Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reading Romance on the Bathroom Floor

funny pictures - Betsey had clearly been reading Jane Austen again
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My mother had passed on when I was fourteen, but I had some awesome aunts to see me through the turbulent teen years. One of them introduced me to the wonderful world of romance novels, by dint of writing them herself. Another story there, but the other night, while going through my TBR bookshelves (yes, plural) I had a visit with my teenage self, back when I stashed historical romance novels in the cabinet under the bathroom sink.

The bathroom was a sanctum for teen-me, the one room I knew nobody would disturb me, and thus the room I always volunteered to clean when it was housework time. I could take care of tile and fixtures lickety split, but I'd stay in there as long as I could, thanks to my secret stash.

I still remember specific books I read there, Spanish Rose by Shirlee Busbee, and Heartland by Rebecca Brandewyne, to name two. It's not only the titles I remember, but the books themselves, the smell and feel of the pages, the heft of the four hundred plus pages in my hands, the gorgeous Elaine Duillo covers - I collect those now- and the pink cardstock bookmarks with "Jan's Paperbacks" in black script on them. That UBS is long gone, and I have twice had to replace large portions of my keeper stash, but it's times like this that adult-me can make teen-me scootch over on the white and yellow tiles and I'm there again.

The world outside the bathroom door still existed, so I don't term this an 'escape,' but a respite. Time and again, no matter the setting or era, I read about strong, resourceful women who refused to sit by and let life happen to them. These gals went to war, they captained pirate ships, they navigated Court intrigues and crossed the badlands, their femininity not a weakness but a strength. These books nourished me, both as a reader and as a writer. I knew that I would be the one writing making these heroines and their heroes come to life one day; it wasn't something I had to figure out, any more than I had to figure out having green eyes. This was right. This was me. The adventure, the characters and their relationships, all the highs and the lows on the way to HEA, that was home for me.

I loved the variety of settings; a favorite author might have taken me to Renaissance Italy this time, but next time, we'd have a date for Colonial New York, then go a-viking, then attend a glittering Edwardian soiree, then elsewhere, then elsewhere, then elsewhere. I still have that literary wanderlust, asking myself where I want to go and who I want to meet this time, in a new book read or a new story waiting to be born. Even with stories scattered over space and time, it was what was the same that resonated with me the most. The women always won. They got what they wanted, sometimes at great cost, but I always closed the covers that final time with a happy sigh and the feeling that yes, life will go on. Whatever the hero and heroine had to fight to find and keep each other, they made it, and they will make it through whatever life brings in the future.

For me, that is happily-ever-after, not that there will never be any bad times, but that we will make it through whatever comes, and we don't have to do it alone. Sorting through my shelves, I got a lot more than the chance to pick out what I wanted to read next. I got a chance to reach back through time and for a few minutes there, I was reading romance on the bathroom floor once again. It's the closest thing I can think of to a meeting of minds between teen-me and adult-me, and I have to say we had a fabulous time. We're meeting again tonight.

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