For the interest of talking about Romance as a genre, I think it’s worthwhile to see how I got to it. It’s…maybe a bit of a weird story.
My journey actually starts not with Romance, exactly, but with Romantic Suspense. I used to love murder mysteries, in the style of Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark. Thanks to my mom, I started discovering books by authors like Beverly Barton that were equal parts mystery and romance, or Wendy Corsi Staub, who also wrote YA for a while. They were able to twist together danger, romance, amazing characters, and heart-stopping thrills. I was hooked.
Keep in mind, this is the same time age (13-16) where I (and probably a lot of you) was already reading romance in YA. I was reading A Great and Terrible Beauty at 13, which maybe doesn’t sound like the most romantic thing out there, but it weirdly was? It was that slow burn that got me. This was also the time of The Luxe, Wicked Lovely, Twilight, and Sarah Dessen. While these books weren’t explicit about the relationships, they certainly had the love stories I craved.
Starting in 2008, I was apparently getting my hands on some pretty obscure, not-really-my-type romance. I’m actually kind of giggling looking back at my Goodreads list right now. Apparently I read Hungry For More, a story of a chef whose relationships with women inspire his menus and a woman who has the ability to tell anyone who their One True Love is. I also read The Outsider, a story of a Shaker in 1807 who falls in love with a doctor outside of her faith. I’m pretty sure I found these at the library, but I’m not sure why I picked these? Or how I found them? They’re kind of ridiculous.
2009 is just a mass of supernatural YA stories, most of them vampire stories. But nestled between Blue Bloods and Vampire Academy, there’s a YA historical fiction called The Season that I fell in love with. It’s written by Sarah MacLean, a debut author at the time but someone we’ll be talking about more very soon. This was the absolute first Regency Romance that I fell in love with. It follows Lady Alexandra, a strong-willed 17-year-old who is trying to solve the murder of a fellow aristocrat–with the help of the dead man’s very handsome son. It was everything I wanted from a historical fiction and I have no doubt it’s what helped me down my historical romance path.
But honestly, for about a year, I didn’t read anything but YA. Then, I was suddenly all about Paranormal Romance. I think it’s because I got my first Kindle around this point and suddenly had all these cheap (or free!) books at my fingertips. Darkfever, Bitten, Night Pleasures, Fantasy Lover, and Stray are the string of new series I read in less than 2 months’ time. And let me tell you, these were far more…descriptive…than anything I’d read before. They were paranormal and adventurous and exciting and I was hooked.
In 2011, I read my first real historical romance, as you’re used to. You know, the fancy ball gowns, the hunky men in flowing white shirts and tight pants, the bodice rippers. I won A Kiss at Midnight in a Goodreads giveaway and, though I didn’t really pick up another romance for quite some time (since I starting blogging YA at this time), I think it was still an influence.
Slowly, while in college, I started trying out romance authors, here and there. First was Grace Burrowes, then Sarah MacLean (the aforementioned writer of The Season), then Tessa Dare. These are still 3 authors I find myself returning to more often than not.
2014 seems to have been the turning point where suddenly I was reading romance more often. I have three reasons why, looking back, this might have been the case: 1) I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly 2 years that year and I struggled with being single for a while, 2) I was a first year teacher at this time and if I could read anything that was light and fast, it was better for my mental state, and 3) At 23, I was much closer in age to these heroines than I was YA’s. From this point on, I was reading about 1 romance book a months, sometimes 2-3, mixed between all the YA.
I’ve said it before, but I truly do think that romance gets a bad rep because it’s written for women. Honestly, many of these stories have been about strong women with fascinating interests and backgrounds and life goals. And they don’t suddenly become docile little housewives when they marry, like so many heroines in 19th century novels did. These stories are entertaining. I giggle so much as I read about the hijinks the couples get into. It’s a rom-com most of the time and I love it. Clearly.
I’ll end this here for now, since we’re going to take a closer look at some of these books and authors in the future. This was actually a lot of fun to take a deep dive into the dark depths of my Goodreads account! (I’ve had it since June 2008!!)