If you are not a fan of the 1960’s western television show, The Virginian , then this title means nothing to you. As a caregiver for an aging relative, I can almost repeat all the dialogue. One episode opens as a young woman and her mother are traveling out west to visit relatives. On the train, the young woman is reading a dime novel featuring the western hero, Deadeye Dick. When an older man saves her from falling off her horse after tumbleweeds spook him, just like Deadeye Dick saved Bessie Burton, she has her hero. Throughout the episode the mother understands that her daughter’s impressionable age is to blame rather than the dime novels and never forbids her the joy of reading them. While watching the show, I wondered how today’s mothers guide their daughters’ reading choices through the immense choices available.
During an internet search, I saw that Wikipedia touts Samuel Richardson’s popular 1740 novel Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded as one of the first romance novels. From Jane Austen to serial romances in women’s magazines, from Georgette Heyer to Mills and Boon and finally the explosion of the genre with Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and The Flower, young girls today have a myriad of choices available to them. And even if your daughter or niece is not interested in romance now, the chance of her wanting to read one in her adolescence is very high, especially with books like Twilight being made into movies. I eased into reading romance books while in my early teens. Like many readers here, my introduction to this genre started with Harlequin romance and Georgette Heyer. While I had an aunt who disapproved, my mother never censored my reading, and we had a long history of loving the same types of books.