A HUGE thank you to the fabulous Juliana Ross for filling in at the last minute for this week’s Friday Feature.
It was A Gift of Violets that started it all. Written by Janet Radcliffe for Candlelight, it was the first romance novel I ever read. I was about 11 or 12, I think. I can’t recall how I came across it, but most likely it belonged to my mom, who always had a towering pile of romances on the floor next to her bedside table.
I read it so often, in fact, that the cover came off and I had to hold it together with an elastic band. One long, endlessly boring summer at a friend’s cabin on the west coast of Canada, I remember, I read through it at least once a day. It was that or hundred-year-old copies of Punch. (It’s listed on Goodreads, FYI.)
From A Gift of Violets, I moved on to the rest of my mom’s stash: Rosemary Rogers. Rebecca Brandewyne. Bertrice Small. (Although I was devastated when she killed off Skye O’Malley’s Niall.) My sister caught the bug, and the two of us read our way through our teens by pooling our babysitting money to buy romances from the smelly, crowded stacks in Dixon’s Used Books.
For some reason, my favorite authors from that period all seemed to have names starting with J: Johanna Lindsey, Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught. I loved everything they wrote, although I was never all that fond of Fabio as a cover model.
And then I finished high school, started university, and just…stopped. I hadn’t decided I didn’t like romance any more; hadn’t acquired any sort of freshman’s disdain for bourgeois fiction (thank goodness I never became that annoying). I suppose it was just that I had so much else to read—I studied History and French Literature as an undergrad, and I was always reading something for school.
All through university, and then into grad school and my first years at work, I pretty much forgot about romance. I actually didn’t read all that much fiction, to be honest, and when I did I turned to murder mysteries. Every so often I’d reminisce about the authors I used to love, but they didn’t seem to be writing much any more, and it didn’t occur to me to search out new favorites.
All that changed in the summer of 2008. I was noodling around on the Interweb one day, likely in the wee hours since that was the only time I didn’t have a baby in my arms, and I stumbled across a wonderful blog called “Edwardian Promenade”. Sherry Thomas had been interviewed about Delicious. The interview was so captivating that I immediately ordered both Delicious and Private Arrangements and read them back to back.
They were a revelation—every bit as enjoyable as the blockbuster 1980s romances I’d once adored, but at the same time real works of literature in their own right, with beautifully crafted prose and impeccably researched historical details. I was hooked.
I started reading romance blogs, started looking at recommendations from other readers, and soon found a treasure trove of romance riches: the considerable backlists of Meredith Duran, Courtney Milan, Pamela Clare, Elizabeth Hoyt, Loretta Chase, Anne Stuart, Tessa Dare. ..heaven! And the day I discovered my public library had the entire backlist of Lisa Kleypas…I only wish I could go back and rediscover all of these writers again for the first time.
I realize now that there were always great romances being written. It’s just that I didn’t know where to find them, nor where to find a community of like-minded readers with whom I could share my delight in these stories.
And that’s where blogs like this one and others I’ve been following come in—they’re a way for us, readers and writers alike, to share, discuss, vent, rant and recommend. Without them, I know, I would never have found my way back to romance fiction. So it’s only right that I say thanks to all of you who are spreading the word about the books you love—I wouldn’t be here without you.
About the author:
An editor by profession but an historian by inclination, Juliana Ross has an abiding interest (one might even say obsession) in British social history that first took root when she studied at the University of Oxford. She graduated with a doctorate in modern history and has since used her 350-page thesis, variously, as a paperweight, booster seat and flower press.
Juliana now lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children. In her spare time she cooks for family and friends, makes slow inroads into her weed patch of a garden, and reads romance novels (the steamier the better) on her eReader.
To celebrate the release of Improper Relations and her visit here today, Ms. Ross is giving away a digital copy of Improper Relations to one lucky commenter.
Title: Improper Relations by Juliana Ross
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Historical, Victorian, Erotic, Romance
Length: 22,000 words
When Hannah’s caught watching her late husband’s cousin debauch the maid in the library, she’s mortified–but also intrigued. An unpaid companion to his aunt, she’s used to being ignored.
The black sheep of the family, Leo has nothing but his good looks and noble birth to recommend him. Hannah ought to be appalled at what she’s witnessed, but there’s something about Leo that draws her to him.
When Leo claims he can prove that women can feel desire as passionately as men, Hannah is incredulous. Her own experiences have been uninspiring. Yet she can’t bring herself to refuse his audacious proposal when he offers to tutor her in the art of lovemaking. As the tantalizing, wicked lessons continue, she begins to fear she’s losing not just her inhibitions, but her heart as well. The poorest of relations, she has nothing to offer Leo but herself. Will it be enough when their erotic education ends?
Read my review of Improper Relations HERE
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