Saturday, February 26, 2011

Paula Roe: Revisiting Your First (Reading) Love

I grew up reading Enid Blyton - The Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, Amelia Jane, Willow Farm... all fueled my imagination and stirred my budding writer heart. Then, as girls are wont to do, I went through my horse phase - My Friend Flicka, The Silver Brumby, The Colt at Taparoo. Eventually, I migrated to other animals: cats (the Carbonel series by Barbara Sleigh), rabbits (Watership Down) and of course, the wonderful vet stories by James Herriott. Sometimes there was a touch of the fantastical, such as dogs from outer space, or magical talking cats. But always with the animals :-)

And then I went to high school and picked up Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey. Can anyone say O M G ? What a different world! What amazing characters! And the forbidden passion, the forceful seduction, the glorious history and the happy-ever-after. :sigh: Sweeping tempestuous historicals full of alpha males and unconventional, strong women, perfect for an odd-ball angsty teenager with a voracious reading appetite. I devoured books by Kathleen Woodiwiss, Shirlee Busbee, Laurie McBain, Jennifer Wilde, writers who are now the undisputed pioneers of the modern-day romance novel.

Of course, I've read a gajillion more books since the early 80s, but a few years back, I decided to re-read an old favorite. So I picked up one an old favorite, The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss.

Can you guess what happened?

Yep. Just wasn't the same. Sure, the writing is still evocative, the characters compelling, and relationship/attitude-wise, historically correct. But I'd changed over the years. As a reader, I've formed and honed my own opinions, and my writing brain heavily influences my reading choices. For example, I *know* all love scenes aren't perfect (I will forever adore Johanna Lindsey for writing a fumbling, imperfect "is that all there is?" love scene between her hero and heroine in Secret Fire. ) I know I won't enjoy stories with heroines TSTL or an ultra-alpha male who thinks it's okay to call the heroine derogatory names. And I won't suffer through more than three chapters, hoping a story will get better, when I could be doing something more productive with my time. Like writing :-)

On the flipside, one historical that’s stood the test of time is Angel in Scarlet by Jennifer Wilde (it was written in 1986!). I adore this fun, pygmalion-esque story and re-read it every couple of years.

I also regularly re-read the Chronicles on Narnia. Sure, there are things I could nitpick about, but I turn off that internal editor and just enjoy the fantastical world coming alive in those pages.

So what books remain on your permanent 'to be re-read' shelf? Any chilldhood favorites? Any recent reads that are Golden Keepers and you can see yourself re-reading 5-10 years from now?

Paula Roe is a Borders bestseller and her fifth book for Silhouette Desire, Promoted to Wife? is out this month. You can visit her at her website or connect via Twitter or Facebook.


Mason Canyon said...

I have a copy of Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsey too. I've read it several times. Now I'll have to go through my boxes of books to read it again. :)

Thoughts in Progress

Paula Roe said...

Hi Mason! One of my favorite JLs is Angel - it's due for a reread soon :-)

Kylie Griffin said...


I still have the very first book I bought with my pocket money as a kid. It's a sci-fi adventure called PLAGUE SHIP by Andre Norton. The pages are getting brittle so I might have to hunt down another copy.

As for romances I only discovered them when I started college! But I still have the first one I discovered in a second hand bookstore. It's FANTA C by Sandra Brown.

After that I stumbled across Johanna Lindsey's WARRIOR WOMAN and HEART OF THUNDER.

I was pretty much hooked on romance from there. :-)

Nicole Murphy said...

Kylie - with you on Warrior Woman, that's one of my fave romances of old time.

Paula, I'd love to get back to reading some of the old-school stuff. My introduction to romance was 60s and 70s Mills and Boon, and I'm a little loathe to go there again cause some of them were horrible in the whole 'rape' idea of sex. Then my friends got me into Amanda Quick and Johanna Lindsey, where it had already gone reasonably modern.

But I am looking for recommendations for older romance, so I'm well connected to the history of the genre. I'll keep an eye out for Angel in Scarlet.

Nas Dean said...

I have some Virginia Andrews I re-read. I was totally addicted to the Flowers in the Attic series.

With romance I was hooked into HM&B from a very early age.

Kaelee said...

I started reading Harlequins when I was 11 back in 1959. My two favorite early authors were Mary Burchell and Betty Neels and I still reread some of their books every year. Then I went though a Regency Romance period and read and kept all Georgette Heyer's books. I have read Joanna Lindsay but mostly from the library so I don't have any keepers of hers.

Lil said...

I will have to find a copy of Angel is Scarlet to read. Love recommendations. Some on my keeper/re-read shelf are The Three Musketeers (mine is Pyramid Books 1974 printing and I loved this translation), Joan Smith's Escapade for its witty dialogue in a regency romance, and Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters also because of the humor.

Paula Roe said...

Kylie, I remember STAR DOG by A M Lightner (alien dog lands on Earth) - totally loved it when I was in year 7! So managed to hunt it down about 10 years ago and bought a 2nd hand copy on line. Still love it!

Nicole - I love Warrior Woman! was JLs first sci-fi and I was hooked. Also love her time travel Until Forever... I'm still waiting for her to write a book about one of her secondary characters :-)

Paula Roe said...

Nas, I went through the Flowers In the Attic stage. Read three of them over a weekend :-) (and they were so much better than the movie!)

Kaelee - I came to M&B late in life... around 18-19, I think :-D I was totally hooked on Temptations (gee, I still miss them!)

Lil - I also loved the Valerie Sherwood 'Love' series. First time I'd really enjoyed a series with the same characters. And her Lovely Lying Lips was a different read, with three generations of women (doncha love those titles? LOL)

Michele L. said...

Hi Paula,

I have many books on my keeper shelf. I have practically every book written by Jennifer Crusie, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Janet Evanovich, and Carly Phillips. I also have books by Sophie Kinsella, Stephanie Bond, Susan Krinard, Shana Abe, Kate Collins, J.K. Rowlings, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kat Richardson, Charlaine Harris and many other authors. There are so many authors I like and so many book series I love!

Paula Roe said...

Michele, you're nearly a bad as me! Loooove Sophie Kinsella, Jenny Crusie, Charlaine Harris... the list goes on :-D