Recently on Facebook, a fellow author asked friends to name the first romance they ever read. It was a fun discussion, triggering a wide range of responses and shared memories. But for some, the memories weren't so distinct.
Some could remember the author, but not the title. A few could remember the plot, but nothing else. And a few others admitted that the first romance they read, they didn't like.
I dipped into romance one toe at a time. First, there were the teen “malt shop” romances – which fellow Montlake author Roni Denholtz reminded me of – written by an author named Rosamond Du Jardin. (If I may add, these books were at my junior high library, and dated back at least a little before my time.) They were funny and delightful.
Then there were the gothic romances, starting with a series books by Marilyn Ross based on the Dark Shadows soap opera. From there I discovered a lady named Virginia Coffman, whom I count as a favorite to this day. Her gothics were laced with humor and charming, roguish heroes.
When one of my school friends started reading the old Emilie Loring novels, then Harlequin Romances, of course I had to try a few. Bu they didn't really spark me – and some of those earlier Harlequin heroes could be, well, really chauvinistic jerks. One notable exception: a lovely writer named Lucy Gillen, who wrote lighthearted stories with – guess what – humorous, roguish heroes.
Eventually I “grew up” and moved on. I didn't pick up another romance until, many years later, a friend gave me a copy of Nora Roberts' The MacGregor Brides. Three cousins. Three linked novelllas. Three happily-ever-afters. And I started to see what I'd been missing. These heroes weren't chauvinistic jerks. They were likable men, and – I think this is key – the stories included the man's point of view. I've found one of my favorite things about a romance is watching the hero fall in love with the heroine.
Next thing I knew, I jumped into a tub of romance novels. And in a very short time, I knew I wanted to write one – which meant reading a ton more of them. Research, you know.
There's a little bit of wish fulfillment in every good romance. We get to experience that falling-in-love moment, over and over again, without ever cheating on our husbands. In fact, studies suggest that romance reader have happier-than-average love lives.
A lot of you reading this are undoubtedly romance fans. Do you remember the book, or the author, that turned you into one?