Thursday, January 19, 2006

the book that started it all

All right, I confess that this is a bit of a duplication from one of the posts on my personal blog (, but you all got me so curious, I couldn't resist.

Since so many of you admitted to being just as addicted to romance novels as I am, I want to know what book truly began your love of the romance genre.

Can you remember a particular title that swept you away & made you realize you had to read more? Or the first book that created your need to buy, buy, buy, read, read, know, the one that led to the towering TBR piles you now possess? :-)

For me, it was Rebecca Brandewyne's The Outlaw Hearts. I have three copies--one that's pristine & autographed & put away where no dust or air or moisture can reach it; one that I read until it nearly fell apart; and the one that I bought to replace that copy, even tho I haven't yet discarded the original. I love, love, love this story & remember just about every detail of it to this day.

This is the book that began my love of romance novels. And tho there are others I can look back on & think, "Yes, I read that one early on & loved it. It played a part in my romance novel addiction," The Outlaw Hearts is the story that really hooked me & whose characters feel like old friends. Every time I think of them, they make me smile. :-)

So how about you? What is the one book, for you, that started it all?

Heidi Betts
Seven-Year Seduction (Silhouette Desire #1709)--February 2006
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Allie Mackay said...

Ooooh, what fun, Heidi!

And since I'm always one for enjoying myself, I'll chime in for Sue-Ellen again. As usual, she's locked herself in her office and hasn't been seen in days!

I'd worry, but whenever I press my ear to the door, I can hear the tap-tapping of her fingers on the keyboard. So I know she's working.

Which leaves me free to share her secrets! And regarding your question, that book would be Jude Deveraux's Knight In Shining Armor.

A friend suggested Sue-Ellen read it and she was absolutely swept away. Those who know her will know she spends a lot of time in Scotland, and when there she really loves poking around old places. Especially medieval cathedrals and chapels. And whenever she comes across the tomb of a knight, she finds it impossible to gaze upon his effigy without remembering Deveraux's incredible Knight In Shining Armor.

Don't tell her I told you, but she's even been known to stare real hard at those silent knightly faces, sometimes even touching the stone and expecting a response.

Hah! That's how masterful Jude Deveraux is. Even after these years, that book remains so vivid in Sue-Ellen's heart and mind. The book definitely hooked her on romance.

An old hardcover version has pride of place in her office. Just so she never forgets the wonder and magic that first attracted her to the romance genre.

Of course, if ever she manages a miracle, and actually does rouse one of those sleeping knights, I'll be in big trouble. She'd never return and I'd be left to do all the work around here.

I shudder to think of such a fate!

Allie Mackay

Nancy Morse said...

The first romance I can remember reading that got me hooked was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. I was waiting to get on a plane and needed something to read to take my mind off flying. I can't say it's my favorite romance novel or that I even particularly liked it. I found the heroine a little too groveling for my taste. But it sure as heck took my mind off the flight and got me writing. Until then I hadn't focused my writing on any particular genre, but that book set me on my course.

Bonnie Edwards said...

Oh, what fun! I LOVE this question.
For me, hands down, Linda Howard's Midnight Rainbow. I even, swear to God, have a cover that never was. She was in Toronto doing a talk (with Annette Broadrick - I recall they both wore red - beautifully) and a booksigning. This was Feb. 1986, and apparently the cover was changed, but they'd brought the original, that had never been used. I got it signed, of course, and it changed my whole view of writing and writing romance. I'll never forget the heroine, Jayne, pulling everything but the kitchen sink out of some big carryall bag she was dragging thru the jungle. Nor the incredible pacing during a scene when a snake dropped off a tree limb and tried to kill Jayne. What a book!

And, no, that original, never used cover will NOT show up on ebay.

thing is, there was another woman sitting behind me. She was talking about having an editor and her new release and all kinds of fascinating publishing bits & pieces that enthralled me. It was Naomi Horton, another incredibly talented Desire writer. We became friends shortly after that. And I'm stunned that it was nearly 20 years ago.

Gail Dayton said...


I came to romances a little late in the game. I'd been writing historical-type novels and someone commented that with a little revision, they'd fit right into the romance genre. So I went out to the used bookstore and bought a couple dozen historical romances to read.

The very first one, Alinor by Roberta Gellis, grabbed me round the throat and sucked me under. It was fabulous--the blend of history and romance absolutely perfect for me--and it wasn't even the first book in the Roselynde Chronicles.

I read all the books I had bought, and went back for more. I expanded into contemporary romance, and romantic suspense and series romance. I found paranormal/futuristic romances and comedy romances and...well, you get the idea. I was a goner. And I'm perfectly happy to be one. No looking back.

These days, when my reading strays on occasion outside the romance genre, I tend to find myself dissatisfied and wishing the author had put more romance in the story. I don't much care what sub-genre the story comes in--Give Me The Romance!

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Contrary to what Ms. Mackay says, I do peek in here every once in a while. Even if I work harder and more often than she could ever begin to handle.

But, yes, she was spot on about Jude Deveraux's Knight In Shining Armor having a huge and forever impact on me.

But Allie forgot to mention an earlier book that also made me love romance. Above all atmospheric historicals that whisk you away to other times and places. The lush and beautiful kind that seduce your senses and make you feel as if you are right there, living and breathing the story with the characters.

Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss was such a book for me. I read it in the early days of my airline career, pouring over pages on jumpseats during take-offs and landings, in airport waiting lounges, and on layovers, refusing to turn off the light because I could not stop reading.

So Shanna was also a pivotal book for me. To this day, I remain in awe of Kathleen Woodiwiss and her beautiful words.

She kept me spellbound and enchanted.

And I won't even get started on the old classic gothics ... Victoria Holt, Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Stewart, and a few others. Ooooh, man. Yes, you see, I love atmosphere!

But now I'd best get back to work or you-know-who will be telling on me for slacking!

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Nancy Herkness said...

My addiction began with Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE. Then I fell in love with Mr. Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. What cemented my passion for passion was a package of Georgette Heyer novels my grandmother sent home with my father. I read through them one right after the other and asked for more, more, more! (Thank goodness Ms. Heyer was prolific; I have every one of her books in my bookcase and I re-read my favorites on a regular basis.)

I figure reading romance is a lot less fattening than gorging on chocolate (something I'm also addicted to) and it makes me feel just as happy.

Allison Brennan said...

You're all going to hate me. I absolutely don't know. I know my favorite books by each author, but I couldn't say which was the one that "did it" for me. Maybe because I started reading mysteries and suspense, then gradually moved into romantic suspense . . . I know a lot of Nora Roberts and Iris Johansen's early RS books intrigued me and I couldn't get enough.

gailbarrett said...

There wasn't one particular book that started the reading addiciton. I've always read constantly. However, when it comes to romance, I have to agree with Sue Ellen. It was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. My husband was gone on a ship (Coast Guard) and my neighbor gave me a box of books to read while he was gone. I hadn't read any real romance novels before but was blown away by Shanna -- talk about a book NOT to read when your husband is gone!!!! Years later, when I got serious about writing, I went to a used book store and bought a bunch of romance novels to try to figure out what type I wanted write. I specifically looked for Shanna because I remembered it so vividly (and I've reread it many times since then). I didn't remember the author so I asked the clerk for a romance novel called "something like Shanna." She jumped up and led me straight to the book, so I'm sure I wasn't the only one who loved it:)))
However, the book that made me want to write contemporary category romance was Desert Shadows by Emilie Richards. I picked up that book on that same trip. It was the first category romance I'd read in my life and I throught it was so well-written and entertaining that I was hooked.

Colleen Thompson said...

Great question, Heidi! I didn't come to reading romances until late in the game, but some of the books that particularly hooked me including Mary Jo Putney's One Perfect Rose, Lavyrle Spencer's That Camden Summer, and especially Julie Garwood's For the Roses. I loved all three of these books so much, they set me on the path to writing and publishing my own historical romances.

Later, I was hooked into contemporary romance by Sharon Sala's Jackson Rule and Nora Roberts' Hidden Riches. Wonderful stories, all of them.

Patti O'Shea said...

I used to read anything and everything the library had. If there wasn't a romance in the story--and usually there wasn't--I created one in my head. (Sometimes I wonder if this is how I started writing. I remember doing this in grade school and junior high.) I didn't realize there was a romance genre until I stumbled across Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and her book Shanna. Once I knew romance existed, I started seeking it out in the library and bookstores. That was the beginning of a 5000+ book collection. :-)

Bronwyn Jameson said...

I don't have ONE definitive hooked-me book but several. And thinking about this while reading all your comments, I realize that they're a diverse bunch because they hooked me at different stages of my life. Lucy Walker's A MAN CALLED MASTERS spoke to my dreamy romanticism as a very young teen (and hooked me on outback-set romances.) As an older teen I was hooked by Jilly Cooper's BELLA and couldn't find enough of those cool city-girl romances (chick lit, where were you?) Many years later I picked up Justine Davis's PRIVATE REASONS at a station newsstand because I wanted something short and engaging for a train trip. That book introduced me to Sil Desire and hooked me as a fan. Cool post, Heidi. I've really enjoyed reading the comments and thinking about my own romance reading backstory!

MaryF said...

I used to read Janet Dailey's Harlequins back when I was a preteen, but the first romance I read as an adult was Karen Robards' Dark of the Moon. It was set in Ireland, had the girl dressed as a boy, was wonderfully steamy and romantic. I read every book I could find of hers after that, then moved to Catherine Coulter.

There was once a time when I didn't have ENOUGH books to read!

Terry Z McDermid said...

Mine was more a bookshelf of paperbacks, in the Cayman Islands (before they were THE Cayman Islands). I was a just-teen, there with my family to teach Vacation Bible School. The house we were loaned had two important aspects for me -- my own room and all those books in the bookcase. They were mostly from English publishers -- I remember some Barbara Cartlands, Emily Loring, Grace Livingston Hill. Lots and lots of stories in a style I'd never read before -- happy endings, love stories. I devoured as many as I could, sitting on the patio with the ocean breezes wafting over me (I could only be in the sun for so long, with my fair, un-island skin!)

When I went back to the states, I tried to find more stories like this. I couldn't, at least in my library, which was my only option. I did find Victoria Holt, Mary Rinehart, Phyllis Whitney. Close. And then later, I found a lot of the authors others have mentioned and, later still, started writing my own.

Still can feel those ocean breezes washing over me whenever I start to read a new romance, no matter where it's set!!

Heidi Betts said...

I love these fantastic stories & knowing "the book that started it all." I haven't read all of these myself, but there are some that I think I'm going to have to dig out of my TBR piles sooner rather than later. :-D

Great memories, everyone. Thanks for sharing!

Terri Brisbin said...

I remember the exact book that pulled me into the romance genre - Julie Garwood's THE PRIZE. I read it during my last pregnancy and within two weeks I'd read every other book she'd written and began to look for other books like hers.

I actually re-read this book and several others of hers especially during my binges of deadline writing...