Romance Through the Generations

readingRomance reading is such a big part of my life for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the influence of my family members on my choice of reading material. I grew up in a household in which books were always a part. We always had multiple bookshelves crammed to overflowing, books in boxes, books in bags, and hidden under the beds. There was a variety of tomes, with a healthy selection of romance. Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart existed peaceably alongside Dickens and Frank Slaughter.

My grandfather, as was common in that day, quit school in the third grade to go to work in the coal mines to help support his family. He was a highly intelligent man who, unfortunately, did not have the opportunity to receive much formal education. He compensated for this by reading constantly. His favorites? Westerns and Harlequins. He adored his “love stories” and kept a stack knee deep around the perimeter of the rooms in his house. It was such a fun occasion to visit, with he and my mother swapping books, reading descriptions and discussing the merits of each.

My mother and my aunts share the love of romance as well. We love to get together to trade books and a trip to the bookstore is almost always a family affair. At one of our book swapping occasions, my aunt, who is well into her seventies, picked up a book and announced, “Heather, this is absolutely the raunchiest book I have ever read in my life!” I thought to myself, “Well she will certainly never take any more recommendations from me.” Surprisingly, she straightened, smiled, and said, “But I liked it!”

For us, romance is not just a way to pass the time. It’s a way that we bond, something that brings us together over our shared love of love. When we phone one another, inevitably after the how-are-yous, the topic will turn to “what are you reading?” And then, “You must try this book.” Fortunately we share the same reading tastes for the most part, so we hardly ever go wrong with our recommendations to one another.

I think there is something about love and its power of redemption that appeals across generations. Do you have a loved one who has influenced your reading tastes? Or a tradition of exchanging books within your family? And who wants to come to the Stanton residence for Sunday dinner, a book trade, and a trip to the bookstore?

- Heather S. AAR

14 thoughts on “Romance Through the Generations

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  3. My mom (who was also my writing partner for my first eight books) read to me from when I was very young. Lots of children’s books, of course, but we read “Pride and Prejudice” when I was six (after I saw the Garson/Olivier movie) and started on Georgette Heyer when I was ten. She introduced me to Mary Stewart, Dorothy Sayers, Sabatini, and all sorts of other writers I love today and who definitely influenced me as a writer. I in turn introduced her to Dorothy Dunnett :-). Even after she stopped reading outloud to me, we would read the same books and talk about them which eventually segued into writing together and talking about our own books.

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  5. JM love your final thought, “I don’t know what I could have accomplished with the time I’ve spent reading romance books but then – I don’t care.”

    Heather, This was a beautiful peek into your family of bookworms. It’s clear you love your people as much as you love your books.

    My mother introduced me to romance novels simply by leaving them laying around. I picked them up and started reading them myself in my early teens. Now we share suggestions and have several favorite authors in common.

    My mother-in-law is one of the people who reads literature for the words. She can’t understand why her husband powers through mysteries. She thinks the speed with which he reads is a sign of mental laziness. I keep telling her reading is about plot.

    Really the words are the vehicle into the story. Sure, the vehicle can be really nice, like a cherry red Ferrari, but it’s where you go in the vehicle that makes life interesting.

  6. Growing up I always saw my parents reading. they mostly read non-fiction and what would be termed ‘classics”, but my dad usually kept a Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour or a popular supense novel such as a John Le Carre to take on his frequent business trips. he said they were much more suited to the noisy surroundings of airports and such.

    My dad grew up in coal mining country, and was the first in his family to go to college. Because of that he did a lot of “catch-up” reading as an adult. He was the one who passed along most of the more memorable books I reed as a teenager. I can remember passing him in the hall or living room and have him hand me a book, “Read this, it’s really good!” That’s how I came to read Faulkner’s Sound and Fury, and Hugo’s Les Miserable. He also read along with me in high school when I had to read books like Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies. Discussing them with him helped me tolerate books I otherwise disliked!

    My entire extended family enjoys reading, especially popular fiction (Kite Runner, etc.) and fantasy. I spent years reading mysteries and fantasies before wandering over to the romance shelves. I am alone in my family, and my husband’s family, as a romance reader except for my oldest daughter who now reads some authors. In fact, both my family and my husband’s are populated by English Lit majors and teachers, as well as published and aspiring authors. I’m definitely the “black sheep” when it comes to reading. My husband is very supportive and even reads a few cross-genre books (Linnea Sinclair, Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke, etc.) but most of the family look at reading romance as the equivalent of an adult watching the Disney Channel and calling it well-acted and well-written. On top of that, NONE of my friends reads romance, and think of them all as soft-porn written for lonely, unfulfilled women.

    By reading to our children constantly well into their teens, as well as surrounding them with all kinds of books all the time, my husband and I have managed to raise 5 avid readers, even if their choice of genre differs.

    I will add that people read for different reasons- my mom-in-law, brother, sister, etc, all read for the beauty of the WORDS. The language and word-smithing are of paramount importance, followed by a complex and emotionally satisfying plot. HEA NOT required, beautiful prose is.

  7. Oh Heather, I heart your grandfather, Big Time! What a lovely legacy he gave to you and your family.

    My father and mother only read ‘classics’ and then only when they couldn’t do anything else. My mother preferred to move rather than sit and although she didn’t discourage my reading habits she didn’t quite understand my fascination with romance books, either … and can I say I was alright with that when I went from Barbara Cartland to Lady Chatterley and beyond.

    I had no family members or friends to share my favorite authors with or to help me find new authors and I was thrilled when I first found the romance communities online so long ago.

    I don’t know what I could have accomplished with the time I’ve spent reading romance books but then – I don’t care.

  8. I envy you your romance reading family. My daughter reads (and now reviews!) romance. But she is it – and I have a large extended family. My siblings are supportive and will defend romance, but none of them read it.

    My dad was a big fiction reader, which is probably where I inherit the tendency. He didn’t read romance, but he would sit in front of the TV every night with a book in his hand.

  9. What a sweet story! My mom and maternal grandma have always read literary fiction and a few mysteries. So unfortunately when I was growing up mom was always trying to steer me away from romance. On my dad’s side my grandma has always read women’s fiction and a few romance novels. She’s still a voracious reader at age 91 and particularly likes historical fiction in the vein of Philippa Gregory.

  10. My Mother and I both had a great love of reading. During my early adolescence, we had a great partnership. I scouted out the stores, and she provided the money. We both were very excited when a new Georgette Heyer book showed up at our local drugstore. When I started working at our local five and ten cent store, she then reaped the benefit, since I spent a large portion of my check on books.

    When I moved away, I always put back for books for her to read. And like Theresa and her family, books always showed up in our Christmas stockings. My aunt also read romances. She received Harlequin books by mail, and when she came to visit, we always received two or three grocery sacks of books.

    After my grandmother, moved in with my parents, I took over the job of ordering books on tape for her. That was my first experience with how different love scenes play out on tape vs. reading them. But my grandmother never really complained. I think she just went to sleep. And I learned the kisses authors.

    My brothers weren’t big readers while I was growing up, but now they both read quite a bit. One brother did stick his toe in the romance genre this past year. The other reads science fiction. Still, there are some books that we have in common.

    This year, I bought my kindle 3, sending my kindle 2 to one of my brothers. The other did some work for my Dad, and as a thank you received a kindle also.

    The next generation. . . my nieces love to read also.

    We don’t talk books as much as we used to, but our love of reading is constant in our lives.

  11. I grew up sharing books with my mom. Although our tastes aren’t always the same (she prefers women’s fiction to romance – crazy, huh? :)) we love talking to each other about what we are reading. What has been so fun in the past few years is that since my dad retired I have become his main source of book suggestions. He loved the Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and Anne Tyler books I gave him. He won’t read romance, although I know he would love Georgette Heyer or Patricia Veryan – I’ll keep trying!
    My siblings are all readers but we like different genres, but since I read everything I get to talk to one brother about non-fiction, the other brother about mysteries, and my sister about current bestsellers.
    Now I give lots of suggestions to my sons. I just need a romance-reader in the family!

  12. Heather, I love these family stories. Any man who reads romance is awesome by me–and I think it’s great that your aunt liked the “raunchy” book. I completely agree that books can create a powerful bond.

    Trading favorite books with loved ones is, I think, the most fun way to find new favorites. And it’s good for authors too: my friends and I swap books all the time, and inevitably when a favorite author comes out with a new title, we can’t wait to swap and we all go buy our own copy.

    My sister and I live far apart, so we just swap recommendations and go book-hunting on our own. We do have a tradition of always giving each other books for birthdays and Christmas. I’m always eager to see what she’s come up with!

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