I'm trying to remember how old I was when I started reading Romances. I know I started with a few Harlequins which I kept under the bed. One of which was Janet Dailey's The Thawing of Mara. I seem to remember this one solely for the fact that the hero's name was Sin. (Ooooo.) And, obviously, the heroine's name was Mara. I also remember a scene where he invites her to dinner and cooks two steaks with a fresh green salad. Don't know why, but that image is the ONLY one I remember from the book. I don't even remember why Mara had to be thawed. (Had something to do with her father?) (And my last parenthetical comment on this book is that I didn't realize it was by Janet Dailey until I went to Google the title to see if an image existed. One does, but not the one I remember.) The other Harlequin I have absolutely no memory of.
Let's just not walk down the path of memory lane wherein lies the moment where my Harvard-educated mother found these books under my bed. Yowza! To say she was "disappointed" in my reading choices is more than a mild understatement. To her it was as if she had found a pound of weed under there. Man, was she pissed.
I remember graduating to bodice rippers in prep school, which would have been when I was 15. I distinctly remember buying Jude Deveraux's Highland Velvet in a bookstore near the school. I totally fell for this cover. Swwooosh! And she's up on the horse! Ooo. My little teenaged heart just pitter pattered. I remember staring at it for the longest time screwing up my courage to actually buy it. I really felt as if I were about to buy a box of condoms, I was that embarrassed. But on the other hand, I REALLY had to own that book.
OK. So now, ahem, as a much more mature person, I'm a little embarrassed by having been taken in by this cover. But, boy did it work as a marketing tool in 1982. And well, you know, just because I'm feeling a touch defensive, she does have normal sized breasts, and the descriptions of the main characters do match the cover. The horse is de trop.
I read every Deveraux I could find and shortly thereafter moved on to Shirley Busbee, Johanna Lindsey, Roberta Gellis, a touch of Beatrice Small, and Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught. Glom Glom Glom, gobble gobble gobble.
Now I have a reasonable collection of romances in my bedroom (Arnette Lamb, Laura Kinsale, selected Julie Garwoods, some Judith Ivories, and a couple of Mary Baloghs). I also have many boxes of romances in the hallway. Most of the boxed books I bought in a lot on eBay so I could trade them on Paperback BookSwap for books I really want.
So my ever-precocious daughter (11) has been asking me what in the world all these books are which come and go through the mail. And I've given her the literary criticism version of the obsession. They're about two people meeting and falling in love. They tend to be set in very specific time periods, and there's a basic formula to the plot. Oh, and by the way, there's sex.
"Ew," says the pre-teen.
"Phew," says the Mom to herself. Because I kind of knew that she'd get grossed out by sex. (I think the falling in love part is probably OK, but physical sex? Yuckers.)
So a few days ago she comes down to breakfast and asks me over cereal, "Have you read Mr. Impossible? I really liked it."
"Eh. Well, I kind of read it, but I think I had been reading too many, and I didn't really like it."
"Oh! You should read it! It's all about this girl who's really smart but no one thinks she is, and they go through pyramids, and you should try it again."
OK. Coffee is slowly seeping into my brain and the synapses finally click together. Shit. That's not rated "sweet", as in kissing only. There's full-on sex in that one. Damn Damn Damn. OK. Calm down. She was going to grow into this at some point. Deep breath.
"So, uh, didn't the sex kind of bother you? Like isn't it pretty, you know, like, strong in that one?" (OK, don't hurt me--I say "like" a lot when I'm stressed.)
"Yeah. But they let you know when it's coming."
Turns out she's read a bunch at this point--and not Harlequins. She's straight into the European Historicals. Oh Lord. I am such a bad influence.
It's not like I can tell her not to read them. (Although I'm hiding Hot Spell from her--Mommy's not ready for romantica discussions just yet.) She has a theme she gravitates to: she likes stories about women who are smarter than people give them credit for. And she's smart and opinionated, so I can see where this works.
I am so waiting for some dear friend's mother to call me one night to say, "Do you KNOW what your daughter is READING??" Gah. (Of course, simply typing that reminded me that I have already had to ask her not to bring the romance she's working on to school to read during recess.)
I certainly enjoy talking about romances, so that will be cool to share with her. But I wasn't ready for this to start in fifth grade. Kids these days.
PS: She was right. Mr. Impossible is a good book and did deserve a re-read.