Not My Grandma’s Romance Novel
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?