My first full-on real-life romance novel was Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. Naturally, it’s on my keeper shelf right next to The Wolf and the Dove. I have the ones with the original covers, though they are far from mint. The namby pamby covers on the ones with the links are meh. Unlike most of my contemporaries whose first (or close to it) romance experience was Woodiwiss, mine wasn’t with The Flame and the Flower or Ashes in the Wind, neither of which I cared for.
But she’s not my guilty pleasure.
It’s Carole Mortimer of Harlequin Presents circa 1979 through, oh, I guess around 1986.
No, really. I was still impressionable, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers and Bertrice Small and Valerie Sherwood and Johanna Lindsey notwithstanding. They were historical and well, that didn’t apply. Plus, I had to work at reading those novels. They obliged me to look up all the $50 words they used that I didn’t understand and forced me to soak up all that historical detail. I did very well on my vocabulary tests and in history class because of them.
So forget the 5 queens of ’80s bodice rippers (and hey, Romancelandia, don’t froth at the mouth at that because that’s when they were, indeed, bodice rippers) and their propensities toward, well, bodice ripping, it’s from Carole I got my taste for the forced seduction, the almost-asshole alpha (’cause you know in the end they get redeemed by the ingenue and you read the whole book just to get to the redemption), and the May-December romance. I mean, really. Was there ever a Carole Mortimer novel that didn’t feature a 36-year-old hero and an 18-year-old heroine?
I have never been successfully or completely deconditioned or reprogrammed. Blame her. It’s not my fault.