Day 20: Favorite romance book:
So, this is where I wax eloquent on romance novels. Romance novels and I have had a long and fulfilling relationship. We've had some good runs, where we were largely monogamous with one another. On the other hand, there have been some times where I was unfaithful, and, as well, times when I took my relationship with romance for granted.
I am actually in a place right now where I am not reading a lot or (read: really any) romance. That does not mean that I expect to never read romance again. To the contrary, I know that there will undoubtedly come a time when I will turn back to romance to fulfill that empty place deep inside my soul.
In all seriousness, I do want to talk about some romance novels that aren't actually my favorites, but that represent, for me, my history as a reader.
Let us begin with Harlequin Presents. The book that I selected was originally published in 1982, which is actually probably a little later than I am thinking, so it is unlikely that I read this specific number. But, I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and we had a used bookstore that my mother and I would visit. I honestly cannot remember what kinds of books she would buy, but I would buy a stack of Harlequins and power read them. I could devour a dozen in a week or two. I have no distinct recollection of any of them - I recall, vaguely, far away, exotic places, beautiful (typically young) heroines, and men who would manfully master them. I loved them like candy.
On to the next category: Clare Darcy's regency romances. I had a hardbook book with three books: Lydia, Georgiana and Cecily. I am pretty sure that it is this identical book. I read it over and over and over. These were very clean, very winsome regencies, with heroines who were "chits" and heroes who were "rakes." This book started a lifelong love of regency romance, which has held me in good stead for nigh on thirty years.
The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss is a medieval romance set immediately after the Norman Conquest in 1066. First off, I know that the Norman Conquest occured in 1066 because of this book. This was my first historical romance, and was followed by Shanna and Ashes in the Wind, and many other rapey bodice rippers that I loved.
The Far Pavilions. Another book I read in the late 1970's. As far as I am concerned, the romance of Ashok and Anjuli represented the quintessence of star-crossed, epic romance. It is a sweeping book, set in India during the British colonial period. Everything about this book appealed to me, from the frankly gorgeous cover, to the Britishisms, to the Kiplingesque Ashok. I also learned about suttee from this book, a horrifying custom that mandates that the bride of an Indian Raj is required to immolate herself upon the pyre of her dead husband. Holy what the fuck yes I'm a feminist, batman. Consider my consciousness raised, after I checked the Encyclopedia Brittanica (those existed back then) and learned to my horror that this was a real thing.
Victoria Holt was gothic romance. Exotic places (do you see a theme developing here? I lived in Boise, Idaho, for crying out loud. I yearned for exotic), handsome, broody, damaged heroes, big English manor houses.
Finally, the book that is probably seriously my favorite romanceof all time is Friends and Lovers by Helen MacInnes. Mrs. MacInnes was known for her cold war spy novels, not for romance. But this book resonated with me. It was NA before NA was a thing - a young woman from an upper class Scottish family (father was a lawyer) meets a young Oxford student - David Bosworth - and they fall madly in love. In classic fashion, the course of true love does not run smooth. Penny's family is not happy with David's working class roots, in spite of the fact that he is very smart, with an exceptionally bright future. It takes place in the lead up to WWII. It is a lovely little romance. I loved it so much that (I am ashamed to say) I "lost it" and was therefore responsible for paying the library for my copy, and I read it until the cover fell off. It will be released for the kindle in March of next year, and I am delighted at the prospect of reading it again.