I’ve always had a soft spot for the If You Like pages because they are actually what led me to All About Romance in the first place.
Back in the fall of 1999 a lot of the chaos of my twenties was finally behind me. I’d finished school, grad school, gotten a job, gotten married, and had bought a house. At last I had time to read. For fun. So I turned back to my first love…romance novels. Back in the early 80’s I’d read Kathleen E. Woodiwiss’s A Rose in Winter as a Good Housekeeping super-condensed fiction highlight of the month. I was eleven, but I still remember the sweeping romantic line drawings on the beige colored insert. I read it in sneak peeks in the downstairs bathroom because somehow I knew this was adult-type stuff.
From there I read other romances available at my library, again snuck home in my book bag and read fairly furtively. These were mostly Regencies, chaste stuff. It was a few years
before I read the complete version of A Rose in Winter and realized that Erienne and Christopher actually have sex. Several times. Well, to make a long story short, all through high school when I had a spare moment I was buried in a romance. It was a mostly secret addiction. My sister knew.
So after I’d gotten educated and finished bettering myself reading all those books you “should” read, I looked around for something I’d like to read. Something just for fun. So I googled Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and wound up on the If You Like page for AAR. The rest, as they say, is history. It didn’t take me long to click from that page to the message boards, to the reviews and from there to find books like Laura London’s The Windflower and Mary Balogh’s Heartless. In a month’s time I was hooked.
Eventually I became a reviewer for AAR and in the summer of 2002 overhauled the If You Like pages into the form they are today. And though the pages get little comment from readers, the stats for the site reveal they are regularly used. If You Like…(By Author/Style) gets the most hits of any static page at AAR. So my sense is that it remains relevant.
My question is how relevant? Seven years have passed since the pages were overhauled and the list of authors who regularly hit the bestseller lists or get message board mentions has changed somewhat. I’ve started to ponder who should be included there as the Gateway authors of import. Who does the grocery store currently reader see as a representative for our favorite genre and who should we recommend to her to have a similarly enjoyable reading experience?
I would like the If You Like pages, particularly the Author/Style one, to be the most effective tool it can be to get great books into the hands of readers who will enjoy them and go on to glom some more. Which is why AAR will be updating it soon and would like your input on how useful the lists are currently and which authors belong there as great representatives of the genre not everyone is familiar enough with.
Any input? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Oh, and, BTW, sadly I’ve found that the discovery of so many great contemporary romance authors at AAR has impeded my enjoyment of Woodiwiss’s signature prose style. In other words, I find I really can’t read her any longer. But we’ll always have those moments stolen together in the bathroom with the really big, really ugly orange sunflower wallpaper in 1982. I’ll never forget those, K.E.W.)