Romance readers tend to be a devout bunch. Though we span the spectrum of religious beliefs, economic backgrounds, and geography, our passion for romantic literature brings us together and gives us endless possibilities of things to chat about.
Most of my friends (outside the wonderful community I’ve met in cyberspace) don’t read romance. When I lend them one of my favorites, none of them has gotten hooked. They usually read and respond with “Meh. Still don’t get why you like it.”
That’s fine by me. Everyone should be free to read what they enjoy, and I’m thrilled that my friends respect me enough to at least try one of the books I love, even if they discover it’s not for them.
I’ve often wondered what it is about the genre—about any genre, really—that attracts certain readers. Why do I love romance but don’t feel at all engaged by sci-fi or fantasy? Even when I was a kiddo devouring young adult fiction, I sought books with a strong romantic element. I loved books that were dark, where the romance looked doomed to fail, but where fate turned everything around by the end.
Somehow I got on Harlequin’s mailing list when I was 12, and a box of four grown-up romance novels arrived on my doorstep. I remember some of the first stories I read. Though I have no clue who wrote them, I’m thankful that they introduced me to a whole new world of reading.
One of my strongest memories from my early days of romance reading was when I picked up my first single-title novel. I must’ve been 13 because I remember the mom next door picked me and her kids up from junior high one afternoon, and she was reading a book with a gorgeous psychedelic rainbow cover. It called to me, and I asked her what it was about. As her kids climbed in the van after me, she threw the book on the floor and said, “It’s just a complete fantasy.”
I wanted it. I’d never seen such a pretty cover. And I loved the fancy script that splashed the title across the front: The Sherbrooke Bride.
As soon as she dropped me off at home, I jumped on my bike and pedaled to Target, where I found dozens of copies of the book at the end of a row of romance novels. It seemed like fate. I bought it, and some bubble gum, probably because the cover made me crave Bubblicious.
I read the Sherbrooke Bride that night and waited desperately for the next in the trilogy to come out. In the meantime, I spent a huge amount of my babysitting money on other novels. Catherine Coulter had gotten me hooked.
I recently found one of her novels from the early 90s in a box in my parents’ garage. With quite a bit of trepidation, I reread it. Just as I thought I would be, I was horrified by some of the scenes. I’ve decided not to revisit any more of the books I was so fond of as a teenager because I don’t want them to lose their magic.
Do you remember the first romance that got you hooked on the genre? If you’ve been reading romance for a long time, have you ever gone back to read books you used to love? Or are you worried they wouldn’t be as good as you remember? If you’re not a romance reader, what book got you hooked on your favorite genre?
This is cross-posted at The Season