sinclairI’ve been very busy with work lately and a bit stressed out, as a result.  And then there’s the traditional fall increase in my television watching after the summer drought.  Add to that the fact that I seem to be having a hard time concentrating – and there you have it:  Someone who’s been reading a lot of older categories, thanks to Harlequin’s extensive digitizing of backlists.

I’ve written before about my (kind of inexplicable) affection for the Silhouettes of Tracy Sinclair.  And, yes, it’s true, I’ve been on a bit of a binge lately.  There’s something about a Tracy Sinclair Alpha man that’s comforting to me.

And then there’s the return of the Loveswept line.  How can I resist Iris Johansen and Sharon and Tom Curtis?  Well, I can’t.  And therein lies the  rub.

I’m not dissing categories here.  Well, since I can already hear the screams, let’s be honest and say that I’m introducing a bit of balance here since there is so much love for categories exhibited all over the Interwebs – here and elsewhere.

Truth is, in the past few years, I’ve taken recommendations and tried numerous HPs and other category novels.  Seriously.  I’ve tried.  Really.  And they are just not satisfying to me.  It’s been years since I’ve read a new category I enjoyed.

But the categories of the late 80s and the 90s?  They hit my sweet spot in ways that the categories of today just don’t.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:  Could our affection for categories be more or less dependent on where we are in life when we first read them?

The categories in which I’ve been reveling lately are all books I read before.  I have fond memories of the stories and characters and maybe even where I was in life when I first read them.  I’m emotionally invested in them.  They are, in fact, my ultimate comfort reads.

I’ll be the first to admit that my beloved Tracy Sinclair was a bit of a clumsy writer.  There isn’t anything that happens in her books that isn’t telegraphed well in advance.  She relied on the same character types and they are repeated in book after book.  (After book.)  I think if I came across her today, all these faults – and more – would preclude my developing an affection for her writing.

Now I’m sure there are some great category romances written today, but for every Lightning That Lingers there are a thousand The Billionaire Sheikh’s Virgin Bodyguard.  It takes an honest person to admit that, but there it is.

And, to take that  thought a bit further, sometimes the Harlequin drumbeat gets a bit deafening.  I’m glad that Harlequins are working for you, but they just don’t work for everybody, okay?

I’ve been enjoying my time spent in retro-category land, but I know it’s something I can only take in small doses for short periods of time.  When I’m ready, I’ll be back to my regular reading habits.

So, do you agree?  Do you think affection for categories is relative to where you are in life when you read them?  Are you still reading categories and, if so, how long have you read them?

– Sandy AAR

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