Monday, April 15, 2013

Was My First Romance Read a Pop-Up Book? Kathryn Knight

The other day, as I was tweaking my list of books to read on Goodreads, I started thinking about when I read my first romance novel.  I can remember sometimes raiding my mother's bookshelf as a "tween" when I'd finished everything from my weekly library pile.  A lot of the books were probably too mature to be a great choice for a middle school girl (I think I read Valley of the Dolls at 11 or 12), my mom was busy with two younger kids, and monitoring my reading material wasn't high on her priority list.  As I made my way through her bookshelf, I saw one author multiple times--Phyllis A. Whitney.

I think I started with The Golden Unicorn, and enjoyed it enough to tear through the rest at home before checking the others out from the library.  Whitney's wikipedia entry notes that while she was often referred to as a Gothic or mystery writer, she called her works "romantic novels of suspense".  I read them a long time ago, but I seem to remember a strong romantic theme. 

But then it occurred to me that one of my all-time YA favorite books, Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp, was a sweet romance.  In fact, I would call this book a huge inspiration for my writing, as it's that combination of ghost story/love story that I find addictive.  My father brought Jane-Emily home from the library when I was around 8 years old, and I read it over and over, then requested it regularly when I needed my Jane-Emily fix.  A few years back, I purchased my own copy (finally!) from ebay and read it to my kids.  The ghost of 12-year-old Emily still delivers chills even after all these years as she unleashes her wrath on 9-year-old Jane--but of course the romance piece was there as well between the hunky Doctor and Jane's young aunt Louisa.




So I decided Jane-Emily surely had to be the first.  Until I thought about the basic ingredients of a romance novel: a hero and heroine who meet and fall in love, a central conflict focusing on their romance, and a Happily Ever After (HEA).  I was shocked to realize my favorite preschool book--Cinderella--was a romance!  I had a number of books featuring fairy tale heroines, but Cinderella had a compelling feature: pop-up scenes.  I did an image search and this picture looks a lot like my old book--I can still remember running my fingers down the cardboard stairs of the castle as I pictured making my own entrance to the ball:




Cinderella may not have been a very active or strong character, but she elicited sympathy based on her circumstances.  She was rewarded for her inherent goodness and captured the heart of the handsome prince.  Sadly, my copy of the book is long gone, but it probably actually ended with the words "And they lived Happily Ever After."  

So there it is, my first romance book.  What, if any, difference did my affinity for this book make in my life?  Certainly, it helped foster a literary preference for romance--a preference that eventually resulted in publishing contracts for the 2 paranormal romance novels I crafted from my own imagination.  Cinderella's story definitely convinced me to hold out for my own personal Prince Charming, despite the many obstacles in our path.  And on our wedding day 17 years ago, well...I think my choice of dresses speaks for itself!        


 

8 comments:

  1. My first romance novel was Flame & the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Ironically the main characters were Heather and Brandon. And my name is Heather and I married a Braden! I think I was 14 when I read it and I fell in love with happy endings : )

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    1. Wow that is an amazing coincidence Heather! Sounds like it was meant to be :) THanks for coming by.

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  2. I'm pretty sure my first romance was a Harlequin titled Leopard in the Snow by Anne Mather belonging to my Mom. I don't remember a lot of details or much at all about the book. I'm pretty sure that's a good thing. Then I took a very long break from romance until I picked up a book someone recommended by this author called Nora Roberts and I've never looked back.

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    1. Hi Karyn! Oh yes, I remember when I discovered Ms. Roberts! THanks for coming by :)

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  3. I'm not really sure what my first romance was, like you I was always going to the library,I'm sure I've read thousands. But I can certainly tell you my most memorable one was Joanna Lindsey's The Wedding. It was quickly followed up by The Bride, another of her books. Then it was on to Nora Roberts and suddenly I knew who I wanted to be when I grew up.

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  4. Love it, Kathryn. I was a library junkie kid too, and can't remember my first romance, but... One of my favorite memories of my teen years was spending the day on the beach, reading Sweet, Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers, OUT LOUD to my best friend. LOL By the time the sun started to sink below the horizon and we packed up to leave, we had second degree sunburns and a half dozen eavesdroppers crowded around our blanket. Ah, those were the days... :-)

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  5. I read my first romance in the 8th grade. Don't remember the name of the book at the moment. He was new to the high school and not cool. She was shy and not popular. He played the guitar. I guess it was like those later books in the Sweet Valley High series my daughters read. I didn't read another romance until senior year. And boy, what a jump. I read the Flame and the Flower and The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodwiss. I see this book mentioned earlier in the comments. lol! Guess a lot of us romance writers "cut our teeth" on Woodwiss. :)

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  6. Thanks for coming by Lilly, Mac, and Angela! I think I will have to add some of those titles to my TBR list - I enjoy the older books too. What a fun day on the beach, Mac. :)

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