The other day, I was reading a post Imogen wrote at The Writing Groove about the first romance novels she remembers reading, and it got me thinking about how many of us romance readers got started when we were kids.
As I told her, I remember very little about the plot of my first grown-up romance novel (which I read when I was about 12), but I very vividly remember that the hero touched the heroine’s nipple.
With a tweak of that man’s fingertips, I became a life-long fan.
But even before that Harlequin mysteriously found its way to my doorstep, I’d voraciously read YA romances and mysteries that had a significant romantic storyline. Most of my friends read books featuring ponies.
Makes me wonder if some of us are hard-wired to be romance readers. Is there something in us that makes us more inclined to love a story with a happy ending? Or is it that an early introduction to written sex leaves a bigger mark on impressionable young brains?
My mom was really honest with me about sex and never minded me reading romance novels. She questioned some of the covers (“Why is he wearing a full safari suit while she’s in a bikini?” “Duh, Mom. It, like, takes place in the Outback, and that’s just what they wear.”), but she never tried to stop me reading them. In fact, she bought them for me and took me to the library whenever I wanted.
She wasn’t a romance reader, so I wonder if she knew how graphic they were. Many of those early sex scenes are still vivid in my brain, more vivid than some of my, y’know, real-life experiences.
I learned quite a bit from them, and I’d argue strenuously with anyone who said they gave me an unrealistic idea of love, sex, and relationships. Instead, they were a safe way for me to explore sex…without the risk of pregnancy or STDs.
Clearly the Harlequins I read weren’t graphic enough to truly educate me, though. I’d been reading them for a couple years before I read one scene and the penny dropped: “Wait – it goes ALL THE WAY IN?”
How old were you when you started reading romance? Know many fans who read their first as an adult?
What are your earliest romance novel memories? Do you think you’re hard-wired to love romance? Do you think you’d be a romance fan if you read your first one yesterday?