Nicola here, introducing this month’s Ask A Wench feature. The Wenches were chatting online, as we tend to do, and one of the topics we got talking about was the first historical romances that we ever read. As you might imagine, we discovered that there was some overlap in our reading experiences but also plenty of difference. We hope your enjoy this trip down our book-lined memory lane and we look forward to hearing what your first historical romance was!
I haunted the old library in our small town in Upstate NY, with its marble floors, tall windows and polished wooden bookshelves. I worked my way from Ellen Tebbits and Pippi Longstocking to Jane Eyre and Ivanhoe and Treasure Island (Illustrated Classics for some of those, as I recall), and then I discovered Victoria Holt. Mistress of Mellyn was probably my first romance, albeit gothic, and I read as many of her books–and books like hers–that I could find. We moved and I went to high school in the DC area, and I hit a long phase of classic literature, and in college majored in art but took seminars in Melville and Lawrence and the Brontes and poetry. In graduate school I studied art history–but secretly read Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, Elizabeth Peters and Mary Stewart. But I was immersed in graduate work, and though I had seen those "bodice rippers" in bookstores, I had never read one.
Then I got married and we started a family–and I ended up on bedrest for months, waiting for Baby, on
strict orders to rest and not stress myself out with studies. So I immersed myself in genre fiction, trying everything from sci fi and fantasy to mysteries. Friends brought books–including The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Finally I was hooked–it was medieval, it was good history, and it was exciting storytelling, with a hero and heroine I alternatively loved and wanted to bean over the head. I couldn't put it down. I read Shanna and more historical romance, and although I resumed graduate school and was otherwise reading Goodnight Moon more than any other book–I never forgot The Wolf and the Dove and the fun and joy of juicy paperback romance fiction. I read more romances, and one day I realized that I wanted to write one of my own, using the medieval history I'd been studying for years…