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Not My Grandma’s Romance Novel

by on September 14, 2012

First times are always the most memorable. Be it the sweet tenderness of the first kiss or the bitter aftertaste of the first hangover. You can have kisses and hangovers hundreds of times throughout your life, but it’s the first one you’ll always remember. It’s the same way with the first romance novel. No matter how big of a bestseller it was, or just how badly it flopped in sales, it’s a book you’ll never forget reading. I know I’ll never forget the first romance novel I read.

I grew up in a reading household. One of my fondest childhood memories was waking up on Sunday morning and going out into the living room. My mother would be lying on the couch with a medical book in hand as my dad sat on the loveseat with a book about philosophy. My grandma would complete the picture, as she would sit in the armchair by the window with a Harlequin novella.

Grandma would always tell me about the books she’s read, trying to convince me to give romance stories a try. She would go on and on about those hot, rich heroes who would lavish the heroine with gifts, love, and attention. And the heroines that were poor as dirt but so sweet and naïve that they won the heroes hearts. Oh, and the plots about secret babies and marriages of convenience.

My grandma never did convince me to give romance a try. I’ve never been a fan of sappy heroes and naïve heroines. No thanks! I was much happier reading James Patterson and the grizzly murders he came up with. But one day, after the tenth Patterson novel in a row, I got sick of his stories and needed a change. I found a new to me author who promised an edge of your seat suspense thriller, so I bought the book and rushed home to read it. It was “Blind Alley” by Iris Johansen.

That book kept its promise. I couldn’t put it down, reading from start to finish in one sitting, even if I didn’t go to bed until 5 AM. It was an adventure story with a truly evil villain and an almost fearless heroine. I felt for the characters and the intense crime drama that unfolded through the pages. More than that, I was intrigued by the forbidden desires between the much older hero and the young but strong heroine.  Ms Johansen didn’t give this couple a happily ever after. She didn’t let them act on their lust. Nope! Readers had to buy the next book in the series to get that. And I did buy the next book. I bought it the next day and read it all in one sitting. I loved the idea of throwing romance into a suspenseful crime story. Upon learning that romantic suspense is an actual genre, I read as much of those kind of books as I could get my hands on. I was an overnight addict, and there wasn’t any 12 step program to help me!

Grandma got her wish; I loved reading romance. To this day, romantic suspense is my favorite genre, and suspense elements tend to pop up in my plots.

What was the first romance book you’ve ever read?


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  1. Excellent post, Angelina. Love James Patterson he certainly has a way of keeping a reader on the edge. I can’t say I remember my first romance novel. There were a lot of mysteries on my bookshelves I did love Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. The Bobsey Twins before I moved on to Steven King, Grisham, Cook, Mary Higgins Clark, etc. I’m still a suspense/thriller type gal and somehow a bit of that manages to wiggle its way into my writing. Go figure. 🙂

  2. I loved this post. I have a different experience of having started at the early age of 12, romance is what got me into reading. I remember one of the first books that I enjoyed so much I had to write the author and let her know she’d inspired me to write. That author was Bertrice Small. What thrilled me the most was the fact that she wrote back. The book of hers that I read was Skye O’Malley. Bertrice Small’s books among a few others are what have inspired me to do what I do now..even if it is 31 years later.


  3. How true. I enjoy all aspects of the romance genre but romantic suspense is definitely one one of the top rungs of my reading ladder.

  4. Shyla Colt permalink

    Great post Angelina. The firts always have a special place in your heart. Can i say your gma sounds awesome!

  5. Excellent post, Angelina! I can’t remember the first romance novel I ever read, but it was probably a Penny Jordan or Betty Neals. I was more into the Hardy Boys, then Mignon G Eberhardt. When I read Gone With the Wind, I became sold on romance…both the pitfalls and the pleasures.

  6. Dahlia DeWinters permalink

    Romantic suspense has the best elements of both genres, for sure.


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