Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Love Affair

“I just want to live happily ever after, every now and then.“ Jimmy Buffett

I’m a romance junkie. It started in my teen years, around sixteen or seventeen years of age. In desperate need of something to read (okay, maybe I asked repeatedly to read one) I picked up one of my Mom’s Harlequins. What ensued was the beginning of a love affair with happily ever after. I only read the occasional one, but once I moved away from home I kept a stash handy. You know, to read on those nights we decided to rent movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Once back home and snug in my bed and needing to keep images of chainsaw welding psychopath at bay I’d pull out a Harlequin. Lulled by the promise of happily ever after, I would fall into a peaceful sleep.

Of course my real life looked more the Happily N’Ever After movie. Some of my dates were decidedly more like the vain and clueless Prince Humperdink and rather less like Rick, who’s the true hero of the story.

Rick: What's goin' on?

Mambo: [watching Prince Humperdink storm the castle] There's the dashing prince, he's charging, he's wielding his noble sword, with... with fiery determination, he's falling off, he's falling off the steed, he fell off... he's on the ground now, he's on the ground, he's lookin' for his noble sword...

Rick: I'm almost startin' to feel sorry for the guy!

Mambo: He's feeling around, is that, he has a stick.

[Humperdink shrieks]

Thankfully, I did manage to meet my Rick equivalent.

For the next few years I read only occasionally. Working, socializing and later on a book club to feed the need to read kept me busy and I didn’t set aside much time to read romance. But eventually my eyes wandered back to the happily ever after section in the bookstore. It wasn’t until my late twenties when I picked up a novel featuring the Malory-Anderson families that I discovered my first must buy author, Johanna Lindsey. My seduction by the romance genre was back on track and my love of historical romance began.

Then Johanna Lindsey quit writing for a while, or at less I couldn’t find anything new, and someone recommended another author. So off I went to the bookstore looking for something written by an author named Nora Roberts. She didn’t write historicals but I was desperate. I bought the first book in her Chesapeake Bay series, went home and fell absolutely in love with the story. The next day I went back and bought the other two in the series. I had my second must buy author and that series is still one of my favorites. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve reread Cameron, Ethan and Phillip Quinn’s stories. Nora Roberts still retains a space on my must buy list.

Since then I’ve accumulated quite a list of must buy authors. My love affair with the romance genre continues and will continue for…forever, only now I write happily ever after as well as read it.

Do you remember the title of the first romance you ever read? Do remember the name of your first must buy author or how you found out about them? When did you first start reading romance or fall in love with a specific genre?

Of course, the best HEA exists in reality and is the one you make for yourself.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” Denis Waitley


Janet said...

Katherine Woodiwiss - no question.

I, too, love romance. And when I find an author who blows me away, I will do everything in my power to read her entire backlist AND she becomes an auto buy for me. Brockmann, Phillips, Lowell. I have more, but I won't list them all.

Glad you found your 'Rick', Karyn. Every romance writer needs her own real life hero. Great post!

Karyn Good said...

Good morning, Janet. Suzanne Brockmann and JR Ward for sure for me. I love their voice and style, also Tara Janzen! Those are a few of my favs and who write books similiar to how I'd liked to sound.

Ban said...

my first 'must buy' author was walter farley - i read ALL the black stallion books when i was a little girl. not sure when i read my first romance but it was a 'harlequin'ish book about a girl named talia who drove a jeep and had some kind of wild cat for a pet (anyone know that one - i'd be really interested in finding out the name.) anyway i read a few but didn't get too much into them ... it was fantasy that grabbed my heart. i loved the idea of going to far off places, meeting strange and mysterious characters and creatures ! the series that still sticks with me is melanie rawn's dragon prince series though i read and loved tons of them ! as i got older, more an more romance crept into these books and i started to develop an appreciation for it - it was another layer, another connection for the characters. fantasy is still my genre of choice and will always be close to my heart but i definately enjoy the romantic element tucked neatly in there.
ps: found my 'rick' too ;)

Karyn Good said...

Hey ban. My son is a fantasy reader, that's his genre and always has been. I guess technically my first must buy author wrote the Bobbsey(?) Twins books. I loved those books. Does anyone remember the name of that author? Then Nancy Drew and so forth and so on so my first love was Mystery.

I'm reading my first fantasy book in a long time write now. A recommendation of Hayley's Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. Very, very interesting! What I do love about it is that the Carey's style is far removed from mine that I can read it without analyzing it to pieces.

Lucky Rick!

Karyn Good said...

I meant to say lucky your rick!

Ban said...

Carey is low fantasy but I'm behind Hayley all the way !!! Her writing style is one of the most beautiful I've ever read. There are some parts in there (I personally) could have done without but I've got all the books in her first arc and plan on getting the newest releases asap !

Anita Mae Draper said...

My first romance books were Harlequins. I'd buy them for 60 cents a piece at the corner drug store while waiting for the city bus to take me to high school. Two of them are ingrained in my memory:

1. I can't remember the title, but it was about a widower and his young son. And I can't remember if the heroine was the nanny or teacher (so much for my ingrained memory LOL) but what I do remember is the little boy on stage during a school performance and a wall of fire between him and the others. In danger herself, the heroine stood there and coaxed the little boy to jump over the flames into her arms. When the dad found out, he had his epiphany. But the trust that had developed between the child and the woman is what stuck with me. I wanted that same trust between me and my kids someday.

2. The Blue Rose - The hero was a rose breeder determined to be the first breeder to develop a blue rose. The heroine was a scent expert who applied for a 'sniffing' job in the hero's perfume manufacturing plant. This book was so satisfying, I remember reading it about 6 times over the next few years. And I bet if I looked hard enough, I probably still have it hidden somewhere amongs my boxes in the quonset. :)

Thanks for letting me re-live those memories, Karyn.

Oh and yes, Janet, as I approached my 20's, Katherine Woodiwiss became a favorite of mine as well.

Karyn Good said...

All I know ban, is it would take me ten years to come up all the characters and their unique names she has introduced so far in this book and I'm only at the beginning!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I can easily remember my first romance novel, as I bought it about three years ago: My Noble Knight by Cynthia Breeding. I bought it because a] I figured I should eventually read one, and b] the shirtless swordsman on the front reminded me of someone.

I don't have any auto-buys in that genre yet, but if I ventured deeper into say involved historical romances (or maybe urban fantasy) I might find some reliable standards. Very first auto-buy would be Michael Tod's Woodstock saga, unfortunately long in print by the time I discovered the three books. First fantasy backlist ransack was Mercedes Lackey, but I actually haven't bought any of her new releases as she's wandered away from the series I liked, and honestly I haven't been able to get past some of the newer fluffy covers. I fear the insides will be fluffy as well, and have gone elsewhere for the moment. Actually I think she has some books under Harlequin's fantasy line now.

Karen, I'm so glad you're enjoying Carey's book. I seem to be mentioning it a lot lately, which probably means I need to read something new. Carey would be an auto-buy for me now, except I'm behind on her list of offerings and her writing can infect my own, so I try to space them out, especially now that I'm working in first person. The decision to change pov didn't come from her books, but writing my test sections right after rereading Dart was an interesting experience. They ended up more flowy than snarky at first!

Karyn Good said...

Hey Anita. What an excellent memory you have. I think one of the first romance books I read was by Barbara Cartland but for the life of me I can't remember the name and have only a vague sense of the story. I looked on the internet to see if maybe I could figure out the name of the book but by she published or wrote over 600 books! I think I remember the name of one of my early Harlequin's and that was Anne Mather's Leopard in the Snow.

Glad you had a nice wonder down memory lane.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Hayley. Funny story. Not being familiar with the Fantasy genre or Carey I thought the author's name was Kushiel and the book's name was Dart. Oh man, so it took me awhile to find it. I worry myself sometimes. I am enjoying it but I have to admit, at first, after the first several pages I was - omygosh really, she's eleven! It's very descriptive, very sensual and the further I go the more I'm enjoying it.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Karyn, I get thrown off sometimes by the language in first person narratives, especially when the character is a child, but I think in this case there's a good distinction, since, as narrator, she does interject into her own story sometimes ("I didn't know then.." for example) which gives it a quality slightly like a memoir. In that sense, it's more acceptable to get that sort of description and such during a character's youth. I like the way she handles a very childlike for of sensuality though, it feels realistic to me (you know, for someone stricken with Kushiel's Dart).

I'd love to hear what you think of it as you keep going :)

Ban said...

me too actually, never had the chance to talk to anyone about that book - tried to get my sister to read it as we have similar tastes and love to analyse movies we see but she never did ...

Ban said...

ah,we're all allowed typos now and again ...

Karyn Good said...

Hi Hayley and Ban,

Yes, the memoir feel of it is very appealing. It took me a bit to get into the swing of the prose and how Carey writes, the foreign sound to many words and names but I'm in the right mindset now and it's easier.

And I agree, for this child, her reactions are appropriate, alarming, but appropriate.

Also enjoying the first person POV.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
I think the first romance I read was in the early eighties. I wish I could remember the author, but it was a romantic suspense. The hero was a lawyer who had recently lost his young son in a car accident and had given up on on his career and his life. His friend talks him into taking the case of a woman who was trying to divorce a man suspected of being connected to the Mafia. She had a five year old daughter who the hero falls in love with. It was a great book and all these years later I still remember it.

I love to read but these days I certainly don't read as much as I'd like to. Some of my favorites are Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockman, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverley. I've heard so much about JR Ward that I'm definitely going to have to pick up one of her books. Oh, and the Chesapeake series from Nora Roberts, I have that too. In fact a friend of mine who once owned a bookstore, gave me the first book in the series. She was at some big Canadian book expo and Nora Roberts was there, signing books. My friend got me an autographed copy, knowing how much I liked her books. I still treasure it.


Silver James said...

Hey, Karyn! Finally back to comment. Better late than never, I hope.

My first romances were actually westerns. Louis L'Amour's books always had a layer of romance and my dad and I shared reading them. The first two books I checked out of the adult section of the local library when I was 11 was Mary Stewart's THE MOONSPINNERS and Ian Fleming's THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. What can I say?

Helena said...

Karyn, you have opened a huge topic. I've been away and missed commenting the last couple of days, but I have to get my oar in today.

I was a voracious reader as a child and read everything my little one-room school and the Prov. travelling library had, regardless of age level. I read Gone with the Wind when I was 10. (I guess that doesn't qualify as HEA)

I loved westerns, horse and dog stories, nurse stories, and teenage romance (Sixteen, Seventeenth Summer) when I was in my teens. But I don't think I had access to any Harlequins during that time.

The first romance novel I remember was the traditional English nurse/doctor story that Harlequin used to bring in from Mills & Boon, but I cannot recall the author or title.

When I did become somewhat addicted and almost at the same time began to think I should try to write a romance myself, I tried to read all the Canadian romance authors I could find out about. In those days, it was Judith Duncan, Margot Dalton. More recently, CJ Carmichael, and Lois Richer and Donna Alward because I've met them. Mostly I read SuperRomances because I like a longer read.

Because I also have a long list of other books on my list of TBR, I try to limit how many romances I read nowadays. Currently, I have Joan Barfoot, Jodi Picoult, Philippa Gregory, David Carpenter, Anthony Bidulka and others on my shelves waiting for me to add more reading hours to my days.

I'm waiting to receive Donna Alward's latest, Hired: The Italian's Bride because it's set in Banff where I met and married my husband during the time I was living and working in Calgary. So I have had my own HEA, too.

Great post, Karyn. Thanks for the memories.

Karyn Good said...

Are you kidding me, Jana? You have a signed copy of Cam's story? How sad is it that I have goosebumps? I would treasure that too.

Its sounds like your first reading romance experience was a treasure too.

And Jana, if you're into big, alpha male vampires than the The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward is for you. Make sure and let me know what you think.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Silver. Those sound like great books to read with your Dad! I've never read any of the James Bond books. What did your 11 year old self think of Ian Fleming? I have read The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment all by Mary Stewart and very much enjoyed them. I didn't realize she wrote romance as those I read were more historical or legend based.

Karyn Good said...

Hi Helena. Gone With the Wind at ten? Now, that's impressive.

I think its a wonderful idea to single out our Canadian romance authors to read. The ones' you've mentioned are talented, for sure.

I've read a couple of Jodi Picoult's books through my book club, The Sanity Seekers. In fact we've read her My Sister's Keeper that has now been made into a movie. But I won't inflict my rant about that book on you.

I can't think of a more romantic place to meet your HEA than Banff, Alberta and surrounded by the mighty Rockies.

PS: I don't know if you're interested or not but I recently read an absolutely wonderful book written by the Canadian author Lawrence Hill titled The Book of Negroes that gives the life story of Aminata Diallo, a free born African who was captured as a young girl, taken to America and sold into slavery. A very compelling story and well worth picking up if your TBR pile can handle another addition.

Silver James said...

Mary Stewart wrote many romantic suspense: Airs Above Ground, Touch Not the Cat, Moonspinners, and more, all written in the 50s and 60s.

Like Helen, I'd read everything in the small library in my hometown. My dad took me in, put my name on his card and told the librarians that I could read anything I wanted. Disny's Wonderful World of Color had just done a mini-series on the Moonspinners with Hayley Mills. (The show held very little resemblance to the book). And, James Bond was big back then. I was just cruising the shelves, saw the name and was intrigued by the title. The Spy Who Loved Me was written from the heroine's POV, the only time Fleming did so. I have to admit that I sort of skimmed over the sexy bits. LOL. Not that I didn't understand them, but found them boring. What can I say? I was 11. *wink*

Captain Hook said...

I stole my first romance from my grandmother when I was 7 and was horrified at the sex scenes :) Reread it at 12 and was hooked for life.

Karyn, I own every Johanna Lindsey, Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward and Suzanne Brockman there is. Also Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon (I like the paranormal).

And (don't kill me) but I have a second set of Nora's books, every one signed. Her bookstore is only a couple of hours from here so I tend to go to all her signings there.

Ban, I loved the Black Stallion series too!

Anita, I hate to say it, but you completely dated yourself with your comment. Sixty cents for a book ???

Karyn Good said...

Hey Silver. I remember my Mom taking me with her to our small town library. It was always such a treat.

Karyn Good said...

Oh my gosh, Captain, did you say you live close to Nora Roberts bookstore. I'm so jealous. More signed Nora Roberts books. I need to get me one of those some day.

You have a book collection to make my heart flutter.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Cap'n - yes, the original Harlequin Romance books (Mills and Boon re-issues) were 60 cents when I was in high school back in the early 70's. And just to put it in perspective, I was working part-time at McDonalds and making the minimum wage of 1.15 an hour. So just think, I had to serve customers 30 mins before I could afford to buy one!

And yes, I'm dating myself, but physical age is irrevelant to me. As long as I'm young in spirit, I'm a happy camper. :)