Back in 2009 I was fortunate enough to see the television movie Loving Leah. In this film, Jake, a successful cardiologist, finds out that his elder brother has died. After the funeral, Jake learns that because his brother’s wife Leah has been left without children, they need to perform a ceremony called halizah in order to nullify a levirate marriage. It’s a fairly simple process and everyone is all set to go when Jake calls it off. He realizes that Leah is all he has left of his brother and he wants to hold on to her for just a few more months before they go their separate ways. Slowly, they realize that Benjamin gave them each one final gift with his parting: each other. Theirs was a slow, sweet romance and I absolutely loved it.
I then did what I always do when I love a movie – I looked for the book. Unfortunately, this movie isn’t based on one. I turned to romance, wondering if there were any novels available that matched the general premise of the film but couldn’t find any.
My very first romance novel was Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe, an old Harlequin Presents title. It starred a naïve British girl and an arrogant Argentinian cattle rancher. She had come to Argentina for a dancing job and instead found herself facing the possibility of working at a less savory profession. He had to be married in the next three days in order to inherit some land. The two make a bargain to marry without love but at some point – well, I’m sure you know what happens from there.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that romances with Hispanic characters have always been a part of my reading, even if some were drawn in somewhat stereotypical fashion. For many years Harlequin was my primary source. Along with novels by Kay Thorpe there were literally dozens of others published every year by authors like Anne Mather, Kim Lawrence, and Lynne Graham. As I began reading single titles, these characters stayed with me. From older books like Judith McNaught’s Tender Triumph to newer books like Regina Jennings’ Sixty Acres and a Bride, I’ve been able to enjoy excellent novels that celebrate the diverse cultures that make up the Latin American world.
When I first began reading romance, India was a popular setting for books. A lot of the books had to do with English characters of the British Raj falling in love, such as Mary Putney’s excellent Veils of Silk. Others were sweeping historical sagas detailing the occupation of India like The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. The descriptions of the lush, hot land beguiled me as a reader. I became an armchair traveler, visiting exotic temples, cool palaces filled with tinkling fountains and of course, devouring information on the Kama Sutra.
When the Regency domination of historicals began, exotic books were dropped in favor of glittering ballrooms. India became a casualty of the Napoleonic Wars. And perhaps evolving attitudes toward colonialism have made the British Raj look a little less romantic as well. Continue reading