A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog’s ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins. ~Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833
Today, it’s all about firsts. And before we get too far, there is a very special first happening here on Monday — my first guest blogger! I am thrilled beyond measure that Tara Taylor Quinn will be blogging here on Monday, May 16, as part of her extensive blog tour for her newest book, co-written with her husband Tim Barney, It Happened on Maple Street. We celebrated the launch of the book back in April, so I’m very pleased she will be joining us for a stop along the way. The excellent reviews keep pouring in, as in today’s Library Journal review. So please make a note to come back on Monday for this very special first!
Given that fantastic first, it is only fitting to talk of another. Do you remember the first romance novel you read? The first time you lost yourself inside a story? Or maybe even found yourself?
I don’t recall the absolute first romance novel I read. I’m sure there were a few before the ones pictured here. But these are the first two I remember reading, or being able to recall characters and the story anyway. On a whim, I tracked both of these down on Amazon.com, surprised that I could actually find them for purchase — you really can find just about anything there. Once in hand, I reread them. I wanted to see why I could remember, thirty years later, these two books enough to google the story to find the author and title.
Of course, that answers the heart of the question, doesn’t it? I remembered the story.
No Time for Love (1980) was an early favorite, and I know it was most definitely because of the story. The heroine, Lorelei, was a violinist with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra; her love interest was concertmaster, playing first chair. She was innocent, shy. He was grumpy, distant, committed only to his career. Throw in a healthy violin competition and references to classical pieces, a European tour, and a stalker and you’ve got a story.
Winter’s Loving Touch (1979) is harder for me to understand why I remembered this story so long. Maybe it was the exotic Alaskan setting, as this was a few years before I had the chance to visit that beautiful state. Carrie, the new doctor in town, was engaged to a like-minded environmentalist. The hero thinks her cold and hostile. She thinks Zachary is arrogant and a danger to the environment in his job as an explorer intent on developing the rich energy resources hidden in the land. Competing goals and personalities wove a tale set against a harsh, unforgiving and distant environment.
Reading these again showed that the basic story held true to my memory of it, but given the intense stories around these days, the plot and structure were decidedly flat. What it also showed, not surprisingly, is how very far the genre has come in those thirty years. Some of the language and actions, behaviors and descriptions would not be in a book published these days — too misogynistic, too “forced” – and that is especially true at its most literal meaning in what were considered the “love scenes.” Shudder. So why were they so memorable? Does the story triumph? Or is it a combination of things? I still am not sure.
What was your first one? What made it so memorable for you?