Weekly Reader

Continued from the previous page

April 27, 2001:
As a rare book librarian, I get some odd looks when I tell people I'm a romance reader. Shouldn't I be reading ancient Latin and Greek texts or researching an important early printer? Well, of course, I love these aspects of the history of the book and reading. Yet, my first and most enduring love, is the passion, the wit and the elegance of the romance novel. Growing up in the 80's my earliest experience with romance was the Sunfire romance series for young adults. Does anyone remember these? Set in different American historical times, these books, named after the young heroines portrayed, were the stuff of dreams during my elementary and middle school years. I quickly moved on to the usual suspects in literary romance...the Brontes, Austen, Mitchell. A friend in high school introduced me to series romance, which despite a few fondly remembered titles, never thrilled me as much as the Jude Deveraux and Kathleen Woodiwiss single titles did and still do. I remember trading books with friends during high school, discussing them during lunch and keeping track of what I'd read (in the early stages of my librarian neurosis, no doubt).

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My mother, an avid reader, gave up reading romances after having kids, saying they turned her brain to mush. Now, I can see her point, but I don't necessarily agree. Not having the gift of recall that I used to before my academic studies clouded my brain, I regret that I can't even remember some of the earlier romances I've read. But, leaving that all aside, there's still nothing like staying up until three o'clock in the morning because you just have to know where all that sexual tension is leading and how many times the hero (or heroine) will mess things up before there's a happily ever after.

Although my first favorites will always be Deveraux, Woodiwiss and Amanda Quick, I've lately been hooked on Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jeanette Baker. I've gone from historical titles to almost always contemporary titles. Although I truly believe, without my love of historical romance, I may never have found my true vocation as a rare book librarian. What better way to learn more about the people and times I've read about than to read what they were reading and to hold in my hands the books they would have touched.

There are particular titles I'll always remember well for various reasons...Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor because of the hilarious dialogue about "that table"...Deveraux's The Duchess for the best secondary character in Brat...A Rose in Winter by Woodiwiss for its mystery and passion...Baker's Nell for it's impeccably researched setting...Phillips' Lady Be Good and Nobody's Baby But Mine for reminding me how funny Jude Deveraux used to be...and all of the Nora Roberts trilogies for demonstrating how family relationships are as crucial to the romance plot as the chemistry between the hero and heroine. Recently I've been raving to friends about the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich, but I'm not a true mystery reader, nor will I ever be. As I said recently to a friend, I like to read about "nice things" and what's nicer than romance.

-- Kimberly Tully

April 13, 2001:
I love reading. This is strange because my parents don’t, and neither do my brother or my sister. I was the only one in my family who could be found curled up with a book, or who got books for Christmas or birthdays. I still am. I may be a teacher, but I am, in truth, a frustrated bookshop owner. I cannot walk past a bookstore without taking a detour, and spend more money each month on books than clothes. I love the holidays because I can read non-stop for weeks!

And there are so many books that I want to read! I have always had a catholic taste, but one thing has constantly shone through – an adoration for dark, strong, mysterious leading men! I fell in love with James Bond, and Simon Templar (The Saint) at a young age, for instance, and Aragorn will forever be my favourite character in The Lord Of The Rings! Before I was ten I became a big fan of the legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, and there, perhaps, is the root of my love of romantic stories. When I was about twelve, and we should have being paying attention in classes in school, I remember a friend and I avidly consuming the Poldark series, by Winston Graham. Although perhaps not romance in the strictest sense of many of the books featured on AAR, I adored the central relationship between Ross and Demelza, and, many years later they still have a special place in my heart as my introduction to the world of fictional romance, albeit with a lot of other plot threads involved.

As I grew I plundered the library – westerns, thrillers, fantasy, classics – you name it I read it. And enjoyed it most when there was romance at the heart, with that strong hero I had come to love. If he had a blighted past, or was misunderstood, then even better! This I believe comes from my favourite childhood book, which was the Ladybird Series’ telling of the fairy tale Beauty And The Beast. Early on I just loved the pictures, but as I grew I came to feel so sorry for the Beast every time that I read the story, and a sense of elation when I got to the part where Beauty returned to him. Therefore, I was the one in my ‘A’ Level class who adored Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but found Sons And Lovers hard to stomach. In my teens I discovered writers who used strong historical backgrounds. Many of these are not popular now, and were losing favour 20 years ago when I first came across them, but they have a special place in my life, and a large place on my bookshelf. They introduced me to historical romance, and thanks to the trials and tribulations they inflicted on their long-suffering heroes (plenty of those strong heroes with the blighted past, that I love so much, I can tell you!), I fell in love with the genre. I owe them an incalculable debt of gratitude. They are Rafael Sabatini, his The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood are long standing favourites; D.K. Broster, her Mr. Rowl, and The Wounded Name, are well-thumbed; Stanley J. Weyman, whose Under The Red Robe is much loved; and Jeffery Farnol. I was so happy to find that Patricia Veryan had dedicated one of her novels to Mr. Farnol. These authors and their books, many not mentioned here, are like old friends, as I know their work so well, and return to them time and time again.

Then, as was inevitable, I discovered the Regency world of Georgette Heyer, and fell in love with rakish dukes, determined heroines, and witty dialogue. I read all her stories, and then moved on to anything in a similar vein I could lay my hands on - Marion Chesney, Clare Darcy, and Sylvia Thorpe spring to mind. And Mills And Boon published a series called Masquerade Historicals, which came out every month. I devoured them. There is no doubt that I prefer my romances to be historical. Why that should be, I know not. That’s just the way it is. As I searched for more Regency romance I found A Perfect Match by Patricia Veryan (Love’s Duet in the U.S.) in a second hand store. I love this lady! My local library was able to find me Some Brief Folly, and Mistress of Willowvale (which I was heartily tempted to steal!), and that was it! Her books were just not available in the U.K. For fifteen years I searched in vain. Enquiries during a holiday to the U.S.A. met only with the news that her books were out-of-print.

However, all things come to those who wait! Last year I discovered Internet auctions, and now only have two books to go before completing her entire back catalogue. I “glommed” out big time, and boy! Does my credit card know it. But it has all been worth it. Ms. Veryan is, without doubt, my favourite author. For years I only had A Perfect Match, and I read it over and over. Now I can vary my diet! All those suffering but strong and silent heroes! To say nothing of the determined heroines, fun dialogue, and great cast of supporting characters. Heaven! Getting a computer has certainly increased my diet of romantic fiction, as, in addition to allowing me to acquire Ms. Veryan’s books I have become an avid reader of ‘shipper fan fiction for two very popular television series. (Okay I admit it – Star Trek, and Buffy!) I manage to get a ‘fix’ almost every day, thanks to the prolific outpourings of so many talented people who are willing to share their work on the internet.

And then I found AAR, and through you Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney, Signet and Zebra. So 2001 looks like being another romantic year. And a profitable one for Amazon.com!

I have to go now – so much reading to do!!!!!!!!

Happy reading everyone.

-- Karen Sanderson

March 30, 2001:
I became a voluntary reader (as opposed to reading for school) later than the rest of my family. I never read most of the classic children's book. I got started with the Tom Swift Jr. series early in my teens, went from that to science fiction, and several years later to fantasy. F&SF was my primary reading until my late 30s in the early 1990s, when I started reading romances.

I had avoided romances for years, partly because I had heard them referred to as "sh*t novels" by a frequent reader and I wasn't aware of the keep/toss dichotomy of most romance readers (for me, all books are keepers). I'm familiar with Sturgeon's Revelation from many years ago in the F&SF field: 90% of science fiction is cr*p because 90% of everything is cr*p. I just never thought to apply this to romances before I started reading them, and now I think the percentage of good romance books is well above 10%.

I suspect a lot more men would read romances if the widespread ghettoizing could be stopped. On a visit to my sister when I didn't have my usual F&SF on hand for the train trip home, she loaned/recommended a couple Heyer books. One of my brothers had also been reading romances for a few years by then and seconded her recommendation. Though from my logs it looks like I didn't actually read either on that trip, the first romance I read and recorded, on 2 August 1992, was Heyer's Sprig Muslin. Half a year later, on 13 March 1993, the next was Metzger's Cupboard Kisses. I reread Sprig Muslin and read four other Heyer Regencies that March, then went back to my usual F&SF for several months. The beginning of my shift to reading romances in large numbers really got started in August of 1993, and I read or reread 129 romances from August through the end of that year. I was at a point where I felt a strong need to lighten up, and most of my usual F&SF reading isn't very light-hearted. My best reading year since then was 1995, when I read or reread 587 romances. My schedule hasn't been as good for reading lately, so I only read or reread 239 romances in 1999 and 231 in 2000.

My romance reading almost ended early. A book by the fourth romance author I read (the first four were Heyer, Metzger, Clare Darcy, and L.Matthews) was so off-putting that I was afraid the genre was going to have only a few good authors (see Sturgeon note above). However, I started buying & trying books that weren't in my sister's shelves and reading other books recommended by my sister & brother and became a devoted reader of the genre.

I got started with Regency Romances, but was pretty lost at first. I had been so future-focused and disinterested in history that I had forgotten most of my history from school and almost never read any on my own. When I started reading Regency Romances I didn't even know (or remember) when the Regency was. The language was English, but definitely not the modern American English I was used to, the slang was especially impenetrable at first, and the culture was alien. It took several books and some outside reading to start to feel comfortable with the period, but now traditional Regencies are probably my favorite sub-genre.

Since I started with regencies, the first romance with explicit sex was another surprise (shock). After enough reading, I came to accept all levels of sexuality in romances as long as the activity fits the characters and story. My tastes have expanded from my regency start to include regency historical, other historical, contemporary, series, paranormal, time travel, futuristic, etc. sub-genres. My romance reading got a major boost when my then regular F&SF bookstore told me about a good UBS for romances. Several buyer-friendly pricing policies there helped me fill in backlists & tbr shelves. In February 1998 I started searching for romance info on the web. I found the AAR Favorite Funnies list and another good UBS.

I've searched the web off-and-on for romance book humor ratings, but have never found them-just occasional lists or single mentions of humorous romances. I started keeping a list of romances bought fairly soon after I started reading in the genre (to avoid buying duplicates), and I started noting humor ratings on authors or books in the list as an aid for bookstore visits (assuming that an author funny once is likelier to be funny again). The ratings were simple at first and expanded to the current -1 to +5 scale by late 1995. Since my list is now more extensive than any other romance humor information I've found so far, I freely share the list. A member of the Regency mailing list even has a copy of the list on her web site. In the fall of 1998, even before I read all the older columns, I wrote part of a column here at AAR. I would increase a couple ratings in the article based on later rereading, but most of it still describes my opinions fairly well.

-- Mark Pottenger

March 23, 2001:
My romance reading roots are hereditary. My grandmother, mother, sister and I are all romance reading maniacs. I have loved to read as long as I can remember and I have the horrible eyesight to prove it! I remember reading with a flashlight under the covers as a child. After I turned 16, the most exciting thing about being able to drive was that my sister and I could go to the library all by ourselves and spend hours there.

I believe that my mother started me out with Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney, because they are PG. I remember them fondly, as I have read every one of them. As a child, I also read Little Women, the six Anne of Green Gables books, the seven Chronicles of Narnia books and of course, the nine Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Of course, now my tastes have grown to more mature romance novel themes (you know, hugs, kisses and whatnot). If the girl and her guy don't get to be together in the end, I don't want to read it! Happy ending are the whole point of reading romance to me.

I prefer Medievals (Scottish/Irish, then English), Regency, Time-Travel, American West, Viking/Pirates, then Contemporaries - in just that order. I like to mix them up, unless I am reading a series. Don't you just hate it when you accidentally read a series book out of order? I do. My top favorite authors are Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught (historicals only), Johanna Lindsey, Diana Gabaldon and Catherine Coulter. My honorable mentions are Heather Graham, Deborah Simmons, Nora Roberts and a few others. Absolute favorites books are a little harder to decide on for me. Probably Kingdom of Dreams by JM, the Velvet series by JD, The Bride, The Secret, Honor's Splendor, and Saving Grace by JG. Although, I like all of JG's books, there were a couple I didn't care for much. I could go on and on and on here, but I should probably stop for now. This is way longer than it's supposed to be and I'm not done yet!

I have a very organized list of all my books (trading in books is a sin!). I have columns for author, title, genre, and read/not read. My mother has one too. My mother and sister like the same kind of books I do and my grandmother likes the short Harlequins. We borrow from each other, but there's trouble if a book isn't returned (my sister is bad about this!). I hope to share my love of books and reading with my 2 1/2 year old son (since his dad only reads the paper-boring!). I think it's working. Have I mentioned how many Clifford, The Big Red Dog books I know by heart?

Many Happy Readings!

--Jennifer Reed

March 16, 2001:
My strong inclination towards romance novels became apparent when I was gripped with an overwhelming desire to know the love story that surely lay in the future between Trixie Belden and Jim Frayne. (Trixie had her own series of books. She was the Nancy Drew of the under 16 set.) I imagined scenarios. I wrote some out. I made my friends listen. I made my Barbie dolls act out the stories. Then, thankfully, I found Harlequin. I forgot all about Jim and Trixe. Now I had access to love story after love story, and they were so much more entertaining than anything I could dream up. I don't remember any specific titles, although one I kept for a long time had a character called Sister Kitty Cat who worked at a girls' camp. Two things stand out in my mind about the books I read then. I recall arranging and rearranging them on the shelf according to all the different colors on the spine. I also recall having a distinct preference for any story about a marriage of convenience since those always allowed a little more sex seeing as the people were already married.

Somehow I got sidetracked in high school, and even though I read an awful lot of books, I only remember one real romance. The novel had African-Americans as the main characters which certainly weren't common back then, and the story was lovely. I have never seen this book mentioned in any discussion of the history of multicultural romance. I kept it and reread it several times, but don't recall the title or author. It was an historical story about a free, convent-educated girl taken into slavery when her parents die.

I had little time for pleasure reading in college; I was too busy learning to drink and dance around to loud music while longing for my own romance story. Funny how none of the guys I met were anything like a romance hero. The final semester of my senior year was quite different. All the hard work over, I looked around for something to entertain myself. A friend offered me a paper sack full of Temptations and Silhouettes that had been passed on to her from an aunt. The rest of the year my roommate and I dedicated to reading romances and drinking kool-aid! Two books from that first sack are unforgettable and definitely cemented my future as a romance reader. One was Elizabeth Lowell's Love Song for a Raven and the other was Diana Palmer's Fit for a King. I still have them both.

Graduate school was another wasteland of only serious reading. Then I married my own hero, who is really more funny than romantic, and moved to a tiny town in Wyoming which had a big used book section at the Ben Franklin. I got sick for several weeks and started reading romances to keep my mind off how bad I felt. I got a job as a librarian, and things really snowballed. I read tons of romances. I bought tons of romances. I recommended tons of romances. I found The Romance Reader on our first Internet connection. Later I found AAR.

Now we live in a big town and I'm the Reader's Advisory specialist which means I work on programs to help librarians suggest fiction books to readers. When we opened a new building, I established one of the largest paperback romance collections in the metro area. I tend to keep books that have seen better days because I know from personal experience that a romance reader looking for the last book in a series or glomming a new author doesn't mind a few rough edges. I make lists of different types of romance to give new ideas to readers. I love my job.

I wait with baited breath for the next Linda Howard or Elizabeth Lowell or Janet Evanovich (though she is filed in mystery). My own keeper shelf has every work by the these authors plus Susan Elizabeth Phillips (I have read Risen Glory!) and my new favorites; Lori Foster , Christine Feehan, Lisa Cach and Rachel Gibson. They along with all their sisters keep me company, keep me entertained; they make me happy. I personally love the steamier books and the more frankness about sex the better, even when it's just a writer using the proper terms for body parts! Every once in a while, I wonder what Trixie and Jim's story would be if a real romance writer wrote it.

--Tracy Allen

March 9, 2001:
Reading is my chicken soup! Has been for more years than I'd like to remember. My first experience with reading was, of course, the Weekly Reader in grade school. I progressed to Nancy Drew mysteries, and at the ripe old age of 13, read Peyton Place (on the sly of course). I was hooked from that point on.

My first real romance novels were of the "gothic" variety -- Mary Stuart and Victoria Holt were two of my favorite authors. From there I progressed to a love of historical romance. Barbara Cartland was my one of my favorite authors, but I quickly progressed to Judith McNaught, Jude Devereaux, Nora Roberts, and my all time favorite, Julie Garwood.

I have also formed a liking for paranormal romance. Susan Krinard was the culprit. She has been a long time favorite author of mine. (Don't you just love handsome, romantic werewolves?) I have recently started reading the "Dark" series by Christine Feehan. I am now eagerly awaiting her new releases because nothing is more romantic or exciting to me than the Carpathian males.

My husband, bless his heart, has said for years that if I devoted more time to reading educational material than what he refers to as my "trashy novels," I'd be a genius by now. However, reading romance novels is my true "get away from it all" escape. It relaxes me more than any drug could and has allowed me to visualize and visit romantic, mystical, fantastic places and times long past. More importantly -- reading has kept all my dreams alive!

--Karen Parker

March 2, 2001:
This past December, three lighted reindeer stood in our front yard as part of my parents’ attempt at holiday décor. I never gave those deer much thought, until, one night, I had the following conversation:

My Friend’s Mom: I like the way your parents did the yard. They won a neighborhood award, didn’t they?
Me: Only because nobody else on our street put up any lights.
MFM: Still, I like your reindeer family. Are they supposed to be your dad, mom, and little brother?
My Friend: Yeah, and Gina’s reindeer is inside reading.
That, my friends, is how you know a simple “hobby” has become so much more. I’ve always loved to read. As a child, I was rarely seen without a book or two in tow. Through elementary and middle school, I practically inhaled the Sweet Valley Twins series and other young adult novels. Genre or subject matter didn’t matter; a good story was a good story. I even signed up to be an 8th grade library aid just to spend an entire class period with books. (Oh, my. I just realized that I’m a huge dork.)

High school came around, and I left behind my teen books for literary fiction and the classics. A Tale of Two Cities made be bawl, and Othello enthralled me. English became one of my favorite subjects (second only to history). As editor-in-chief of the school paper, I introduced book reviews to our entertainment pages. Genre fiction was out of the question. Oprah found a willing book club member in me. Slowly, I turned into. . .a book snob. So, I did what any self-respecting book snob would do, I applied for a job at Barnes and Noble.

I began working for B&N a month into my senior year of high school. It was heaven. The smell of coffee wafting over from the café, an interesting new crowd of people, and, best of all, a discount on all the books I could get my little hands on. And, then, I noticed them, the romance readers. Women would walk into the bookstore, and leave half an hour later with an armful of romances. How can they read that stuff, I thought to myself? It was trash. Not that I’d ever read one, of course, but no book with half-naked people on the cover could actually be good. Yet, every day, there they were; those women with all the pink and purple books in their shopping basket.

Obviously, I was missing out on something. Determined not to be left on the outside looking in, I sneaked over to the romance section and grabbed the first book I saw. It was Virginia Henley’s A Year and a Day. Well, the people weren’t coming out of their clothes, and they were inside the cover. Plus, I liked Scotland, right?

Oh, yeah, I was hooked from chapter one. (Although I still cringe at the word “manroot”, makes me think of carrots.) Letting go of that initial fear that my reading tastes had sunk to an all-time low was hard. I had two rules: 1) No people covers, 2) Only straight historicals. I almost missed reading my favorite book, Outlander, because I scoffed at it’s time travel element, and Flowers From the Storm because Fabio was on the cover. Now, I enjoy historical, category, paranormal, contemporary, Regency, romantic suspense… Anything goes.

Today, I’m a sophomore at Harvard University, studying History and Literature. I’ve been a romance reader for a little over 2 years, a romance baby compared to most readers. Sure, I’m still reading the highbrow literature and other forms of “acceptable” fiction, but my romances rescue me when I need to be taken away from research papers and deadlines for an hour or two. Here at intellectual snob capital of the world, people may make derogatory comments or smirk when they see me toting the latest Harlequin Temptation around, but I could care less. I’m always up for a heated debate on the subject, and never shy away from trying to make a new convert.

Slowly, but steadily, I’m hammering out my first attempt at a romance novel. I’d like to make romance writing a career, and, someday, open my own bookstore. Just a little independent place, with free coffee and a plush sofa. It’ll be a specialty shop, and cater only to customers like myself, who know that romance can never be a hobby. It’s a way of life.

--Gina Bernal

February 23, 2001:
I came to romance through Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I had no idea it was a romance until I went to the bookstore for Dragonfly in Amber and couldn't find it until the clerk told me it was in the romance section. I was astounded and somewhat mortified. I had thought of romance novels as bodice rippers and Gone With the Wind and Pride and Prejudice were as close as I wanted to come. But there had been something in Outlander that had clicked within me. It opened me up in some way and I realized it was the romance in the novel that had done that. I read Gabaldon's list of favorite authors and tracked them down. I was deeply hooked.

I started at the library with Jo Beverley. No disappointments there. I went on with Judith McNaught, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, and Laura Kinsale. I was in heaven. Then I started branching out on my own. I read some of the books that people throw against the wall. I put little paper bag covers on the more lurid covers. I even told my son that Fabio was Tarzan. People actually teased me. I tried to stop reading romance.

Enter AAR. I don't remember how I found this site, but it is beyond wonderful. You keep supplying me with authors I haven't tried. You steer me away from clinkers and guide me directionally. If I browsed the shelves without the help of AAR, I probably would have given up. As it is, I have favorites in every genre, and I swore I would never read a contemporary. My Keeper stack grows because I have found that a scene from a book will come back and haunt me until I reread it. I had to go out and get Katherine Sutcliffe's A Fire in the Heart, and Judith McNaught's Something Wonderful, for a second time, because I realized too late that they were DIK for me. Now I am afraid to get rid of anything! What if I start craving it a year from now?

-- Cindy Tracy

February 16, 2001:
My parents always encouraged reading, and I have been a voracious reader all my life. Trips to the library and the bookstore were an essential part of my childhood. I know I started reading romances early - probably 11 or 12. Both my mother and my grandmother were big romance readers, so there were always romances about the house. I recall sneaking off with Kathleen Woodwiss' The Flame and the Flower. From there I was hooked. And I had my very first glom experience. I furiously pedaled my bike to the bookstore to buy The Wolf and the Dove and Shana (her only books at the time). I must have read all three dozens and dozens of times. It has probably been a decade since I read Shana, but I still have most of the book memorized. No need to take it on that infamous Desert Isle - I've got it all right in my head.

During my college years, romance reading was a guilty pleasure reserved for holidays and summers. In law school it was a life saving necessity. I don't think I would have made it through without Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey to turn to when the stress level got to be too much.

Still, romance reading was something that I didn't share with my peers. It was a dirty little secret I kept to myself. After I'd been practicing law for a couple of years, I 'fessed up to one of my co-workers who had become a close friend. She was skeptical at first, to say the least. However, she did break down and read Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught. Another convert! She became as rabid a fan as I, as well as becoming my sister-in-law! She says I changed her life completely - first I introduced her to romance novels and then I introduced her to my brother. I keep telling her that even though she doesn't have any eligible brothers, I expect her to endeavor to return the favor. It's wonderful to have someone who shares my obsession. We eagerly anticipate each new release by our favorite authors, bemoan the "dry" spells between new reads and celebrate together when we find new favorite authors. We recently went nuts when we discovered Welcome to Temptation. My brother told us we were acting like we'd just discovered oil in the back yard. We even tried sharing a library card, but have recently concluded that it just doesn't work for our DIKs. There are times when you just need to have your favorite Judy Garwood or Susan Elizabeth Phillips close at hand! We also never could decide who got first crack at a new release from a favorite author! Nevertheless, nothing could be better than sharing our books on family vacations. It cuts our respective packing in half!

Romance reading will always be a pleasant part of my life. I love the effect the internet has had on my reading. I can spend hours on Amazon.com reading reviews, tracing other readers' recommendations, etc. Plus, websites like All About Romance also provide a great resource and forum for sharing thoughts on books. The only drawback is that I now I don't even have to go to the bookstore to buy books. I can just sit at my desk and click away. My TBR pile just keeps getting bigger and bigger!

-- Karen Kendrick

February 9, 2001:
Where to begin???

I have been a voracious reader it seems from birth, LOL. I became hooked on science fiction and fantasy when I was ten and that was my main source of reading pleasure for the longest time. Twenty-five years ago my husband and I opened a small (no, tiny) children's bookstore in Minneapolis. Bookmen Wholesalers became my little paradise. Then we started going to the ABA conventions and books came in the mail and.. well we were inundated with books. Going to our first ABA convention I grabbed any "freebie" I was offered, including galley copies of books. One of them was Fern Michaels' Captive Passions. Well, I was hooked. Rosemary Rogers, Woodiwiss, Busbee, Brandewyne, etc. I read them all. Harlequin novels, Silhouette novels.... I didn't care. I gobbled 'em up like popcorn!

Though the business unfortunately went bust, my love of romance novels didn't. I read very quickly. I devour Jude Deveraux, Catherine Coulter, Jayne Krentz, Lindsay, Bertice Small (love those "sexy" ones).... I think I've read at least one book by every romance author! I have my favorites, of course. Luckily I have a fantastic library system so I can indulge my obsession. I always check out the latest Amanda Quick and Jayne Krentz. Also Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Katherine Eagle, Susan Krinard, Elizabeth Lowell, Lindsay, etc. I like a bit of spice and so I also read Thea Divine, Susan Johnson and Bertrice Small. There are many more that I can't think of at 2:00 a.m. Suffice it to say, I am an addict. Of course, now that I have been reading romance novels for so many years, I have taken the plunge and written one. I also write "online fan fiction" centering around a very sexy and romantic (of course) actor. So, there you have it. I haven't been specific with titles because over twenty five years there have been a heck of a lot of titles!

Will I always be a romance reader?

Does the hero always get the girl?

--Deena Glass

February 2, 2001:
I started reading romance novels when I was in middle school, although I have always loved romance. When I was small, I basked in such novels as Anne of Green Gables and the Sweet Valley High series, which were probably about adolescence in general but for me was solely interesting because of the romantic relationships Witty, marvelous characters sprung from the pages of these books and the complications and delights that a truly interesting relationship allows is a wonderful treat to be a part of. All of my favorite movies and television shows had some love/like theme to them and it was a natural progression for me to be obsessed with the pre-teen scene to the more adult Harlequins and Silhouettes novelettes.

Later on I remember reading behind textbooks in class. My classmates begin to recognize my well-read, wrinkled Fabio covered novels as belonging to me, and they deemed me The Romance Queen. I even turned some of my girlfriends on to the books, which was a very good idea, because we continually trade novels which keeps me from going broke. Before long my friends and I had progressed into my favorite genre of all; historical romances. I am allowed to visit such curious worlds as the 19th century English Ton, Viking Fjords, Scottish clans and Civil War Forts. I joke sometimes with my friends because reading these novels about love have backhandedly made me knowledgeable of historical facts and times that my history books never enticed me to remember. The stories that merge the present and future through time travel themes are the best, because I find I can empathize with the main character's perspective. I become envious of the character’s ability to jump through time and space, and to visit a perspective only present at another time and place.

I am interested in the sci-fi and futuristic novels as well. My absolute favorite book is Warrior Woman by Johanna Lindsey. It is about a futuristic female soldier who is sent by her planet to search for life on other worlds. She meets and falls in love with a king/warrior who is as barbaric as she is modern - but they work. I think I am a big romance fan because usually the heroines are allowed to be strong, fearless, capable women who also get to be loved. This doesn't always happen in the real world.

-- Tracye Poole

January 19, 2001:
I have always loved reading. Around age 14 I read Gone with the Wind - it rocked my world. I followed that up with Tender Victories by Taylor Caldwell. I cried for 2 weeks and my mother took me to the library and picked out three Clare Darcy books and three Georgette Heyer books. Jane Austen was to follow. That started my world of romance books.

We moved to Texas my senior year in high school and my mother and I discovered a used book store. Coming from a very small town in northern Minnesota, there was no such thing. I got addicted very quickly. But it was mainly Regency Romances, since my mother felt the other books were "trashy and depressing". When I went off to college, I found Johanna Lindsey. All I could think was "Yes, yes, thank you!!!!" I fell into all the writers of the time, but kept going back to Regency Romance every now and then. Thank goodness I did. That's where I found Catherine Coulter, Mary Jo Putney, Kasey Michels (who wrote the funniest Regencies), Loretta Chase, and many others.

But my serious addiction to books didn't hit me until about 8 years ago. I stopped trading in my books. I still bought the same number of books a week, I just found I hated to give them up when I ended up buying them back to re-read them. Now I have too many books, and no desire to trade them in. My friends hate moving me... half the truck ends up being books!

I must admit I don't have a TBR pile. I can't not read for that long. And 99% of the books suggested for the TBR list, I have. Okay, I forgot. I didn't tell you that I only read Historical romance novels. Wait, wait, it gets better. Only historical romance novels in England (okay sometimes France, but never the United States). And medievals are okay, but I have to really, really like the author. I used to read anything, but my true love was England in the Regency. And that comes from my first books being traditional Regency Romances. And there are go many great authors that write the books I like. All the great ones!

I get disappointed when I read a bad review of one of my old favorite authors. Especially if I get the book and like it. I think we all have different tastes, different expectations of books. I don't like serious, dark romances. The lighter the better for me. My life has enough reality in it, I prefer a little silliness. So I rarely recommend books to friends. But I've recommended Teresa Mederios because her books make me laugh (and I crossed over to time travel because of her book Breath of Magic). And Julie Garwood, because I started reading her from her first book and I love her stories. Catherine Coulter, always. Mary Jo Putney, always. Loretta Chase, Queen of all (and when I heard the rumor that she's not writing romances anymore, I almost passed out). Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey because they are queens also. But Judith McNaught will reign as my favorite.

So I tell my friends, this is what I like, but you need to find your own favorites. I have too many to count and am like a kid with a bag of candy, I'm not good at sharing!!!! But I will if I have to. Thanks for listening.

--Nancy Carrigan

January 12, 2001:
To tell the truth, I can't remember who was the first author that I read. From the time I learned to read I was off turning pages. I remember when I read my first romance book; I was around nine or ten. The book was older than I was and I was hooked. Today my husband gets a little upset because I will buy a book and finish it the very same day. On average I buy at least 7 if not more books a week to read. One of my sisters and I trade off books so we don't go broke. When we visit each other (we live in different states) we take a big box of books and take one home. I found it really doesn't matter what the setting is to me I will read it, there have been just a few books that were hard to stay with, most of the time if they are the shorter stories I can read 3 or 4 in a day.

A few of my favorite authors are Nora Roberts, Jo Beverley, Tara Taylor Quinn, Kat Martin and Lisa Jackson. Ms. Roberts MacGregor series was so enjoyable. Her writing draws you into the family. Ms. Roberts adds just the right amount of detail to her writing. I enjoy historical Romance and Ms. Beverley covers that bill with excellence. The details she adds to her stories make you feel as if she had truly been in the time settings. Both of these authors' writing pulls you into the stories. They make you go through so many feelings/emotions that you feel that you are living through the story with the heroine/hero. I wish I could tell you why I enjoy all these authors so much but I really am not sure there is one specific reason. One day I would love to visit Scotland, Ireland and the U.K., the historical romance books I think are my favorite if for that fact alone. Over time I have come to enjoy more detail in the stories than the first few years worth of books that I read. All of the books I tend to read now are detail enriched but not over done. I do try to read a new author at least once a month but I always seem to go back to my tried and true five authors.

I had around 8 big moving boxes full of books when we had to moved and my husband told me I had to leave some behind (which saddened me greatly) I hate to part with them because I will read them over and over if I don't have the money to buy a new one. I learned that our local library took donated books so instead of throwing any away I did just that so others could enjoy them too. That may have been a no-no but I couldn't see them in a garbage heap. Anyway I have been a romance reader for around - wow - I just realized it has been 20 years that I have been hooked. I discovered that through the internet community I can get the latest information on my favorite authors and upcoming books. Plus I can get a quick fix of reading if I need one.

--Connie Thornton

January 5, 2001:
I actually get to share my romance reading roots to someone, yay!!

For me it all happened a couple of weeks past Christmas two years ago. School was on break, I was bored, and it was late. The only place still open beside the movie theater was Barnes and Nobles, so I threw on some warm clothing and announced that I was going to the bookstore amongst some disbelieving looks. I didn't really know what I was looking for. I started out in the paperback fiction section, you know those trade size paperbacks that cost $12 or so. I felt that I needed to bring something home. Then finally making my way to the bargain section I stumbled upon a copy of Pocket Books' A Holiday of Love, with Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, etc. I was hooked. I especially loved the Andrea Kane story, it was an historical and I knew that I wanted more of these books.

I began by going back to the bookstore. At the time I didn't even realize that I had read a romance book. So, because I didn't know I never even made it to the romance section,. Besides those sections were filled with gaudy covers of half naked people and no way can I read a book with a cover like that! Disappointed I left the bookstore and stopped at a drugstore and checked their book selection. I ended up with a Barbara Delinsky book, again because I felt like I needed to bring home something.

Finally I got smart and decided to search Amazon.com, keywording names of authors on the copy of Holiday. Bingo, I got all these results and you can imagine my Amazon bill that first day of searching. I was literally buying books by the dozen and they were arriving at an alarming frequency. I was in heaven. My favorite time period was the Regency and I love historicals. I read Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, Andrea Kane, Julie Garwood, etc. I started with the big name authors and when I went through their backlist I searched Amazon my genre. I had a TBR pile numbering over a hundred books at a time and I went through one book a day. I read ferociously from the time I woke up to almost dawn. Soon I ran out of historicals and because I was reluctant to read books with gaudy covers I branched into contemporary, paranormals (I love Kathleen Kane), and eventually I got smart and paper covered those revealing covers.

I'm proud to say that I'm a much choosier reader and will buy only books that have been given a favorable review by AAR or another site, or the book must be a author I have liked in the past. My favorite authors today are Julie Garwood, Brenda Joyce, Liz Carlyle, Penelope Williamson, Lori Foster, and older titles by Judith McNaught. I got my sister hooked on romance and she's now writing one of her own. These days I trade books with other readers though sadly I still buy a large quantity of them.

--Tricia Nguyen

 

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