How I started reading romance, or the evolution of a reader

Well, after my yearly physical/pap at the doctor this morning (being female sometimes isn't all its cracked up to be), and somehow managing to get out the door without peeing in a cup (I'm sure they'll be calling, but really, I don't want to pee in a cup.), I came home to blog-hop. I had mentioned in Sybil's blog that I too had never read Nora Roberts, although I had read her as JD Robb. I've also never read Amanda Quick/JAK except for those Jayne Castle books (she writes some rather awful futuristics, but they're strangely enjoyable). I have also never ever read Linda Howard. So AngieW posted on HER blog about her horror that these people (Sybil and I) had never read these paragons of the romance world. Well, the explanation of why I haven't ever read them requires telling about how I managed to read romance in the first place.

I grew up reading...and reading, and reading and reading. I also grew up with a mother who despised romance. I admit this colored my perception of the genre for quite awhile. According to her, romances were all a rehash of the same boring plot with silly characters and no real meaty story. And as I had plenty of other things to read, I never bothered to see if she was really right. The only romance I ever came into contact that anyone read was a girl in high school who would read her Jennifer Blake books (oddly enough, that girl was named Jennifer Blake, too). And let me tell you, the silly covers on those never made me want to read them. I read many other books and always had one with me. Favorite authors were W.E.B. Griffin, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Bob Mayer, Robert Jordan, Tad Williams, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Tanya Huff, Robin Hobb, Catherine Asaro, Guy Gavriel Kay, Sheri S. Tepper, Raymond Feist, David Morrell, Frederick Forsyth, Joseph Finder, Kathy Reichs, and countless other authors and books. In my mind, I didn't NEED to ever venture into silly, stupid romance territory.

It may have started to change when my grandmother died. She had a ton of books and we were going through them, deciding which ones to keep and which to donate. I'd come across a little pile of Harlequin/Silhouette books. They all looked suitably silly, but for some reason I decided to try them out. And they were silly and stupid. So I felt vindicated in my avoidance of the romance genre, but apparently it wasn't done with me. There was a tv movie based on a Julie Garwood book that I kinda enjoyed. So me being me, I wanted to read the book it came from. *gasp* It was a romance. But damn, it was enjoyable. And thus I read more Julie Garwood books. And then I think I moved on to Johanna Lindsey. All of these were from the library. No way was I going to actually spend money on a romance. Uh uh. I treated them like guilty pleasures and never read them in public, just in the privacy of my bedroom at home. I read some bad ones, but I usually stayed strictly within historicals. I had no desire to read a contemporary romance and I thought of Nora Roberts as the epitome of that which I disliked. Same with Linda Howard. They just weren't on my reading radar. I stuck with historicals for quite a number of years. Julia Quinn was a favorite and still is. Also Stephanie Laurens and Mary Jo Putney. Still no contemporaries or those disgusting categories.

Through all this I was still reading quite a bit of SF/F and other books such as mysteries, action/adventure, thrillers, etc. I think I'm in college by now. Still mainly historicals and still mainly in secret. No one I knew would ever admit to reading romance and I knew many of my friends didn't read much at all, let alone romance. I decided to branch out at the local library a bit and ended up reading the Jayne Castle futuristic romances. far as good sci-fi went, they kinda sucked, but I enjoyed the romance part of them. And well, they melded together science fiction and romance, which I was really beginning to read a whole lot of. I also remember trying Dara Joy...but man, even though I was new to reading romance (relatively), she sucked.

Now, I don't remember when I found Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I do remember reading her first book and going wow, I love this. I do think before that I did try to branch out before that into paranormal romance since it tied in with SF/F. And then since SK readers were supposed to like Christine Feehan, I tried her books. Library had them, yay, checked out the first two. Tried to read them. ugh...they were definitely wall-bangers. Hmm..maybe I need to try something different. So I read her new series, Shadow Game. Ugh, couldn't finish that one either. This was 2003, so you know, not that long ago. I think I tried one other book of hers since she had so many fans, I couldn't believe that an author could be so well liked and have such stupid books. But yes, she could, so Feehan is one of those authors on my not gonna read it list. Obviously works for others, but I don't get it.

Somewhere around 2003, I think, I started to hear about erotic romance. It most likely came about in my hunt for contests around the web. I don't know how many authors I learned about when I went to their site to enter a contest, but it's a lot. Sometime in there, I heard about erotic romance and also at the same time sites looking for reviewers were popping up. Hmm, I thought, this sounds interesting. And so one of my first erotic romance reads was an ebook for a review site. It was interesting, mainly I think for its novelty. But I enjoyed it and looked for others. And gradually I acquired more. I didn't particularly like reading on my computer, but I did like all the different stories that I could find online. So began my search for a handheld ebook reader. Luckily I'm now married to a geek, because he didn't think it too odd to want to spend a couple hundred dollars on a gadget just to read ebooks. Okay, more than a couple hundred since ultimately I decided on an HP iPaq 4155 and it was on sale for $405 when we finally bought it. I was so afraid that once I'd bought it, I'd find that I hated to read it. Thank goodness that didn't happen. I LOVE to use it and use it almost every night to read. I think I've become quite an expert on using it and have managed to make it do all the things I want it to do. Things like the problems with reading pdf files I've fixed (you CAN have virtually no trouble reading pdf files on a ppc), or figuring out why my SD card said it was full before it really was (turned out NOT to be a bad card, but that I needed to put them in folders). It took work and a lot of internet searching, but I found all my answers. I like my ebooks, but I have noticed lately that I'm getting bored with erotic romance. So much of it is all the same and rather monotonous.

Through all this, I still haven't managed to read a Nora Roberts book, or a Linda Howard, though I have picked up some recently. BJ gave me some to try: Jewels in the Sun and Sea Swept. I also got To Die For by Linda Howard. I haven't read any of these yet. I also saw Northern Lights at Paperback Swap and since I had some credits, I decided to give it a try, so that's on its way here. I also read some Kathleen Woodiwiss early on, but honestly....I don't like her and don't quite get her appeal. I've also never read Georgette Heyer, even though I enjoy reading Regencies. I also never read Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, LaVyrle Spencer, Judith NcNaught, Jude Deveraux, or any of the authors I hear so many people started out reading. And honestly, for the most part, I have no desire to read them. And I read Gone With The Wind in 5th grade, but really, that doesn't count as a romance. It's a classic. Despite the awful clinch cover.

I also managed to start reading categories in here, though my start as a reviewer at CataRomance really made that take off. And so I love to read Harlequin Intrigues and Blazes and Flipsides. Not Presents as much, they have some pretty silly titles and storylines, but I do like Lucy Monroe depsite the silly titles. I also usually avoid anything with a baby or children because those things are not in my life and won't be for awhile. I mean, why do you think I endured what I did this morning?! So that usually means no Superromances, Special Editions, etc.

Well..that's sorta an idea of where I got to where I am now as far as reading romances. I still prefer many mid-list authors to the bestsellers. I also am starting to read more contemporary books, but I lean more towards romantic suspense or romantic comedy than straight contemp. I think in my mind a straight contemporary romance reminds me of a drama movie. And I hate those.

Hmm...I think I'll stop now. This has gotten rather long. But hey, now you know lots about me. I think, anyways. I'm sure I've missed things. But it's a start. And does explain why I haven't read Nora Roberts or Linda Howard. Which is why I started this whole post in the first place.


Angela James said...

I think that was an excellent explanation and kind of jived with what I said about people who sneered at those eighties style romances with their torrid covers and therefore never read some of the romance "classics." I don't think there's anything wrong with not having read them, it's just that, for a long time romance fan, like I said, they hold some nostalgia and fond memories which is why it's surprising when someone says they haven't read them.

All those authors you mentioned reading, the fantasy authors? I love those authors too. I was reading them right along with my romances. I still love a great epic fantasy and especially love when there's romance mixed in. It gives me the best of both worlds.

Thanks for the background info Nicole!

Lilith Saintcrow said...

I just read Linda Howard's "To Die For". I thought it was a scream. it had me laughing until tears rolled out of my eyes. Oh, yeah, and the romance was OK. (LOL) The book's about a cheerleader, which is one strike against it I'll admit. But I'll admit I really liked it.

Linda Howard consistently turns in high-quality work, which is very nice. I've read Christine Feehan's latest and was a little... disappointed. Though what I expected, I don't know...

Sam said...

- secret here -
Truth is, I haven't read most romance authors that people blog about. So sometimes I feel a little left out. But that said, I read all the time. I just prefer science fiction, fantasy, murder mysteries, and such. I've read some of the newer chick-lit books, and Philippa Gregory (did I just make hash of her name?) is a fave. OK - there are just too many books and not enough time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nicole, followed you back here from my blog. If you want to try Linda Howard, I recommend Open Season and Mr. Perfect. Romance, action and humor! And you didn't mention Lois McMaster Bujold, but if you've somehow missed her, she's got quite a SF/romance crossover audience. - Charlene

Jill said...

Enjoyed reading about your reading history!! I too am late to romance. Funny, when you consider that's now what I write for a living.

Tara Marie said...

Nicole, I loved your evolution so much, I blogged about my own. I agree with angiew's feelings of nostalgia and fond memories.

Laine Morgan said...


My evolution is very close to yours. The only one of the romance authors I've read out of the big names you listed is Nora Roberts, and that was just recently. As a romance writer, I read very little romance, prefering SF/F and Dean Koontz. I think my love of those books havee colored my writing a little bit, and helped me to write a different kind of romance. I also like Sherrilyn Kenyon, but am taking a break from her because after a while, her stories all sound the same. But I guess once you stumble on something people like, you stick with it. Anyway, your blog is very interesting!