Classic Romances

windflowerWell, I finally did it.  I’ve heard about it for years, and I’ve seen it online for lots of money.  I’ve read jealously about people who just happen to come across it for ten cents at book sales, and how it’s one of the best pirate romances ever, if not among the best romances period.  So I finally caved in.  Courtesy of an Amazon gift card, I bought and read Sharon and Tom Curtis’ cult classic, The Windflower.

I don’t know what it says about me that I spent hours wondering whether the book qualifies as a cult classic or classic – but oh well.  Not having approached this in any scientific manner whatsoever, I’ve decided it is definitely a cult classic:

  • It’s out of print, and expensive. That means supply is low and demand is high.  You can’t find a copy on the Web for anything less than $15 for one of the original mass market paperbacks, and while it isn’t the dearest thing out there, it tells me that some people (like me) want it enough to pay heap big money for bits of recycled paper that were originally worth $4.
  • It gets extremely positive, but also very selective, word of mouthThe Windflower has had a seesaw standing in the Top 100 Romances at AAR – it fluctuated between #33 and #83 for ten years, then totally dropped out of the top 100 last year.  I’m not sure that many people now have heard of The Windflower, let alone Sharon and Tom Curtis.  I’d say that’s a sign of a cult classic, not a true classic (whose names more or less never disappear).
  • “Weird as fuck.” Okay, so Urban Dictionary is crude, but it gets to the point.  A cult classic has its enthusiasts and defenders, whether it’s “so bad it’s good,” or just genuinely “good but unappreciated.”  Actually, I think The Windflower is exceptional, not for its premise or character quirks, but because of the gifted hands of its authors, Sharon and Tom Curtis, whose prose is, I think, utterly unique.

To me, a classic is a book that has stood the test of time, and that epitomizes the best qualities of romance novels, a defining exemplar.  And hey, popularity can change.  Jane Austen only came into public prominence some 50 years after her death; it took Bach 150 years, when Mendelssohn made him cool again.  So who knows?  Maybe in ten years we’ll see The Windflower in print again.

And you know what?  I think I’d go so far as to call The Windflower a personal classic.  Yeah, I’d go out on that limb.  I don’t think it was perfect, particularly during the last eighty pages which dragged, but I do think that it stands heads and shoulders above most romances in depth of characterization, and especially in the sheer élan and electricity of the writing.  You sure as hell don’t see that a lot.

And just for the hell of it, to finish off, here are my top 5 Classic Romances, in no particular order (because no way can I rank them):

  1. The Windflower, Sharon and Tom Curtis – As explained above.
  2. Whitney, My Love, Judith McNaught – Okay, it’s not my favourite in the world, but it changed things.  Hugely.
  3. Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie – To me, the epitome of contemporary romance.
  4. Angels Fall, Nora Roberts – The epitome romantic suspense.  When La Roberts is on, she hits it out of the park.
  5. Dreaming of You, Derek Craven – Possibly one of the first major European Historical romance heroes not to be an aristocrat.

This is where I turn it over to you:

  • How do you define a cult classic?  A classic?
  • What are your Classic Romances?

- Jean AAR

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16 Responses to Classic Romances

  1. Judy says:

    My first introduction to romance novels was with”Hummingbird”by LaVyrle Spencer. This author opened my eyes to the wonders of literary romance and occasionally I go back for rereads.
    I suspect a cult classic romance was the book that took your breath away with the characters, setting, storyline and made you sad that the story came to a conclusion.

  2. DabneyAAR says:

    For me, “Sweet Savage Love” was the first book I’d ever read in romance that made me realize there was a whole lot more out there than Barbara Cartland was letting on! I reread it last year and couldn’t believe how unlike most historical romances published today it is.

  3. Moriah Jovan says:

    I have it, but haven’t read it yet, so I can’t answer the question.


    I don’t think it was perfect, particularly during the last eighty pages which dragged,

    I made it through John Galt’s monologue. I think I can handle 80 pages of draggy romance. ;)

  4. Amy says:

    A cult classic to me is something that inspires whether it is awe or dislike but a book that most can talk about. I have not read nor heard of “The Windflower” but I may look into it now. The book that I heard about when I fell in love with romance was Lord of Scoundrals which I did read. Not a book I loved but good overall. The book that I have reread time and again and that I personally hold all books to is “Whitney, My Love” which people either LOVE such as me or HATE.

  5. xina says:

    I’ve had this book forever, but haven’t read it yet. All these years of owning it, I think I’m saving it…for whatever reason.
    Classic romances to me would be Judith McNaught’s early historicals…Something Wonderful, Until You, Almost Heaven. And please, someone encourage this author to put these in e-book form. Please (begging here).
    Also, Lisa Kleypas early books..Only With Your Love, Prince Of Dreams, and all those goodies by this author.

  6. Jean Wan says:

    Judy – Hummingbird is one of those books that I really, really wanted to like, but just couldn’t. On paper it was everything I wanted from romance; in actuality, not so much. But that was years ago; maybe it’s time for a re-read. I agree that cult classics definitely take one’s breath away.

    I can’t believe Moriah and xina both have the Windflower, and have resisted reading it. Mind you, I put it off for two months because I had other books to read (including a stinker of a review book), but I think I also wanted to prolong the suspense. Just ’cause.

    xina – I didn’t realize that the old J. McNaught’s aren’t available digitally. Weird. But then again, she’s been off the radar for a while.

    • xina says:

      P>xina – I didn’t realize that the old J. McNaught’s aren’t available digitally. Weird. But then again, she’s been off the radar for a while.

      She has a few titles published digitally, but only her new books. So…at some level she must be aware of e-books. Too bad her publisher couldn’t push it through. I don’t know how it works, but I for one would want them on my e-reader. I loved those older books!

  7. Leigh says:

    I rarely re-read the older books. . . It makes me think badly of myself. Seeing how the hero treats the heroine make me wonder how I would ever think that that type of behavior is acceptable.

    And looking back on my taste years ago, I picked the more melodramatic books. . . maybe that is why I rarely read them now.

    Classic books can be the best of that particular time period. . or they can be books that stand the test of time. I tend to think of them as books that stand the test of time. Cult books, to me are books that have a large following. . . similar to movies, like Rocky Horror Picture show. . . or at least everyone has heard of the book, whether they have read it or not.

  8. Moriah Jovan says:

    I can’t believe Moriah and xina both have the Windflower, and have resisted reading it.

    I have “oooh, shiny!” disease. It gets lost in the shuffle of every new distraction. Today I’m cutting the falling-down headliner out of my Granny Car.

    Also? If a mod could fix my bad HTML in my comment above, I’d be ever so grateful!

  9. Judy says:

    I checked and “Hummingbird” got AAR DIK status from Ellen M. I hope you will give a re-read and see if you feel differently about it now. I want to read The Windflower if I can find it at the trade paperback store I frequent.

  10. Jean Wan says:

    Leigh – Tastes definitely change, even the ones that used to be absolute favourites. I re-read “The Redemption of Althalus” by David Eddings, which used to be one of my favourite fantasies, a few months ago, and I was shocked by my different perception this time round, after a hiatus of a few years.

    Judy – It was because of the DIK that I picked it up a few years ago, before I joined AAR. If you find the Windflower at the trade paperback store (do you mean used bookstore?), then I congratulate you. Seriously. I have been looking high and low, in nooks and crannies, just on the off chance of finding it, and I finally gave up.

  11. melinda says:

    I got mine (Windflower) from – totally enjoyed it. Yes, I agree it’s a cult classic, especially for that *totally unique* prose you referenced – I finally decided they must have written part, if not all, tongue in cheek. I actually laughed out loud several times when it went over the top: one of the metaphors was how Merry recovered from something and was likened to an upholstered chair. Heh heh, get it? Recovered? They couldn’t have been serious when they wrote that!!

    I think it is the very definition of cult classic.

  12. HeatherS AAR says:

    I’ve always thought of a cult classic as having a small but extremely devoted following while a classic has a broader audience.

    I’d consider The Flame and The Flower a classic as well. Much like Whitney My Love, for better or worse it leaves an impression.

    I treat most of my older romances like failed relationships. It’s best for me to look upon them with nostalgia and not revisit them.

  13. kathy says:

    Also the “Wolf and the Dove” and “Thrall of Love”. What I wouldn’t give for Morgan and Cat to have their own story!

  14. karen says:

    Early Julie Garwood books The Lions Lady and The Bride are classics for me.

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