This past month of May I followed on Twitter #Rombklove, it was headed by Ana Coqui on twitter. For each day there was a prompt and a blogger did a post on it recommending romances on that. I think my favourites were Geeky/STEM and Old School. There was a prompt called gateway romances and it was done on the Book Thingo podcast which is excellent and you should definitely check out.
It got me to thinking about the gateway books and in particular the romances that lead me to the reader I am today. About two or three years ago I re-read some old diaries. I would not advise anyone to do this, my introspection at fifteen was cringe worthy.
One thing that I did see was how early my love of reading happened. I was also a precocious child that also makes me feel cringey. I read Descartes and Mansfield Park at twelve. I would also tell you that I had no idea what I was reading, that I could say that I read it was the only thing there. Oh and by the way Descartes? Kind of a dick in what I've read of him about him after.
I can trace some things back. The Jennifer Ehle adaptation of Pride and Prejudice came out when I was eleven. I remember watching it as it aired. It is perhaps a obvious choice but I fell in love with that story from that adaptation. I later fell in love with the book in a different way but I really think that was my first brush with romance as a genre.
I do remember when I was about twelve picking up my first Mills and Boon in the library. Mills and Boon was something I read all the time in my teens. I found the authors that I loved writing in that medium. Susan Napier, Lori Foster and Ruth Wind I found there. I read about all sorts of bizarre premises. I think one of the most far out ones was about virtual reality and a lot of racy sex scenes created in that world. I can't remember much else about it.
I found the tropes that I gravitated towards in those books. I found the rules that romances were made of. I also read a lot of Sweet Dreams (romances for teens), the only one that I really remember with any clarity was a tennis player and her boyfriend. He was called Rick, can't remember her name. What I do remember was that she was really, really good at tennis and took pride in being great. I think they broke up but got together again.
I give props to my parents at this time. I was a library addict, that was where I got the books that I wanted, I very rarely bought books (don't worry I've made up for that now in abundance) and my parents never prohibited me from reading anything.
I read a lot of chick lit at that time as well. Watermelon by Marian Keyes I remember reading. Sophie Kinsella was later, but Jill Mansell and Melissa Nathan I found through that exploration.
Just a quick thing about chick lit. The beginning of that phase, a lot of stuff that came out was experimental. Romantic comedy in book form is bloody hard to write. A lot of the writers that are under than banner deserve a lot more praise.
I also remember reading Dreaming of Larry by Jean Ure. That book was interesting to me because it was about people my age at the time. It was also about sexual agency at a time I didn't really have that much contact with reading wise, at least with people who were sixteen to eighteen.
I remember the first Katie Fforde I read which was The Rose Revived. I remember the first Jennifer Crusie I ever read which was Welcome to Temptation (which I picked up because of that cover). Both of those writers I started a love affair with that never stopped.
My romance beginnings: a twelve year old girl with a library card in the backwaters of a village. I still have the library card, just in a different place, and can share my passion with my people.
I love the stories of what began the romance road for readers. Mine I have realised covers a lot of different romances. I realised that I didn't get into historicals until way later. I only by chance picked up Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas and to my delight found a whole other corner of romance I had turned away from for whatever reason.
Happy reading this weekend!