and what she did to him. I suppose, at that time, I was reaching my rebellious stage and wanted more than the mooshy syrupy idea being touted as twu wuv. The books after SSL opened a whole new world to me, not neccessarily politically correct, but damn did I have a good time imagining women slashing with knives or traveling the world alone without a chaperon AND having lovers. Woohoo!

I stopped reading romances for a long time. College and working for a living would do that to you. The romance author that pulled me back in was Nora Roberts. It was a rather silly but serendipitous moment too. I was helping an old neighbor clean out her closet and she had dozens of romance books and I recognized a few of the names from my M&B days. So I sat down in her garage and played books all afternoon, enjoying a particular title by La Nora.

I did not know how famous she was, that was how removed I was from the book world. I remember going to the store and on a whim, went over to the book shelves and thinking, "hmm, I wonder whether that Nora Roberts was still writing." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You can imagine my expression when I found she owned a whole shelf to herself. But yeah, La Nora hooked me back in with her wonderful stories and I must have spent all my meagre extra roofing pay on buying as many of her backlist as I played catch-up.

And thus begun my love for romances again and I came back just at the right time--the late 80s, when many of our current bestsellers were writing Harlequins and series romance and giving them unique twists--Roberts, Linda Howard, Iris Johannsen, Jennifer Crusie, Sandra Brown, Elizabeth Lowell, Anne Stuart, Kay Hooper, among many others, some of whom have moved on from their romance roots. That was the golden age of romance, with so many big names that every month was a feast of stories.

The emotions that drew me in those books were the idea of independent women, some of whom divorced or single mothers, taking care of themselves and taking on the most incredibly attractive and macho males. I loved the chase, the sparkling wit, and yes, the addition of the male POV made romance a lot richer.

In addition to my original question, can you look at your current favorite reads and point out to yourself what are the emotions in those books that draw you to those authors? I do think we can map our emotional changes/growth by the type of romance books we pick up.

For example, I'm now very much into urban fantasy type stories. I'll probably have to write another long post to dig out the emotions in these books that draw me to them.

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Ruth said...

It would have to be Eva Ibbotson -'Company of Swans' and 'The Secret Countess' when I was about 15.

One of my girls who was reading 'Comapny of Swans' in my boarding house looked shocked when I told her I read it at her age lol

LadyZannah said...

It was YOU Jenn! It's all your fault, lol. Dunno how I got into vamps and weres tho.

KC in Fla said...

I think it was a really old Fern Michaels. I can't read her now, but back then? Drew me right in.

Sara said...

A Whisper of Roses by Teresa Medeiros was the first Romance book I ever read. I have had that book for 16 years now. Still is one of my favorites.

Saly said...

I started with Harlequins. I think everyone does that. ;)
My first one was an Anne McAllister & didn't I love it. But it wasn't until I read Lynne Graham & Susan Napier that my true love affair with romance began.

And now I can't seem to stop at all..!!!

Firecat said...

The first romance book that hooked me was the Kadin, by Bertrice Small. I remember being impressed by how much the main character did with her life, even after she escaped the harem.

MaryC said...

I started out with Harlequins - one of my favorite authors was Essie Summers. My sister introduced me to Georgette Heyer which started me on regencies. Hooked after reading Kathleen Woodiwiss' Flame and the Flower.
Susan Krinard introduced me to werewolves.

J. said...

the first book i read was catherine coulter's the maze. Then i just started looking at other authors =]

Lisa W. said...

Catherine Coulter back when historical romance was really hot. I loved ships and pirates.

Fanciful Fern said...

The Far Pavilions by M.M Kaye - I was 12.

Then I started reading my mom's Harlequin romances whenever she was in the shower, out of the house or at work.

Phew... hiding that was no walk in the park!

Gennita said...

ooh, what an assortment! I think our first romance books "date" us and also tells us the emotions we were drawn to, and perhaps with our changing tastes, now.

I'm finishing this thought in the original, okay?

Gennita said...

Aw, Lady Zannah, I'm glad I was the one to bring you over to the "dark" side, heh.

Sara, Sally, Mary C.,

I also started by reading many short romance like Harlequins. They were Mills and Boons, the British line of Harlequin. My favorites back then are still my favorite now, can you believe it--Bianchin, Reid...scary, huh?

Deborah Blake Dempsey said...

Unbelievable. I can't believe everyone remembers. It's been entirely too long and (perhaps) too many novels for me to recall. I do know that I was absolutely hooked on the "sweet". no-hanky-panky (yes, I did pull that word in through the time warp) regency novels. I adored those like Marion Chesney. I remember it was my cousin Tanya who introduced me though and I think I was 11.

Gennita said...


I've now added what I wanted to write this morning but didn't have time because of that date with the cement mixer.

Heather said...

Oh lord. I remember very, very well the book that introduced me to romance. I lived in a very small town in West Germany very near the former Czech border. Me and mom made special trips to the library once every three weeks. When I was probably 9 years old I ripped through my entire stack of classics and got bored. So, I picked up her books. It was a weekend that changed my life. Stephen King's Christine and The Shining, The Amityville Horror, and Bertrice Small's Skye O'Malley. Now there was an introduction to romance! My mom checked out The Kama Sutra for me the next library trip along with a book by Dr. Ruth to "explain" the naughty bits. Poor woman. I questioned her to death. LOL!

Ita said...

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer. And then rest of the Heyers of course. Shoot, now I have to find the book and re-read it.

Caralovable said...

I started liking romances when I first read Leanne Bank's book "Footloose". I loved it and it was a really fu book.


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