I first started reading romance novels when I was 12 and I somehow got on Harlequin’s mailing list. One day I got a package of Harlequin Presents novels (and a crappy necklace), and I was hooked. For years, I spent my babysitting money on their book club.
As I matured, my romance reading tastes changed. And when I was 23 and met my husband, I completely lost the taste for romance novels.
A seven-year hiatus followed, filled with non-fiction, capital-L Literature, and reports on human rights abuses. Then, a couple Christmases ago, my friend in California picked up a Harlequin Presents as a joke and sent it to me. It featured an Italian billionaire (the hero, of course), and it arrived just days before Hubby and I went to Rome.
The novel was silly, full of holes and the kinds of characters I would hate to know in real life. But it was so diverting that, at one point while we were in Rome, my husband told me that if I’d just put down the bloody book, I might find myself ruthlessly bedded by the British graduate instructor.
That HP novel had me visiting my local library to find out what single-title romances they had. Not many, as it turns out, and most of them I’d read as a teenager, but I checked them all out and was hooked all over again.
So I thought I was pretty firmly a single-title reader. I associated category romances with my pre-teen years, and with heroes who start off with Antisocial Personality Disorder and then suddenly turn into the most tender of husbands. With heroines who have no purpose in life (except, sometimes, to own an art gallery). With conflicts that I can’t even begin to fathom.
So color me surprised to find a category line I like: Harlequin Superromance. A couple months ago, I won a copy of Karina Bliss’ What the Librarian Did from Dear Author. It’d gotten fantastic reviews, so I approached it with an open mind. And holy hell, did it blow away my expectations. Here were the kind of characters I love to read about – people who are real, but not real in a boring way. People who treat each other with respect even when they’re angry. And no big misunderstandings that could be sorted out with a simple conversation.
So I ordered several more Harlequin Superromances. Last night I sat down to start Zana Bell’s Tempting the Negotiator, and I couldn’t put it down until I finished it at 2am. Again, it’s got the ingredients I love – tension that springs from conflicts I can empathize with; characters who listen to each other; love that grows slowly and believably between the hero and heroine. A happily-ever-after that isn’t perfect, and that doesn’t sweep all their character flaws and problems under the carpet.
So, apparently I’m a category and single-title reader. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for me to order Harlequin Superromances because they don’t ship outside North America. I had to have them ship my order to my parents and then ask the folks to mail them to me (I can just imagine how Dad grumbled as he paid $22 to send a load of romance novels across the sea).
If anyone knows how I can get hold of more Superromances – bearing in mind I don’t have an e-reader and can’t get away with treating my parents like my personal assistants for too much longer – please let me know! I’ve checked Amazon.co.uk, with very little luck (mostly really old titles on the marketplace).
Have you ever been surprised by a genre or sub-genre?