You Never Forget the First

susannah When I saw Sarah Johnson’s giveaway over at Reading the Past, her request for people to comment with the name of the novel that got them interested in reading historical fiction. Her contest got me thinking not just of historical fiction I have loved, but about the first novel that hooked me on romance. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pick just one! There have been too many firsts along the way for me.

Susannah by Candice F. Ransom – I read a lot of children’s historical fiction, but this one sticks out to me as the first book that really got me interested in romance. The timing of my finding this book was perfect. I was in 5th grade and just starting to create a third category for the boys in my class beyond being buddies or annoyances. The plight of the heroine in Civil War Virginia seemed so real to me and the star-crossed lovers theme seemed impossibly romantic to my awkward, tongue-tied self. I reread this book several times and even though I knew how it would end, I just wanted to live it all over again as many times as I could.

Window on the Square by Phyllis A. Whitney – My mother read (and still reads) a lot of gothic and romantic suspense. When I was about 11 or 12, she set me up with this book. Again, I was hooked. I had read books from the adult side of the library before, but this was the first time I had done it for fun. I loved the moodiness of the story and its Gilded Age New York setting. This book was my initiation into the fabulous world of Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt and their gothic contemporaries, and I have never forgotten it.

Rebellion by Nora Roberts – And then there was that first romance to take me out of the “kisses” category. I can’t remember how I stumbled across the book, but I still remember parts of it so well that I could probably recite them. The criticisms Mrs. Giggles levels at this book are really quite valid, but it’s still a fun read! It’s not perfect, but it is magical. Deep down parts of the story defy logic, but Serena and Brigham had such chemistry – and the bedside vigil just did it for me. Other books had pulled me over to the romantic sides of history and suspense, but this book got me hooked on historical romance in a big way. Most of my babysitting money fed my closet Harlequin Historicals habit, and Rebellion is the book that led the way.

Roselynde by Roberta Gellis – However, I wouldn’t be the madly voracious romance reader I am today if it weren’t for the first big book. I read this one in college and WOW! I had been squeamish about buying some historicals because of their awful covers, but Gellis tells such a good story that the book could have been upholstered in psychedelic, anatomically incorrect writhing people with flowing mullets and I would have bought it anyway. Seeing how history, beautiful romance and wonderful use of language all came together made me respect the genre even if others didn’t. And it was the experience of reading this book (and the glom that came later) that made me bring the romance reading out of the closet.

So, what was your first (or firsts)? What did it do for you? Shamelessly add some books to all of our TBR piles!

-Lynn Spencer

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56 Responses to “You Never Forget the First”

  1. Eileen says:

    does anyone remember Laurie Mc Bain? She was one of the first for me!

  2. Julie says:

    @ Sandy — THANK YOU!!!!! I can now check out Abebooks or someplace like that to see if I can find another copy. It was my Mom’s and it’s disappeared over the years. If I can find 2, I’ll give her one of them to make up for the missing one.

    I agree with you that historical romance is better than it used to be. I just wish the authors would pay more attention to some historical accuracy. There are times when the modern dialogue is very jarring (back in the olden days, they weren’t afraid of the word “sex” for “male” or “female.” Why are we supposedly “enlightened” types afraid of it?????). Or when a writer has no clue about British titles. With the Internet, there is no excuse not to do your homework. For example, I love Lisa Kleypas’ “Lady Sophia’s Lover,” but she’s the daughter of a Viscount and would be a mere “Miss.’

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