Saturday, August 22, 2009

How Reading Romance Changed My Life

************ AND THE WINNER IS... **************
I selected two winners for today's post - Houston AW Knight and Maered. Congrats!

I love historical novels--historical romances were my first love (well, after fairy tales, which are technically set in a historical time period, and my YA enchantment with sci-fi/fantasy via Tolkien and McCaffrey).

A historical romance was, in fact, the first romance I ever read.

I was babysitting. I was, um, maybe 13. The kids were asleep. I was bored. (These were the pre-cable TV days, and nothing was on.) I started browsing my employer's bookshelves looking for something to read. And there I spied this paperback novel. The spine was broken, the edges of the covers tattered, but the picture on the front was...well...beautiful. A gorgeous woman with flowing hair, wearing a long gown, held in the arms of an equally gorgeous man who was wearing what looked like a pirate shirt (To this day, I love a good clinch cover)

The author was a woman by the name of Natasha Peters. I no longer remember the name of the book, but the story inside was like nothing I'd ever read before. Exciting, dramatic, passionate. I kept turning pages, devouring every word. I did not want the the people I was babysitting from to come home!

I didn't finish the book that first night, but I when I babysat again, I took up reading where I left off. After that book was done, the next book I started reading after the kids went to bed was another historical romance, this one called Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

That did it for me. I was hooked! Shanna turned me into a lifetime lover of romance, and of historical romance, and I've never looked back. Since then, I've discovered so many fabulous novelists - historical romance and others - including all the great ladies here on The Chatelaines. In fact, several of top 5 all-time-favorite reads are historical romance novels.

To anyone who pooh poohs romance - I say pshaw! I was top of my class in history - because of all the great historical details I learned through romance novels. I went on to minor in History in college -specifically because of my love affair with historical romance novels...because romance novels aren't about dates, battles, and lines redrawn on ancient maps. They are about PEOPLE. About how those people lived in their times; how their cultures and beliefs affected their lives; and yes, how the wars they fought changed their world. (Historical novels are also part of the reason why I became so enamored with worldbuilding and different cultures.)

I sincerely believe that romance as a genre is vastly underrated for it's positive impact on readers lives. I can name more than a dozen people (some with severe dyslexia or other learning disabilities) who became avid readers because romance novels made reading accessible, exciting, and fun.

So I say hooray for romance! And a special hooray for historical romance!

Comment to Win!

I'll be giving away one novel-of-your-choice authored by any of the Chatelaines to a person selected from today's posters. All you need to do to be entered for a chance to win is to answer one or both of the following questions:

What was your first historical romance novel? and/or How has reading romance impacted your life or the life of someone you know?


RachieG August 23, 2009 at 12:40 PM's been a long time but I think the first historical romance that I read (that I remember well) was "Lady Sophia's Lover" by Lisa Kleypas. :)

Havn't stopped since! <3 'em!

rachie2004 @ yahoo (dot) com

Marley Delarose, Author August 23, 2009 at 1:22 PM  

The first one I remember was the Wolf and the Dove by Woodiwiss, but Celeste DeBlasis' Wild Swan was just as enthralling.

The romance genre is distinguished by its happy ever after endings. Sure, some say that's looking at life unrealistically. But there's so much 'realism'. The escape romance provides and the hope for better 'community' are the reasons why it's a booming force in fiction.

CAN NOT WAIT for Queen!

Razlover's Book Blog August 23, 2009 at 1:56 PM  

The first historical romance book I read was "Sweet Savage Love" by Rosemary Rogers.

I have the whole Steve & Ginny series plus Laura's (their daughter) book in my collection.

Lyoness2009 August 23, 2009 at 2:00 PM  

Historical romance kind of gives me hope for the future you know? I know its fiction, but every so often, you know when your picking up tomatos at the supermarket, I think...hmm..could this be the next Duke of BLANK here to all me a wench and take me away?

Loretta Chase's books were some of my first historicals.

lyoness2009 AT hot mail *d0t* c0m

Terri August 23, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

I can honestly say that I have no idea what the first historical romance was that I read. That was hundreds if not thousands of books ago. Years ago I fell in love with Jude Deveroux and Johanna Lindsay's historicals and have reread them every few years. Now, I enjoy reading new authors and finding new stories to love.

Reading romance has kept me sane. I say that with all honesty. In the middle of finals in college, a quick break to read a mindless Harlequin gave my mind a break so that I was ready to go back studying. In the mist of horrible things, I could escape with the help of a happily ever after story and the thought that things would get better after the bad. A good romance is enough to put my mind at ease and let me believe once again that good things do happen.

As for historical, I love them IF the author has done their research. I hate it when things are in a story that are out of era. My husband says I'm too technical as I have a BA in history but come on...if you're going to be a professional writer, be professional and research! I know none of the authors here skip the research so this is NOT a dig at any of them.


C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 3:15 PM  

RachieG - I adore all things Kleypas :) She's one of my auto-buys :)

Marley - oooooh, Celest deBlasis! I loved Wild Swan too. And I read Wolf & the Dove as well - Aislinn and Wulfgar :) I don't find Romance's HEA any more unrealistic than, say, mystery's "always figuring out whodunit" or thrillers "always catch the bad guy". Nothing wrong with giving readers what they want :) So glad you're looking forward to QUEEN. I'm STILL celebrating typing THE END :p

C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 3:18 PM  

Razlover - I had the Steve & Ginny series too :)

Lyonness2009 - romance is the modern day fairy tale :) And it is a genre filled with hope. Lisa Kleypas gave one of the most stirring speeches at RWA's RITA awards year before last, all about how romance novels ARE essential. She had me and a bunch of other ladies in tears - FABULOUS speech.

C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 3:25 PM  

Terri - no insult taken. Historical accuracy IS important, especially when it comes to real historical events, social mores, dress, promintent figures, of the day. I confess I don't go so much for etymology of words. I'm not going to research "fairy" for instance to find out when it came into use in the english language - some things we use because its the word modern readers can relate to/understand. But I know there are plenty of avid historians out there (far more well-researched than I) who will spot even small mistakes from miles away :)

Many of my favorite historical writers are also avid researchers, who take pride in their research, but if an author takes a little artistic license with history to make his/her story more interesting, I'm okay with that - so long as those situations are identified in an author's note at the end of the book.

Amy Kathryn August 23, 2009 at 3:52 PM  

The first historical I read was A Rose in Winter by Woodiwiss and then the Clan of the Cave Bear books and have not stopped since then.

I love the HEA but I also love to learn things about people and places in a more enjoyable format than a textbook. I know I am depending on the author's take and knowledge, but I trust most are careful with their research.

Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 4:00 PM  

I always shunned the Romance Genre because I figured it to be formula writing at its worst. I always stuck to mysteries, especially those written in the 20's and 30's. Agatha Christie and Ellis Peters were my first faves. But now that the genres are crossing over I want books to contain mystery, romance, adventure and fantasy all at once. Some romance writers are delivering that very well. I will probably never be a fan of the blushing, modern-for-her-times Miss falling in love with mysterious, dangerous, debonair Earl. But some paranormal romances are great. Great world building. Great characters. Even great fight scenes and gore! Never would have thought it!

Houston A.W. Knight August 23, 2009 at 4:03 PM  


Love the insight to your life...what a wonderful story.

Johanna Lindsay's did it for me.


Cindy Holby August 23, 2009 at 4:07 PM  

My first romance novel was Alinor by Roberta Gellis. And I got all giddy when I got to meet her and had my picture made with her. I read her entire series after that, then progressed to Kathleen Woodiwess.

Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

Question for CL: What do you consider more important using your imagination, or sticking to the facts? If you had to choose between telling the story you wanted to, or presenting a character that you really liked, or sticking with the true facts of the period what would you do? I personally like it when writers show me their own vision. I won't be that impressed if all the details have crossed t's and dotted i's. I like a story with heart and if that eans a character that could not possibly have existed during the Reformation showing up in that time period, so what. My sister prefers well researched stories so she can sort of sink into that period without being jarred. Not to take this into a different direction, just a quick answer if it happens yu have time and notice this.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner August 23, 2009 at 4:22 PM  

Mine was The Stolen Bride, by Jo Beverley. I read that on top of The Rake and the Reformer by Mary Jo Putney. I had always thought of romance as "that aisle I don't go down in the bookstore." But I wanted to read something historical, and picked up these two Regencies. They blew me away!

I was thoroughly ashamed of myself for my previous prejudice, because the writing was strong, the stories well told, the characters finely developed--I could go on with superlatives. They were just dang good!

They inspired me to write historical romances myself. Jo and Mary Jo are still going strong today, which attests to their talent. When I ended up sitting next to Mary Jo at the Rita ceremony in SF last year, it was a fan girl's dream come true! I tried not to drool too much on her.

Oh, I don't need to win a Chatelaine book. :-) Just chatting.

EmilyBryan August 23, 2009 at 5:29 PM  

Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

My mom started reading romance novels and put the first one in my hands. Books became a little joy we could share even though my DH and I were living in another state and I didn't get to see my mom more than a couple times a year.

C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 7:15 PM  

Amy Kathryn said
I love the HEA but I also love to learn things about people and places in a more enjoyable format than a textbook.

Precisely! Because novels make history come alive. (And I loved A Rose in Winter and Clan of the Cave Bear as well)

Anonymous said:
I always shunned the Romance Genre because I figured it to be formula writing at its worst.

The one thing I've learned is that good story telling can be found in any genre. I love (obviously, as a fantasy-romance novelist) cross genre fiction. It's a rare book indeed that can hold my attention without a romance (Robert Preston's "The Hot Zone", Grisham's "The Firm" and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels come to mind), but then, I love action movies as much as I love good romantic comedy or period films, too. I'm so pleased with all the choices we have now - and I adore all the creative ways paranormal romance has expanded.

C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 7:23 PM  

Hey Hawk! Thanks for stopping by and posting. As you know, I'm a big Johanna Lindsey fan - and always have been :)

Cindy - my favorite Roberta Gellis books are actually her fantasy romance novels based on Greco-Roman Myths. Dazzling Brightness-the Persephone/Hades myth, The Bull God - based on the Minotaur, etc. LOVE those books. But I remember curling up with her Rosalynde Chronicles.

Anonymous asked
What do you consider more important using your imagination, or sticking to the facts? If you had to choose between telling the story you wanted to, or presenting a character that you really liked, or sticking with the true facts of the period what would you do?

I write fiction. :) I would never let facts stand in the way of telling a good story :) So long as whatever I wrote succeeeded in suspending disbelief and resulted in an engrossing and entertaining read, I'm all for it. As I said, any gorss misrepresentatino of a truth, I would document in an author's note - so readers DO know the truth and know that I did, in fact, do my research :)

C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 7:28 PM  

Jennifer - I love Mary Jo Putney and Jo Beverly novels too. I was one of the thousands waiting with bated breath for Bey's story :D I've met (and listened to) Jo Beverly on several occasions - she's a pure delight. Haven't yet had a chance to meet MJP.

Emily....Ashes in the Wind...happy sigh. Brings back lovely memories. How wonderful that you and your mother can share a love of reading together. I finally let my oldest daughter, Ileah, read my books, and now we have the best time talking about great books. Middle daughter has become an avid reader as well. Son still finds golf and video games more thrilling, but he really enjoyed the Septimus Heap books :)

Janice Lynn August 23, 2009 at 7:34 PM  

I've no idea what my first historical romance was. I started sneaking my mom's books wayyyyyy before she would let me read them. But I don't remember titles, but I do remember that I loved them all!! :)

Patricia Barraclough August 23, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

My first romance novel was THE PRIZE by Julie Garwood. Had passed romance books up before because of the clinch covers. The covers on Julie Garwoods books at the time had jeweled broaches on them. I now have a house full of books about half of them romances.
I've learned more about history from them than I ever did in school. I love history and reading the books and following blogs by the romance authors has fed that interest.

C.L. Wilson August 23, 2009 at 8:10 PM  

Janice - lol on sneaking your mom's books! :) I love it.

Patricia - I remember being slightly embarrassed buying clinch covers in the grocery checkout line, but I got over that :P I adored Julie Garwood's books. Once I discovered her, she became an autobuy too.

I can't tell you how much french history I learned just from the Angelique series by Sergeanne Golon. My french teacher was amaazed how much I knew about the times of Louis XIV :)

M. August 23, 2009 at 8:34 PM  

I spent my teenage years in Germany, where the romance books were not as numerous in libraries as they are in North America. I think the first romance I read was one of the lengthy 'Angelique' series whose author escapes me at the moment. I remember being impressed by how a villain (or was he?!?!) once found her by sniffing along streets till he sensed her distinctive perfume.

mayamissani AT yahoo DOT ca

Marley Delarose, Author August 24, 2009 at 4:43 AM  

Oh, I just had to add - I gave the first three Fading Lands books to my girlfriend in Maryland who reads mostly straight fantasy and she loved them. She told her boss who she shares books with - Hey W, guess what they have now - Chick Fantasy! But no surprise, he liked them as well. Romance - it's not just for women.

Anonymous had a point about the crossover subgenres picking up new readers.

maered August 24, 2009 at 6:26 AM  

I honestly can't remember my first historical romance. I think it may have been a mills and boon historical by Deborah Simmons. I think.

All I know is that I'm addicted to them now!

C.L. Wilson August 24, 2009 at 9:32 AM  

M - I enjoyed Germany when my cousin and I went on a backpacking trip across Europe after college :) There was a cool pub called Marco Polo in Hamburg (really captures an old world field, build of stone, with a rabbit warren of tiny little winding corridors leading to tables tucked away in alcoves. One of my favorite spots :) Romance reading material was hard to come by in Germany even in 1990, but we exchanged novels with other backpackers in the youth hostels, and periodically spent some of our carefully hoarded cash in bookstores :)

Marley said
I gave the first three Fading Lands books to my girlfriend in Maryland who reads mostly straight fantasy and she loved them. She told her boss who she shares books with...But no surprise, he liked them as well.

Marley - LOVE it!!! :) Thanks for sharing, and tell your friend thanks for sharing too!! :)

Maered - loving them now is good enough for me :) Thanks for stopping by to post!

kneazle22 September 1, 2009 at 6:17 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
kneazle22 September 1, 2009 at 6:22 PM  

I remember the first romance novel i ever picked up and i havent been able to put them down since. I was a freshman in HS and the book was Merlin's Legacy:Daughter of Fire by Quinn Taylor Evans it was more of a paranormal romance with some actual History thrown into the mix.

I couldnt put it down, and searched hi and low for the sequels, alas my school library did not cary them nor did any of the stores i visited. Years later i still remembered that book and found them and purchased the whole series.

There was only one downside and ladies dont laugh but UNREAL EXPECTATIONS reading those books at the age of 14 created a idea of what "it" was all about, im now married 10 years and learned along time ago we cant hold our husbands to those standards LOL but it sure is great to get that escape!

When i sit down on the couch to read a good romance novel with a cup of hot cocoa with my fleece in the wintertime that is bliss for me.

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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