The First Romance

Susan Sarah here with a little pondering on a sunny Thursday….

Do you remember the first romance you ever read? And did you know it was romance–that is, was it romance genre, or did it have romantic elements?
RWA (and most others) define a romance novel as containing a central love story with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.  http://www.rwanational.org

My question for you all–and myself–is this: what was the first romance you ever read? What path did you take to reading more in the genre, and did that influence your reading tastes today?

For a long while, I thought the first romance I ever read was in graduate school, when I picked up a battered library copy of The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Academic that I was, I thought that book-–and that thoroughly addictive, life-changing reading experience-–was where I first started reading romance novels (we won’t go into how I hid my growing reading habit for a while until owning up to it, or that I once saw another grad student hiding a romance novel behind a research book in the library. That’s fodder for another discussion!).

I cut my reading teeth on romance novels long before The Wolf and the Dove found me, though I didn’t realize it until much later. Where did it start? That’s hard to track back, but it was very early. I haunted libraries as a kid from the time my mother took us there until I was old enough to go there myself–I was there weekly, sometimes daily, toting out great armloads of books, blowing through those and toting them back for another armload–I would have taken them out by the wheelbarrow if I could have!  (Pet peeve: when I’m in a library and overhear mothers saying to their children, you can have one book, two books, each – armloads, mom! wheelbarrows! Let them know there’s never too many books! Nuff said.)
I fondly remember the wonderful smell of that old, small-town library–the mingled scents of books, of paper and binding leather, of wooden floors, marble, brass. It’s a scent that newer libraries don’t seem to have, an aged, solid scent that’s part materials and part magic and timelessness, that holds promise and enchantment, knowledge, anticipation, and such great freedom to explore.

Dunrobin_castle_library_1 Not my hometown library — I wish!

Library, Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

And it was in those quiet library hours that I began reading romance long before I knew I was doing so. Some of my favorite books had strong romantic elements, but where did it start?  Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond, maybe. Or maybe I got caught by the power of the romantic thread with Jo March and her Professor Bhaer, or with Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester:

"…Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?"
I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
"Because," he said, "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you,–you’d forget me."
"That I NEVER should, sir: you know–" Impossible to proceed.

<thud> says I….melodramatic, perhaps, and OTT in terms of romance genre today, but nonetheless, the sort of romantic power that runs deep. Very deep, and catches romantic souls all unaware, and for life.Preraph

Later, I discovered that Power Duo, Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, and I was quickly hooked on romantic suspense and gothic romance. I gobbled through all of those that I could find, names I remember and don’t, and read my way through everything Phyllis Whitney had to offer, and through a range of historicals as well, including the medievals of Rosemary Hawley Jarman, and others, like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (GWTW I read at least five times in high school, plus saw the movie several times, while it doesn’t classically qualify as a romance–-certainly lacking that requisite optimistic HEA, though given, there’s Scarlett’s note of tremulous optimism, or is it blind denial, depending on how you look at it, in the end). And of course Jane Eyre got several readings (and does to this day, for me). There was Daphne Du Maurier, with Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek…then on to Elizabeth Peters (again, not strictly romance, though the elements are undeniably there). And of course everything Anya Seton ever wrote. If she had left a crumpled grocery list around somewhere, I would have gobbled that up too.

But noooooo, I didn’t read a romance novel until I stumbled upon The Wolf and the Dove in the library. Yah right!  I was prepped for the romance genre by then. Since childhood I had been reading rich, romantic, heart-rending, classic romantic novels, stories that were deeply romantic and thoroughly exciting, whether historical settings, or contemporary romantic suspense–supposedly mysteries then, but the sort that had me on the edge of my seat with anticipation and excitement–yes, I wanted the characters to find the bad guy, solve the mystery, save that priceless treasure, whatever, but I most sincerely wanted that guy to say something of emotional substance to the girl, however scant (really, that reserve was so intriguing!)–and if that didn’t happen–I was not a happy, satisfied reader. If I cried in the end, okay, but there had to be some tears of joy, relief, satisfaction too.

Easa125meetingontheturretstairsposters I wanted that feeling where my very heart seemed to turn within me, that emotional wrench, and that sense of triumph and completion, too. I found it, and sought it out, in books long before I read that thick, battered paperback of The Wolf and the Dove. And I discovered, very quickly, why that book was so worn and well-read: those feelings were there, the gut-wrenching and the heart-turning, the anticipation, and a bit of crazymaking exasperation, too (how could she fall for such a jerk? how could he be such a pig, and she be so stupid? ah, but somehow it all worked out in the end, he learned, she learned, everybody gained).

And I went from there to more Woodiwiss, Shanna and on to more, McNaught and Garwood, and more and more, until I couldn’t deny that constantly growing and demanding urge to try writing these stories myself, to capture the feelings and the excitement that reading those novels gave me. I wanted to give back, and create that for myself and others, with the characters and situations taht had been bouncing around in my imagination for a long time.

Over the years I had absorbed the sensibilities of romance so thoroughly that I realized that I could write a romance novel of my own. Yet I thought I had read only a few romances. Not so, gentle Reader! I had long been an addict, an afficionado, with some understanding of the forms and features of the genre before I even set out to deliberately gain that for myself.

I go back regularly to those early reads to recapture that early sense of wonder and excitement, anticipation. I have this ability…or is it a flaw…to forget endings of books and movies. It’s a marvelous boon that enables me to happily re-read old favorites (Mary Jo says the strong element of Neptune in my natal chart gives me this peculiar ability *g*).  Given enough time lapse, I will dive back into my favorites, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and all of Mary Stewart’s books (the contemporaries are dated in some ways, yes, but the writing is infinitely lovely, and the datedness has a wonderful charm).

So how about you all –- where did you start reading romance, was it with Regency (as we’ve touched on before here at Word Wenches), or did you enter by another door: historical literary fiction, Gothic, romantic suspense, category, genre historicals, and so on?

And what was the very first book you read that had romantic elements in the story, with all the heart-pounding, heart-wrenching features of great romance?

And how do those reading pathways influence your reading choices now?

~Susan Sarah

Stonemaiden

54 thoughts on “The First Romance”

  1. Given my predisposition to find romance in anything, I probably thought the Little Engine That Could was romantic. “G” I was too isolated to know that romance was something I should scorn. I lapped it up with my baby’s milk, I think. I didn’t have any library except the one at the elementary school, so I read everything I could get my hands on, anywhere I could find it, which led to a rather eclectic effect. But my favorites were always the romances, even when the guys were pigs. I read Austen and Bronte along with Beverly Cleary and Mary Stewart. I even read Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames in hopes of finding romance there. But romances as we judge them today—that was Kathleen Woodiwiss in my case, too, with FLAME AND THE FLOWER. That touched off a real obsession that lasts to this day.
    My question is, do we get the same emotion out of today’s books as we did those old ones? Or have we become jaded?

    Reply
  2. Given my predisposition to find romance in anything, I probably thought the Little Engine That Could was romantic. “G” I was too isolated to know that romance was something I should scorn. I lapped it up with my baby’s milk, I think. I didn’t have any library except the one at the elementary school, so I read everything I could get my hands on, anywhere I could find it, which led to a rather eclectic effect. But my favorites were always the romances, even when the guys were pigs. I read Austen and Bronte along with Beverly Cleary and Mary Stewart. I even read Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames in hopes of finding romance there. But romances as we judge them today—that was Kathleen Woodiwiss in my case, too, with FLAME AND THE FLOWER. That touched off a real obsession that lasts to this day.
    My question is, do we get the same emotion out of today’s books as we did those old ones? Or have we become jaded?

    Reply
  3. Given my predisposition to find romance in anything, I probably thought the Little Engine That Could was romantic. “G” I was too isolated to know that romance was something I should scorn. I lapped it up with my baby’s milk, I think. I didn’t have any library except the one at the elementary school, so I read everything I could get my hands on, anywhere I could find it, which led to a rather eclectic effect. But my favorites were always the romances, even when the guys were pigs. I read Austen and Bronte along with Beverly Cleary and Mary Stewart. I even read Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames in hopes of finding romance there. But romances as we judge them today—that was Kathleen Woodiwiss in my case, too, with FLAME AND THE FLOWER. That touched off a real obsession that lasts to this day.
    My question is, do we get the same emotion out of today’s books as we did those old ones? Or have we become jaded?

    Reply
  4. My mom, an English teacher, used to buy boxes of old books at farm auctions. We read anything we could get our hands on, so I am one of the few people of my generation to have read George Barr McKutcheon’s “Graustark” romances. Time was, romance was not just for women- Lorna Doone was a best seller in its day. I love that one, too. I also read “Tryst”, a sentimental tear jerker with a paranormal twist, written sometime in the thirties- in fact a lot of my favorite authors were from earlier generations. Romance is a classic, I guess.

    Reply
  5. My mom, an English teacher, used to buy boxes of old books at farm auctions. We read anything we could get our hands on, so I am one of the few people of my generation to have read George Barr McKutcheon’s “Graustark” romances. Time was, romance was not just for women- Lorna Doone was a best seller in its day. I love that one, too. I also read “Tryst”, a sentimental tear jerker with a paranormal twist, written sometime in the thirties- in fact a lot of my favorite authors were from earlier generations. Romance is a classic, I guess.

    Reply
  6. My mom, an English teacher, used to buy boxes of old books at farm auctions. We read anything we could get our hands on, so I am one of the few people of my generation to have read George Barr McKutcheon’s “Graustark” romances. Time was, romance was not just for women- Lorna Doone was a best seller in its day. I love that one, too. I also read “Tryst”, a sentimental tear jerker with a paranormal twist, written sometime in the thirties- in fact a lot of my favorite authors were from earlier generations. Romance is a classic, I guess.

    Reply
  7. I started reading romances with my mother’s Harlequins. Before that though I always enjoyed books with the romantic elements in them that you were talking about.

    Reply
  8. I started reading romances with my mother’s Harlequins. Before that though I always enjoyed books with the romantic elements in them that you were talking about.

    Reply
  9. I started reading romances with my mother’s Harlequins. Before that though I always enjoyed books with the romantic elements in them that you were talking about.

    Reply
  10. Did anyone read “A Lantern in her Hand”? I got this at my highschool book sale and have it still. It is a pioneer romance, even though the priciples reunite at death. Wonderful. And don’t forget some sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, Zenna Henderson, even Heinlein (Glory Road). Remember “Daddy Long Legs”?
    And, of course, the incomparable Mr Darcy. I think Georgette Heyer was the first author that I gorged on that was clearly a romance. So many others are in disguise.

    Reply
  11. Did anyone read “A Lantern in her Hand”? I got this at my highschool book sale and have it still. It is a pioneer romance, even though the priciples reunite at death. Wonderful. And don’t forget some sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, Zenna Henderson, even Heinlein (Glory Road). Remember “Daddy Long Legs”?
    And, of course, the incomparable Mr Darcy. I think Georgette Heyer was the first author that I gorged on that was clearly a romance. So many others are in disguise.

    Reply
  12. Did anyone read “A Lantern in her Hand”? I got this at my highschool book sale and have it still. It is a pioneer romance, even though the priciples reunite at death. Wonderful. And don’t forget some sci-fi. Anne McCaffrey, Zenna Henderson, even Heinlein (Glory Road). Remember “Daddy Long Legs”?
    And, of course, the incomparable Mr Darcy. I think Georgette Heyer was the first author that I gorged on that was clearly a romance. So many others are in disguise.

    Reply
  13. Susan Sarah, I’d forgotten how powerful and so terribly romantic that passage was from Jane Eyre! This is one reason why I love historical romances so much. I’ve never read a contemporary where a man expressed his love in such poetic and romantic language. I’m sure the Wenchlings could name any number of contemporary romances where this is true, but it hasn’t happened for me. And if they can name great romantic lines from contemporaries, I’ll bet for sure they can find even more in historical romances. Which makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be fun for us to have a “great romantic lines” day where people listed their favorite romantic thing said by a hero or heroine in a book.
    It was the early Mary Stewarts and Phyllis A. Whitneys and Victoria Holts that gave me snippets of romance and paved the way for my love of historical romance novels.

    Reply
  14. Susan Sarah, I’d forgotten how powerful and so terribly romantic that passage was from Jane Eyre! This is one reason why I love historical romances so much. I’ve never read a contemporary where a man expressed his love in such poetic and romantic language. I’m sure the Wenchlings could name any number of contemporary romances where this is true, but it hasn’t happened for me. And if they can name great romantic lines from contemporaries, I’ll bet for sure they can find even more in historical romances. Which makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be fun for us to have a “great romantic lines” day where people listed their favorite romantic thing said by a hero or heroine in a book.
    It was the early Mary Stewarts and Phyllis A. Whitneys and Victoria Holts that gave me snippets of romance and paved the way for my love of historical romance novels.

    Reply
  15. Susan Sarah, I’d forgotten how powerful and so terribly romantic that passage was from Jane Eyre! This is one reason why I love historical romances so much. I’ve never read a contemporary where a man expressed his love in such poetic and romantic language. I’m sure the Wenchlings could name any number of contemporary romances where this is true, but it hasn’t happened for me. And if they can name great romantic lines from contemporaries, I’ll bet for sure they can find even more in historical romances. Which makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be fun for us to have a “great romantic lines” day where people listed their favorite romantic thing said by a hero or heroine in a book.
    It was the early Mary Stewarts and Phyllis A. Whitneys and Victoria Holts that gave me snippets of romance and paved the way for my love of historical romance novels.

    Reply
  16. Susan/Sarah, I love the cadence with which you write. Your words flow like a river, catching me along in the embracing currents of your heart. That’s what I love the most about THE SWORD MAIDEN, I think. I feel immersed–body, mind and soul.
    And feeling immersed is what reading is all about for me. No matter what I’m reading. As for ‘romance’… that was always for other people. None of that existed in me. (Sherrie, stop laughing.) Post MJ”s KOF, my first ‘real’ romance read which I read this past January, I now know otherwise, of course. I do have a taste for romance. A taste that did, as you’ve articulated so well Susan/Sarah, start long ago. Well, maybe not that long ago for me. Peter David’s IMZADI (think 1990’s) was probably my first intro to the possibility of romance w/in the pages of a book. About ten years later came THE WITCH AT BLACKBIRD POND, THE RAGING QUIET, HAWKSONG and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE.
    Sherrie, love your idea of “great romantic lines.”
    –Nina

    Reply
  17. Susan/Sarah, I love the cadence with which you write. Your words flow like a river, catching me along in the embracing currents of your heart. That’s what I love the most about THE SWORD MAIDEN, I think. I feel immersed–body, mind and soul.
    And feeling immersed is what reading is all about for me. No matter what I’m reading. As for ‘romance’… that was always for other people. None of that existed in me. (Sherrie, stop laughing.) Post MJ”s KOF, my first ‘real’ romance read which I read this past January, I now know otherwise, of course. I do have a taste for romance. A taste that did, as you’ve articulated so well Susan/Sarah, start long ago. Well, maybe not that long ago for me. Peter David’s IMZADI (think 1990’s) was probably my first intro to the possibility of romance w/in the pages of a book. About ten years later came THE WITCH AT BLACKBIRD POND, THE RAGING QUIET, HAWKSONG and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE.
    Sherrie, love your idea of “great romantic lines.”
    –Nina

    Reply
  18. Susan/Sarah, I love the cadence with which you write. Your words flow like a river, catching me along in the embracing currents of your heart. That’s what I love the most about THE SWORD MAIDEN, I think. I feel immersed–body, mind and soul.
    And feeling immersed is what reading is all about for me. No matter what I’m reading. As for ‘romance’… that was always for other people. None of that existed in me. (Sherrie, stop laughing.) Post MJ”s KOF, my first ‘real’ romance read which I read this past January, I now know otherwise, of course. I do have a taste for romance. A taste that did, as you’ve articulated so well Susan/Sarah, start long ago. Well, maybe not that long ago for me. Peter David’s IMZADI (think 1990’s) was probably my first intro to the possibility of romance w/in the pages of a book. About ten years later came THE WITCH AT BLACKBIRD POND, THE RAGING QUIET, HAWKSONG and BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE.
    Sherrie, love your idea of “great romantic lines.”
    –Nina

    Reply
  19. the very first romance i ever read was Knight in Shining Armour, I was twelve and I loved it. prior to that I used to read the beginning and ending of my mum’s mills and boon books. I also had a lot of sweet dreams books, which were like the teen versions of category romance…some of them were quite cute and sweet though, i think they’ve gone out of fashion and i wonder what teenagers read now in terms of romance. I always love books with romantic elements, the kind with that leave you with happy feel good feelings.

    Reply
  20. the very first romance i ever read was Knight in Shining Armour, I was twelve and I loved it. prior to that I used to read the beginning and ending of my mum’s mills and boon books. I also had a lot of sweet dreams books, which were like the teen versions of category romance…some of them were quite cute and sweet though, i think they’ve gone out of fashion and i wonder what teenagers read now in terms of romance. I always love books with romantic elements, the kind with that leave you with happy feel good feelings.

    Reply
  21. the very first romance i ever read was Knight in Shining Armour, I was twelve and I loved it. prior to that I used to read the beginning and ending of my mum’s mills and boon books. I also had a lot of sweet dreams books, which were like the teen versions of category romance…some of them were quite cute and sweet though, i think they’ve gone out of fashion and i wonder what teenagers read now in terms of romance. I always love books with romantic elements, the kind with that leave you with happy feel good feelings.

    Reply
  22. I read “Jane Eyre” early on, how could I not, given my name? “Emma” one summer at my aunt’s house was my first Austen. All of Mary Stewart, my mother had them, I still enjoy rereading. Georgette Heyer, a lot of Harlequins, various “high school” series–Rosamund du Jardin, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Janet Lambert. I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten. Yes, I’ve read “A Lantern in her Hand” and I keep thinking I’d like to reread it, but there’s never time for all the books I want to read! Just today I picked up Jo’s “To Rescue a Rogue”, but I haven’t started it yet.

    Reply
  23. I read “Jane Eyre” early on, how could I not, given my name? “Emma” one summer at my aunt’s house was my first Austen. All of Mary Stewart, my mother had them, I still enjoy rereading. Georgette Heyer, a lot of Harlequins, various “high school” series–Rosamund du Jardin, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Janet Lambert. I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten. Yes, I’ve read “A Lantern in her Hand” and I keep thinking I’d like to reread it, but there’s never time for all the books I want to read! Just today I picked up Jo’s “To Rescue a Rogue”, but I haven’t started it yet.

    Reply
  24. I read “Jane Eyre” early on, how could I not, given my name? “Emma” one summer at my aunt’s house was my first Austen. All of Mary Stewart, my mother had them, I still enjoy rereading. Georgette Heyer, a lot of Harlequins, various “high school” series–Rosamund du Jardin, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Janet Lambert. I’m sure there’s more I’ve forgotten. Yes, I’ve read “A Lantern in her Hand” and I keep thinking I’d like to reread it, but there’s never time for all the books I want to read! Just today I picked up Jo’s “To Rescue a Rogue”, but I haven’t started it yet.

    Reply
  25. I think the very first romances I read were when I was about ten and used to browse in my grandfather’s library. I remember one called WARD OF KING CANUTE set in olden England, one of the Graustark romances, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, and assorted Jeffery Farnols.
    When I was about twelve, I read and loved LORNA DOONE, which I now find unreadably badly written (but it made a good miniseries). A couple of years later I discovered and devoured Jane Austen and, shortly thereafter, Georgette Heyer.
    I really disliked Woodiwiss and she nearly turned me off historical romances for good.
    I think the first romance so labeled I read was a Harlequin Romance by Essie Summers because it was set mainly in Scotland; and I loved it. This was a bit deceptive, as the few Harlequin authors I really liked–Summers, Mary Burchell, Jane Donnelly, and a couple of others–were NOT typical of the series, as they had strong, intelligent heroines.
    I have also read Ethel M. Dell. Does that get me extra points or demerits?

    Reply
  26. I think the very first romances I read were when I was about ten and used to browse in my grandfather’s library. I remember one called WARD OF KING CANUTE set in olden England, one of the Graustark romances, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, and assorted Jeffery Farnols.
    When I was about twelve, I read and loved LORNA DOONE, which I now find unreadably badly written (but it made a good miniseries). A couple of years later I discovered and devoured Jane Austen and, shortly thereafter, Georgette Heyer.
    I really disliked Woodiwiss and she nearly turned me off historical romances for good.
    I think the first romance so labeled I read was a Harlequin Romance by Essie Summers because it was set mainly in Scotland; and I loved it. This was a bit deceptive, as the few Harlequin authors I really liked–Summers, Mary Burchell, Jane Donnelly, and a couple of others–were NOT typical of the series, as they had strong, intelligent heroines.
    I have also read Ethel M. Dell. Does that get me extra points or demerits?

    Reply
  27. I think the very first romances I read were when I was about ten and used to browse in my grandfather’s library. I remember one called WARD OF KING CANUTE set in olden England, one of the Graustark romances, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, and assorted Jeffery Farnols.
    When I was about twelve, I read and loved LORNA DOONE, which I now find unreadably badly written (but it made a good miniseries). A couple of years later I discovered and devoured Jane Austen and, shortly thereafter, Georgette Heyer.
    I really disliked Woodiwiss and she nearly turned me off historical romances for good.
    I think the first romance so labeled I read was a Harlequin Romance by Essie Summers because it was set mainly in Scotland; and I loved it. This was a bit deceptive, as the few Harlequin authors I really liked–Summers, Mary Burchell, Jane Donnelly, and a couple of others–were NOT typical of the series, as they had strong, intelligent heroines.
    I have also read Ethel M. Dell. Does that get me extra points or demerits?

    Reply
  28. My first favorite book at age 2 was a Little Golden Book version of Cinderella. I can still recite the first line by heart: “Once upon a time in a faraway land lived a sweet and pretty girl named Cinderella.” Sigh.
    Grew up reading everything in sight but particularly loved Madeleine L’Engle, the “Anne of Green Gables” books, “Little Women” and sequels, Anne McCaffrey, Laura Ingalls Wilder, “They Loved to Laugh” by Kathryn Worth. None of those is particularly in the “romance” category but all featured bright and non-conformist girls/women who ended up with worthy romantic partners. (Some of those also offered characters with a spiritual sensibility-but that’s another subject.)
    I found Heyer(first one was The Masqueraders, still my fave) at age 13–around the same time I started to read (gobble up!) Austen and Brontes. I also remember liking Jane Aiken Hodge and Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt in that era.
    In college I discovered E.M. Forster (“A Room With A View” is amazing),D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh–and Dorothy Sayers! (I won’t bore you with seminary reading except to say that love does feature in that curriculum but sometimes it’s hiding in tortured Germanic-style theological compound sentences, a la Karl Barth.)
    After a long detour into mysteries in adulthood (that all came to an end when I had babies–all that murder suddenly seemed too scary) I’m back in the romance groove and really enjoying it (although I keep imagining the headlines if I get hit by a bus and someone has to clean out my bedside table: “Pastor’s Shocking Secret Stash of Bodice-Busters” or some such). The Wenches have written many of my favorites–hence my hanging out on this blog and hanging on to their every word!
    I’m not much one for mainline (“literary”?) fiction but one novel I adore and love to read again and again is A.S. Byatt’s “Possession”–beautiful, romantic, evocative, meaningful on so many levels. I’m also crazy about Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes series that begins with “Beekeeper’s Apprentice”–the second novel, “A Monstrous Regiment of Women” has a little bit of everything–great writing, history, mystery, romance, non-conformist heroine, and even a tad bit of theology.

    Reply
  29. My first favorite book at age 2 was a Little Golden Book version of Cinderella. I can still recite the first line by heart: “Once upon a time in a faraway land lived a sweet and pretty girl named Cinderella.” Sigh.
    Grew up reading everything in sight but particularly loved Madeleine L’Engle, the “Anne of Green Gables” books, “Little Women” and sequels, Anne McCaffrey, Laura Ingalls Wilder, “They Loved to Laugh” by Kathryn Worth. None of those is particularly in the “romance” category but all featured bright and non-conformist girls/women who ended up with worthy romantic partners. (Some of those also offered characters with a spiritual sensibility-but that’s another subject.)
    I found Heyer(first one was The Masqueraders, still my fave) at age 13–around the same time I started to read (gobble up!) Austen and Brontes. I also remember liking Jane Aiken Hodge and Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt in that era.
    In college I discovered E.M. Forster (“A Room With A View” is amazing),D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh–and Dorothy Sayers! (I won’t bore you with seminary reading except to say that love does feature in that curriculum but sometimes it’s hiding in tortured Germanic-style theological compound sentences, a la Karl Barth.)
    After a long detour into mysteries in adulthood (that all came to an end when I had babies–all that murder suddenly seemed too scary) I’m back in the romance groove and really enjoying it (although I keep imagining the headlines if I get hit by a bus and someone has to clean out my bedside table: “Pastor’s Shocking Secret Stash of Bodice-Busters” or some such). The Wenches have written many of my favorites–hence my hanging out on this blog and hanging on to their every word!
    I’m not much one for mainline (“literary”?) fiction but one novel I adore and love to read again and again is A.S. Byatt’s “Possession”–beautiful, romantic, evocative, meaningful on so many levels. I’m also crazy about Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes series that begins with “Beekeeper’s Apprentice”–the second novel, “A Monstrous Regiment of Women” has a little bit of everything–great writing, history, mystery, romance, non-conformist heroine, and even a tad bit of theology.

    Reply
  30. My first favorite book at age 2 was a Little Golden Book version of Cinderella. I can still recite the first line by heart: “Once upon a time in a faraway land lived a sweet and pretty girl named Cinderella.” Sigh.
    Grew up reading everything in sight but particularly loved Madeleine L’Engle, the “Anne of Green Gables” books, “Little Women” and sequels, Anne McCaffrey, Laura Ingalls Wilder, “They Loved to Laugh” by Kathryn Worth. None of those is particularly in the “romance” category but all featured bright and non-conformist girls/women who ended up with worthy romantic partners. (Some of those also offered characters with a spiritual sensibility-but that’s another subject.)
    I found Heyer(first one was The Masqueraders, still my fave) at age 13–around the same time I started to read (gobble up!) Austen and Brontes. I also remember liking Jane Aiken Hodge and Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt in that era.
    In college I discovered E.M. Forster (“A Room With A View” is amazing),D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh–and Dorothy Sayers! (I won’t bore you with seminary reading except to say that love does feature in that curriculum but sometimes it’s hiding in tortured Germanic-style theological compound sentences, a la Karl Barth.)
    After a long detour into mysteries in adulthood (that all came to an end when I had babies–all that murder suddenly seemed too scary) I’m back in the romance groove and really enjoying it (although I keep imagining the headlines if I get hit by a bus and someone has to clean out my bedside table: “Pastor’s Shocking Secret Stash of Bodice-Busters” or some such). The Wenches have written many of my favorites–hence my hanging out on this blog and hanging on to their every word!
    I’m not much one for mainline (“literary”?) fiction but one novel I adore and love to read again and again is A.S. Byatt’s “Possession”–beautiful, romantic, evocative, meaningful on so many levels. I’m also crazy about Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes series that begins with “Beekeeper’s Apprentice”–the second novel, “A Monstrous Regiment of Women” has a little bit of everything–great writing, history, mystery, romance, non-conformist heroine, and even a tad bit of theology.

    Reply
  31. Hi ladies! It’s the sister,again.
    It was Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer. Had to have a wisdom tooth removed and knew I’d be home for a few days. Luck of the draw – I just picked it up at mall bookstore. I was hooked and went on to read all her books, inculding her mysteries. I still reread Devil’s Cub. Loretta actually found me a hardcopy a few years ago.

    Reply
  32. Hi ladies! It’s the sister,again.
    It was Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer. Had to have a wisdom tooth removed and knew I’d be home for a few days. Luck of the draw – I just picked it up at mall bookstore. I was hooked and went on to read all her books, inculding her mysteries. I still reread Devil’s Cub. Loretta actually found me a hardcopy a few years ago.

    Reply
  33. Hi ladies! It’s the sister,again.
    It was Devil’s Cub – Georgette Heyer. Had to have a wisdom tooth removed and knew I’d be home for a few days. Luck of the draw – I just picked it up at mall bookstore. I was hooked and went on to read all her books, inculding her mysteries. I still reread Devil’s Cub. Loretta actually found me a hardcopy a few years ago.

    Reply
  34. Y’all have brought back some great memories! Tryst, which is by Elswyth Thane, really is an unusual book, and “The People” series by Zenna Henderson is a great SF read if you happen to love romance as well as SF.
    I think I had been reading romance since I was a little girl without realizing it–The Perilous Gard and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, anyone?–but it was a desire to be closer to my sister that got me to pure romance.
    She got me to read A Hazard of Hearts by Barbara Cartland. Quite an older title of Cartland’s, complete with the hero’s mother being an opium addict! And on the front cover, it said “in the tradition of Georgette Heyer…” That led to the obvious question–“who the %^&% is Georgette Heyer?” So off my sister and I went on a years-long search for Heyer’s backlist (pre-Internet days meaning it could take years to find elusive titles!).
    I still remember finding our last missing title, Pistols for Two, while in college; paying for it with *pennies* (hey, I was a college student); and running back to my dorm room to call my sister, screaming into the phone, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
    So Heyer led to Claire Darcy, which led us to the then-contemporary trad Regency writers–Balogh and Putney. And I haven’t looked back since.
    ml

    Reply
  35. Y’all have brought back some great memories! Tryst, which is by Elswyth Thane, really is an unusual book, and “The People” series by Zenna Henderson is a great SF read if you happen to love romance as well as SF.
    I think I had been reading romance since I was a little girl without realizing it–The Perilous Gard and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, anyone?–but it was a desire to be closer to my sister that got me to pure romance.
    She got me to read A Hazard of Hearts by Barbara Cartland. Quite an older title of Cartland’s, complete with the hero’s mother being an opium addict! And on the front cover, it said “in the tradition of Georgette Heyer…” That led to the obvious question–“who the %^&% is Georgette Heyer?” So off my sister and I went on a years-long search for Heyer’s backlist (pre-Internet days meaning it could take years to find elusive titles!).
    I still remember finding our last missing title, Pistols for Two, while in college; paying for it with *pennies* (hey, I was a college student); and running back to my dorm room to call my sister, screaming into the phone, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
    So Heyer led to Claire Darcy, which led us to the then-contemporary trad Regency writers–Balogh and Putney. And I haven’t looked back since.
    ml

    Reply
  36. Y’all have brought back some great memories! Tryst, which is by Elswyth Thane, really is an unusual book, and “The People” series by Zenna Henderson is a great SF read if you happen to love romance as well as SF.
    I think I had been reading romance since I was a little girl without realizing it–The Perilous Gard and The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope, anyone?–but it was a desire to be closer to my sister that got me to pure romance.
    She got me to read A Hazard of Hearts by Barbara Cartland. Quite an older title of Cartland’s, complete with the hero’s mother being an opium addict! And on the front cover, it said “in the tradition of Georgette Heyer…” That led to the obvious question–“who the %^&% is Georgette Heyer?” So off my sister and I went on a years-long search for Heyer’s backlist (pre-Internet days meaning it could take years to find elusive titles!).
    I still remember finding our last missing title, Pistols for Two, while in college; paying for it with *pennies* (hey, I was a college student); and running back to my dorm room to call my sister, screaming into the phone, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
    So Heyer led to Claire Darcy, which led us to the then-contemporary trad Regency writers–Balogh and Putney. And I haven’t looked back since.
    ml

    Reply
  37. I love the Elizabeth Marie Pope books. When I was in grad school, she came to dinner once–one of my roommates had been her protegee at Mills College.

    Reply
  38. I love the Elizabeth Marie Pope books. When I was in grad school, she came to dinner once–one of my roommates had been her protegee at Mills College.

    Reply
  39. I love the Elizabeth Marie Pope books. When I was in grad school, she came to dinner once–one of my roommates had been her protegee at Mills College.

    Reply
  40. I remember it vividly: it was 1981 after my sophomore year of college, and I was down with mono. Bad – double ear infection, strep throat, mono, UTI, anemia, I was a wreck. And for some reason, I found my father’s copy of Georgette Heyer’s False Colors. I actually didn’t realize it was Heyer, it was a Signet Regency reprint. 10 years later, I ealized what I had stumbled across, but by then I was hooked. Amazing how karma plays a role in our reading habits….

    Reply
  41. I remember it vividly: it was 1981 after my sophomore year of college, and I was down with mono. Bad – double ear infection, strep throat, mono, UTI, anemia, I was a wreck. And for some reason, I found my father’s copy of Georgette Heyer’s False Colors. I actually didn’t realize it was Heyer, it was a Signet Regency reprint. 10 years later, I ealized what I had stumbled across, but by then I was hooked. Amazing how karma plays a role in our reading habits….

    Reply
  42. I remember it vividly: it was 1981 after my sophomore year of college, and I was down with mono. Bad – double ear infection, strep throat, mono, UTI, anemia, I was a wreck. And for some reason, I found my father’s copy of Georgette Heyer’s False Colors. I actually didn’t realize it was Heyer, it was a Signet Regency reprint. 10 years later, I ealized what I had stumbled across, but by then I was hooked. Amazing how karma plays a role in our reading habits….

    Reply
  43. My first great romance was “Beauty and the Beast” when I was about 10 or 11. Then, in the 8th grade, it was “Jane Eyre.” No only a romance, but it had SEX in it too! I did not come out of my room for three days, straight, when I read “Gone with the Wind,” about which, even then, fascinated as I was, I felt ambivilent. In my family’s house, romance was ridiculed, let alone Harlequins! (It will not surprise you to know my parents were unhappily married). My first “unliterary” romance was “The Wolf and the Dove,” and I’ve read thousands of great romances since then!

    Reply
  44. My first great romance was “Beauty and the Beast” when I was about 10 or 11. Then, in the 8th grade, it was “Jane Eyre.” No only a romance, but it had SEX in it too! I did not come out of my room for three days, straight, when I read “Gone with the Wind,” about which, even then, fascinated as I was, I felt ambivilent. In my family’s house, romance was ridiculed, let alone Harlequins! (It will not surprise you to know my parents were unhappily married). My first “unliterary” romance was “The Wolf and the Dove,” and I’ve read thousands of great romances since then!

    Reply
  45. My first great romance was “Beauty and the Beast” when I was about 10 or 11. Then, in the 8th grade, it was “Jane Eyre.” No only a romance, but it had SEX in it too! I did not come out of my room for three days, straight, when I read “Gone with the Wind,” about which, even then, fascinated as I was, I felt ambivilent. In my family’s house, romance was ridiculed, let alone Harlequins! (It will not surprise you to know my parents were unhappily married). My first “unliterary” romance was “The Wolf and the Dove,” and I’ve read thousands of great romances since then!

    Reply

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