Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Genre-lly Speaking

I've been madly in love with historical romance since I read my first one, The Kadin, by Bertrice Small, when I was eleven years old. The story of the Scottish noblewoman betrayed and sold into slavery in the Ottoman Empire, and managed to triumph over all -- and find the love of a lifetime to boot, yeah, that was it. I was hooked. Okay, I was a bit young, but it was the drama and the history that kept me filching books from my mother's stash, and I knew that was what I wanted to write for the rest of my life.

Looking back now, I remember the big bags of books my Aunt Lucy (mom's sister) brought my mom on every visit. Lots of seminal (no pun intended) books of the genre passed through my innocent hands, and while I admired the beautiful covers by artists such as Elaine Gignilliat, Robert McGinnis and my all time favorite, Elaine Duillo and even made up my own story ideas to go with them, it wasn't until I read The Kadin that I actually cracked a cover. Early Rogers, Deveraux, Woodiwiss and more would have to wait a while for me to discover them, but they would come in time.

Fast forward to college. Karen, another gal in my dorm, once tracked me down with Valerie Sherwood's Lovesong and in the most serious tone I'd ever heard her use, told me I had to read this. As with The Kadin, I think that was an appointment. Fast forward a few more years and I am standing in the chill wind of a not yet spring day, pay phone glued to my ear because I will wait however long it takes for the owner of the local independent bookstore to search her shelves and see if there is a copy of Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love because I had to have it right then. Okay, I couldn't actually pick it up for a few more days but if I knew it was waiting behind the counter for me, I could sleep easy.

I used to comb the weekly flea market at a local mall for new treasures, big, thick historicals by old favorites or new discoveries, set in any number of places and times. I'm a big advocate of buying new, whenever I can, but at that point in my life, flea market was what I could do. As long as there was a dashing hero with chinks in his alpha-armor, and a strong, intelligent, beautiful heroine who was his ultimate match, I was --and am-- a happy camper. US Civil War? Okay. Sixteenth century Spain? By all means. Medieval France? You got it. Australia back when it was New South Wales? Got that covered. Tudor court intrigue? Vikings? Pirates? Crusaders? Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Most books weren't in a series then. Sure, there were the occasional second go-rounds for an exceptional couple or a particularly outstanding couple's daughter or son would have a story, but it wasn't the norm as it is now. I find I enjoyed connected books more then than I do now, maybe because they were the exception rather than the rule.

Even with all these variations, there was one thing above all that kept me coming back for more, kept me thinking that someday I would have my name on one of those covers -- the central love story. The one hero and one heroine who were each other's match, a love worthy of legend.

Fittingly enough, I have Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One" playing as I write this entry, and I think that fits why I love the historical romance genre as much as I do.

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