I still remember how I came to romance as a genre. As is the case for many of the romance readers I know, my introduction came via another person. When I was fourteen, I had a part-time page job at the local public library. My friend Melanie worked in the same place. Melanie was a year older and I used to think she was incredibly sophisticated. In truth, we both used to giggle about boy bums, and roll our eyes at the librarian who followed us to make sure our work was done. Being library pages, we had the opportunity to check out each other’s reading material on a regular basis.
Melanie read different books than I did. I had always been drawn to stories about mythology, history and ghosts. Melanie, on the other hand, used to borrow huge stacks of pretty pink books with loving couples on the covers. That’s right, she read hundreds of Mills and Boon romances.
I questioned her about them one day. “What’s up with the pink books?”
Melanie’s eyes grew big and her voice became hushed. “Ohmigod. You haven’t tried these? Look!”
She pulled one off the shelf and flipped to a point somewhere in the middle. She told me to read the passage.
I blushed. The hero and heroine were doing things I’d only ever imagined doing with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran.
Besides,” said Melanie, “I love these books because there’s always a happy ending.”
A happy ending?
Even at the young age of fourteen, I had learned that wasn’t always possible in life. So, I gave romance a try. After all, Melanie read reams of the stuff, and she was the coolest person I knew. I asked for her recommendation, but another romance quickly caught my eye. There was a castle on the cover, and the blurb piqued my interest with its description of the noble hero. Which romance did I read first?
Robyn Carr’s The Troubadour’s Romance.
Friends, I devoured it.
Now, perhaps it was because I was fourteen and I’d never read a sexy book before, but there was something about the brooding Sir Royce Leighton that spoke to me. I’d had crushes on boys before, but this was a man. He stimulated my senses and captured my heart. His relationship with heroine Felise may have begun in a tempestuous manner but when they discovered their passion, so did I. That book changed me. It helped me realize there was a whole romantic world out there, and it wasn’t long before I began to imagine romantic worlds of my own. In this way, I can thank Robyn Carr for my writing career. I can definitely thank Melanie.
After reading The Troubadour’s Romance, I came to a realization: I never wanted to read books that didn’t involve some sort of love story. And honestly, that has basically been the case for over thirty years. Sometimes I deviate from romance or romantic themes, but when I do, I find myself yearning for “happily ever afters.” And, very often, I remember my gateway romance and how alive it made me feel.
Reading my first romance elicited the same emotions in me as my first love. It was all-encompassing, it stirred my imagination, and it was a potent, unforgettable sexual awakening.
More than anything, it made me realize I wanted to create those feelings in other readers. If I ever discover I’ve provided readers with their own Sir Royce, I really can’t ask for more than that. And I certainly hope I’ve been someone’s Melanie.