Weekly Reader

Continued from the previous page

December 29, 2000:
I started reading the big romances in the early 80s. My friend turned me on to the John Jakes Bicentennial series, and as I worked in a library at the time, I had lots of resources! My first true romance was Johanna Lindsey’s Fires of Winter, but I went on hiatus from romance for a while and stuck to non-fiction and humor books. I really took the plunge into romance in 1984. My sister’s friend was writing her own kind of erotica, featuring herself as a heroine, and various members of the band Duran Duran as heroes in different stories. (she was 15, after all!) I asked her where she got her ideas, and she gave me some Patricia Hagan books, and some other various authors. I was hooked!

]]> Support our sponsors My tastes are eclectic, in that I like all kinds of books, and find many different kinds of characters intriguing and want to know more about them. From Laura Joh Rowland’s mysteries set in the Imperial Court of Shogun Japan, to Anne Rice’s vampires, there are just too many fictional characters out here with rich histories to ignore, and romance makes them even more interesting.

Sometimes we all run across a lemon, and not the hentai fan-fiction variety, but that won’t stop me. I take my romances in many forms. Shoujo mangas, plain American paperbacks, movies, and anime. So many outlets for the same topic, but we can’t live without it, even if we don’t read about it, or take it in through other media. So, here I am, signing off, and keeping my TBR to a reasonable size.

— Rhonda Drumond
(Rhonda has been reading AAR and LLB content since the beginning)

December 22, 2000:
Though always a reader, I didn’t discover “romance reading” until the year that Judith McNaught’s Perfect was released. Until then….I was a “snob!” Oh, I read Danielle Steel and Lavyrle Spencer but….I didn’t consider them romances. Romances were those with those racy covers! <g>

I was in a reading slump, summer had arrived, and I didn’t have anything of interest to take with me to the beach. I came across an article for the best “beach” books of the year. All were romances. I bit the bullet, and decided to give them a try. Oh my! What a fabulous read. Perfect…in my mind was simply that! Perfect! I’ve since used that as the book to turn others on to “romance” reading.

I’m now a book junkie. Yep! I too now have that never-ending tbr pile. Had to add more book shelves, not just for the “keepers” which reaches near 1000, but for those yet to be read. As I keep buying, without making a dent in that pile, I’m guessing I’ll never read them all!

It’s funny how tastes change though. When I first discovered romance, I found that Judith McNaught, Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, Karen Robards were my “must read” authors. Now…I no longer choose their books. Today, it’s Nora Roberts, Suzanne Brockman, Linda Howard, Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips…oh the list goes on…and on.and on. <g>

–Joanne (Joanne has been reading AAR and LLB content since the beginning)

December 15, 2000:
Okay, I have a disease. It’s a phobia. . .an obsession. . .an inbred need. Ever since I could remember, I’ve been reading. I read when I’m brushing my teeth, I tuck one in my backpack for that “just-in-case” moment of unexpected free time, I leaf through a few pages before bed. When I don’t have a book, I’ll settle for anything – the instructions on the toothpaste, the back of the cereal box, or the road signs. My two bookshelves are double-stacked (I have a row in the back, a row in the front, and where there’s room, a row on top), and I step on books all the time because my room is carpeted with them. And even though I didn’t realize it, I’ve always loved romance.

I haunted the teen section of my library and read until they fell to pieces The Little Princess, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables (one of my favorite parts, to this day, is still Gilbert’s proposal). One day, I bravely ventured to the Other Side – the adult section, ominously printed in black: “Fiction.” Pragmatically, I decided to work my way down alphabetically and hit the jack-pot of my life: Austen, Jane. From there, I went to the Bronte sisters. . .to Margaret Mitchell and the book that most greatly whetted my romance appetite, Gone With the Wind. . .to Danielle Steel. Okay, so following GWTW up with Steel is like sewing a coat from paper towels with dull needles to match an $800 Ralph Lauren sweater. I didn’t care; I was twelve, and a girl with a mission!

Then we got this wonderful thing called a modem and America Online. Searching around I found a post gushing praise of some woman named Jude Deveraux and a book. . .A Knight in Shining Armour. I snickered a bit at the clichéd name, tip-toed over to the romance section where I was assaulted by entwined couples and bare chests – and hoped that I didn’t have to carry such a book for all the world to see (namely, my dad and the male librarian). I forgot how the rest of the day turned out, but I returned the next week to monopolize all the Deveraux’s I could get my hands on. It’s been five years (I’m now seventeen) and I’m proud to say I’ve branched out. I focus on historicals, and among my top favorites are The Windflower (Laura London/Tom and Sharon Curtis), Once and Always and Something Wonderful (Judith McNaught), The Oracle Glass (Judith Merkle Riley), A Countess Below Stairs (Eva Ibbotson), and Lady Gallant (Suzanne Robinson). My favorite authors include Amanda Quick, Stephanie Laurens, Carla Kelly, Elizabeth Peters, Teresa Meideros, Janet Evanovich, Connie Brockway, Loretta Chase, Laura Kinsale, J.D. Robb, Georgette Heyer, Judy Cuevas/Judith Ivory, Deborah Simmons, and Laurell K. Hamilton.

I love romance. It’s not only fun escapism but such an appealing, irresistibly optimistic look on life. Yes, it’s sometimes unrealistic; yes, I am idealizing love – but I think that the majority of romance readers understand the line in between. If that doesn’t convince the skeptics – romance books are a great preparation for the SATs: “It was, in a convoluted way, his favorite period of history. One couldn’t find a more acute allegory of human civilization than the Roman coliseum, wherein the selfish, complacent multitudes gazed from their smug tiers at the sad struggles below” – The Windflower. Not to mention history: “Nuns no longer went in fear of their lives, as they had in old King Harry’s time…”( Lady Gallant) and English: “…it seemed to him that the great love speeches of the word: Dido’s lament at Carthage, Juliet’s awakening passion on the balcony, Heloise’s paean to Abelard…” and “Natasha who left her ballroom and shining youth to nurse her mortally wounded prince… Sonia, the street girl who followed Raskalnikov into exile in Siberia…” (A Countess Below Stairs).

For the people who don’t leave me alone when I pull out my aforementioned big-guns and continue to scoff, I just tell them they’re jealous because they only have such women like Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Edna Pontellier to look forward to. I certainly can’t imagine Madame Bovary retorting to Monsieur Bovary, “On my good days I can sometimes put together as many as three sentences in a paragraph without more than a bare half dozen breaks in logic.”.

Yeah. I love romance.


December 8, 2000:
I just recently started searching out more information on historical romance authors on-line. My fascination for historical romance novels started about a year ago. Before that I hardly ever read anything, much less thought about romance. Bertrice Small was the first novel I read. The Love Slave opened a new doorway for my imagination and free time. I was an at-home mother of two children. My husband worked long hours. I didn’t like spending my every waking moment cleaning or shopping.

Reading that novel opened my eyes. Since then I have added many authors to my reading list. When I ran out of Bertrice Small novels I went on the anything I could get that was set in 16th-18th century England or Scotland. Christina Skye was the last author I read. Kat Martin has intrigued me greatly. Catherine Coulter, Fern Michaels, Loretta Chase, Judith McNaught, Kathleen E. Woodwiss, Christina Dodd, and Stella Cameron are just a few that I have been dabbling in recently. There are plenty more where those names came from.

I cannot believe the list of historical romance writers out there. Someday I’d like to visit some of the sites I have read about, or at least visit the areas they set them in. To walk through a field of heather or smell the brisk ocean air are just dreams of mine.

I’d have to say Bertrice Small hooked me and reeled me in for keeps. Give me a dashing knight or daring duke and I am set for an evening of bliss. I recently accepted a position at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. My reading list has been added to since I am from Central New York. If you are ever in the area I’d love to have you Visit the museum. Thank you for reading the ramblings of a historical romance reader.

–Nicole Elzenga

December 1, 2000:
I cannot remember a time when I did not love reading books. My mother read to me before I could read, then once I could, I was reading whatever was brought home from the library. Once I got to late elementary, I was still reading general young adult fiction, but I had started to find teen romances and the doctor-nurse romances available (this was in the mid seventies). I was also reading Westerns; the ones I read (Charles Heckleman, Louis L’Amour, Peter Field) all had a strong romantic element.

Then in junior high, the epiphany happened. I discovered Georgette Heyer on the library shelves and received an old collection of some of my Aunt’s Emilie Loring books. (These were all hardcover books.) I went on my very first glom, hunting in libraries and USBs for both the Heyer and Loring backlists (both of which are on my keeper shelves today). I also tried any book that was referred to as “if you like Heyer, you will like …”, but to my disappointment, I never found any that equaled Heyer’s. Although never as good as Heyer, I did discover that I liked Harlequin and Mills and Boon category romances. I continue to read about ten of these per month.

A second momentous moment came when I discovered AAR and other online sites in 1998. Suddenly, all those longer romance books that I avoided (too costly and too long) became a part of my reading. Online reviews and comments by other readers lead me to discover Mary Jo Putney, Loretta Chase, and Jo Beverley. Another serious glom occurred, with me purchasing many of the books that were on the top 100 lists (1998 Top 100 and 2000 Top 100) at these sites. My TBR pile grew from about 20 books to close to 200 books.

Although I doubt that I will ever experience that fascination and delight that I experienced when I first read Friday’s Child (my very first Heyer), but then I never expected to enjoy a book as long as Lord of Scoundrels either.

–Carol A. Maffitt

November 24, 2000:
I sometimes think I’ve been reading romances always. I certainly started young, even if you ignore the Arabian nights (the edited version obviously) that my parents read to me when I was about four or five. There is one story that still haunts me, I don’t remember much of it but it gripped me. I think there was wife who was accused, unfairly, of adultery and what she had to do to get prove her innocence. Or some such thing.

Anyway, by the time I was ten (or nine or eight) I was busily devouring the Femina series (Nordic equivalent of Harlequins in the 70s) and 30-40 page booklets of historical/contempory/medical romances by Finnish authors. Around that time I was also reading through the massive Jalna series by Mazo de la Roche (sixteen 300 or 400 page books, it was heavy going, I hated the books, but wouldn’t give up – more fool me). At thirteen or twelve I made the mistake of reading Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I was too young to really get them and I haven’t been able to reread Jane Eyre since. Wuthering Heights I’ve managed to “reclaim” but still some books should be left waiting until you’re old enough.

Then, in late seventies I think, Harlequins became available in Finland. I was hooked, and one of the first ones ever published in Finland (number 24 if I remember correctly) is still a “nostalgic’ favourite. As are several other Harlequins by Charlotte Lamb. In the early eighties she was by far the best series writer.

As for so many others, Woodiwiss’s Shanna left an everlasting impression as did the Flame and the Flower. They were awesome, I read them, reread them and then reread them again. I kept checking them out of the library every few months. A couple of years later I spent a year as an exchange student in Texas where I was able to indulge my love for romances as my host “mother” loved them as well. The only titles I can remember reading at that time are Ashes to Ashes and Wolf and the Dove.

After I got back to Finland I didn’t read that many romances for several years, probably because I couldn’t get hold them in English and couldn’t bear the translations (with the exception of Shanna and Flame, which I kept rereading). I also have nostalgic fondness for the French Angelique series, which I was reading at this time. Before being introduced to Woodiwiss I was quite happy with Victoria Holt, couldn’t stand Dorothy Eden and enjoyed a Finnish historical writer whose books could be counted on to be historically accurate. In my search through the books in my hometown’s small library I had also come across couple of Georgette Heyers (I didn’t become an addict until I started reading them in English which is another story), Hull’s Sheik (no matter how non-PC it may be, there is something about it) and a true don’t-judge-book-by-the-mistake-by-me Cleland’s Fanny Hill (the book looked exactly like the Nun’s story! Imagine my surprise when I started reading it…) but in general I was reading more mysteries and thrillers than romances.

Then I left home to go to university and the whole new world opened up to me in terms of well-stocked bookstores with English titles as well as a yearly trip to London. After several years of not touching a Harlequin book, I happened to pick up one by Susan Napier (The Counterfeit Secretary). It was a new beginning for me as she wrote (and writes) like no one else. You can never be absolutely sure what she will come up with. My only regret is that she seems to write only Mills & Boon series (sorry, I’m not sure of the American equivalent – Harlequin Present?) Her stories and characters would easily stand as full length books. As far as I’m concerned, she is consistently equaled only by Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, and possibly by Justine Davis.

My favourite authors and genres? I’ve a great fondness for historicals regardless of period or location, although every once in a while some writer manages to confuse historical facts to such an extent that I can’t ignore it. On the other hand, if the story is good enough I don’t care. I enjoy thrillers and when you combine these two I’m in heaven. Few do it better than Howard and Roberts. (A surprisingly good addition to these two is Kay Hooper with her recent Stealing trilogy. I’m dying to get the last one which will be published in this month.) Favourite writers in addition to ones I’ve mentioned? Jude Deveraux (in the 80s, few of her recent books are worth reading), Elizabeth Lowell (Untamed is in a league of its own), Paula Detmer Riggs (I hope she’ll get to write more full length novels), Clare Darcy (a Heyer rip-off, but at her best, really good) and Robin Schone (although her view of 19th century politicians is bit uncharitable). There are several others but these are “trustworthy” authors for me, with the exception of Deveraux they are better than most even when they are having an off-day (or a book). One nostalgic favourite to add to this list is Frances Murray whose Burning Lamp I’ve searching high and low for past 15 years. I try to find ‘new’ (to me) romance writers to read but I’m picky. When I do find one, it’s a pleasure.

The search goes on…

— Kaija Kovanen

November 17, 2000:
My initiation to the romance genre happened some time in the eighties. I learned to read early and by the time I was ten I had already finished all the Blytons and Nancy Drews in the library and moved on. I loved 18th and 19th century classic adventures that had warhorses, lords, a little love and lots of adventure in them. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Black Arrow comes to mind. I was fascinated with historicals from early on. L.M. Montgomery was another chaste favorite, particularly Anne and the short stories. Oh, and Jane Austen.

After sneakily reading Orient Express I started to glom Agatha Christie. My favorites were and still are the ones with a touch of romance and humor in the plot. She also wrote some clever short stories with love themes. Some of my favorite romantic heroes are in fact Christie’s mystery heroes. I loved the bright, funny, self-confident Anthony Cade in Secret of Chimneys, another Anthony in Sparkling Cyanide and the gorgeous loner who was the Man in the Brown Suit. Another mystery author that had nice romantic touches in her novels was M.M. Kaye. Death in the Andamans came just out as a reprint; I loved the intermingled mystery, romance and friendly bantering in it. My tastes in romance novels are still somewhat similar. (Oh gawd, haven’t I changed at all while growing up?)

The first official category romance I read had 150 typos in as many pages (yes, I counted them). I did some research on Amazon and I’m fairly sure it was a Finnish translation of Candice Arkham’s Dare to Love. The heroine was called Maggie and she had been injured and could not take part in the Olympics gymnastics event. This did not prevent her from enrolling in a circus, to do somersaults on the back of a moving elephant. Alexander, the man who hired her had seen her perform on TV and fallen in love. They were instantly attracted to each other but had to fight a lot until they could admit it. Oh yes, they got into the happy embrace part after a particularly nasty scare with one of the lions. Even in the mature age of eleven, I realized that the plot was silly and the prose awful. There was far too much of ”Oh, Alexander”. Also, Maggie’s eyes ”widened” on every other page but there was never a mention of their shrinking back to their normal size so I naturally thought that her eyes had to be at least three feet wide on the last page. Very awkward, that. But being an eleven-year-old I was very attracted to the circus world of elephants and lions and mysterious Hungarians with Big Secrets, and I tried reading a few Harlequins and other series novels to catch the same thrill.

I wonder if reading the amnesia stories in that impressionable age has had anything to do with my choice of profession. Nowadays I know more about neurology and any kind of story in which someone hits his/her head so bad that they lose their memory of the past but are otherwise cognitively intact and can acquire new memories as easily as ever tend to irritate me. How come people do lots of research to check the historical facts but it never occurs to anyone to check the medical facts? But I still understand the allure of the amnesia device: it’s not possible to start completely anew otherwise.

I grew quickly bored of the Harlequins because finding one good book with enchanting emotion and a coherent storyline required reading through a heap of cheap, implausible trash. Plus, they were too short. The only author that has stuck with me from this period is Leigh Michaels, whose books I still buy on sight, often in foreign languages to practice my reading skills. I have hated only one of her earliest ones and loved too many to mention. Michaels tends to have four or five plots she reuses. Either the hero or heroine fight over a house or a child, have been involved in the past or enter a convenience marriage/pretend engagement which stretches the limits of believability in a contemporary. The guy is almost always a millionaire which I find tedious. But because her sense of humor appeals to me I’m willing to forgive the predictability of her plots. Her heroines are usually commonsensical, likable people and her heroes are for the most part sensitive, lack irritating macho mentality and know how to communicate. The settings and people from the previous books often appear in the new novels which is nice for a Michaels aficionado like me but she does not presume any previous knowledge of them and does not rub the reader’s nose in their histories like they were more important than the characters in this one. She’s written guidebooks about writing romance novels so it should come as no surprise that she knows how to create an engaging story, write fluid prose and avoid most of the worst pitfalls an author could fall headlong into.

When I was studying I did not have time to read much fiction and when I did it was usually science fiction and fantasy or the latest Cornwell. After graduation I’ve almost returned to my former book-a-day diet, although I have to admit that work tends to interfere with proper reading activity. Last year I came across an ancient Lisa Kleypas book in a used-book store and it triggered my hunger for romance again. I’ve been reading Heyer, McNaught, Lowell, Krentz, Sandra Brown and whatever I could get my hands on.

My favorite books are usually humorous and contain intelligent heroines who know how to pour cold water on the hero if he gets too alpha-maleish. Both historical and contemporary are okay, but I haven’t really read any paranormals or time travels. Suspense is great when it’s good but since I’ve read so much regular mystery it’s difficult to please me on that front. As regards the ideal sensuality factor, I haven’t made up my mind just yet. I like a toe-curling sizzler as much as the next person and great love scenes can add a lot of emotional tension and attraction to a novel. In fact, pure unconsummated desire may do it as well. But sex is not a necessary condition. I adore many romantic short stories in which there’s hardly any kissing at all and many of my early favorites I mentioned are relatively chaste. Some romances can elicit lots of emotions and sexual tension without any explicit sex or talking dirty, and they are perhaps the most memorable to me since this is a difficult thing to accomplish. I guess it depends upon the skill of the author. Lots of sex does not save a bad book although lots of purple sex scenes may contribute to the badness of it. Readers have pretty much seen all the possible variations of the great sex theme already.

Besides classical romance, I’m also fond of the twenty-something-thirtysomething genre where working single women complain about lack of money and decent dates and find love in the end, often after a lot of farcical action or emotional problems. The books I’ve loved are more often by British or Irish authors than American ones but I don’t know if it reflects more on my tastes or just their better availability in my local bookstore and library.


November 10, 2000:
Actually, compared to basically all romance readers, I’m new. Yep, I’ve said it. I’ve only been reading romance for a year. Shocker! But, a year is enough. I’ll also admit that I’m probably one of the youngest readers to at least write about her roots (I’m only fourteen). But, that doesn’t mean that my little love affair with romance hasn’t been wonderful… and I don’t mean to stop it any time soon.

It was last summer that I really started reading romance. Oh, I’d read some romance before then, unwittingly at the time, but my interest wasn’t sparked. I wasn’t sucked in (hint- for you first time readers, don’t read The Horse Whisperer or Message in a Bottle. I thought that that’s what all romance was like, and I personally hated the endings). So anyway, one day I was home alone with nothing to do. I’d run out of books and had found that most of the books that I had been reading lately were boring me. Now, this was terrifying because all of my life books had been an outlet where I could escape for a while. I didn’t want to lose it. I’m a little snoopy, so that day I was looking through my mom’s night stand. Looking to see if there was something interesting to read. I was actually looking for an Oprah book, but what I found was much more interesting.

In my hands was a copy of Julie Garwood’s Prince Charming. I read the back, and it sounded really interesting. I thought it was a little odd that I had never seen my mom reading it, but I decided to give it a chance since I had nothing else to do. Wow! That was one of the best books I have ever read. The characters came alive on the page, and I cared, truly cared about the characters. And the sexual tension! Oh! I found myself skipping ahead to see if they would finally do something about it. Well, I finished it in a day, and then went about my summer never really giving it a second thought.

The school year started for me, and I went on my way, making friends and keeping up with my studies. Then, I got really sick and was out of school for a week. I ran out of things to do one day while I was home alone, and I once again picked up the copy of Prince Charming. Once more I was swallowed into Julie Garwood’s world. From then on I was good and truly hooked. As soon as I was well, I went to the book store and got as many books as I could by Julie Garwood. I raided my library and hunted used book stores and garage sales. I just couldn’t get enough.

I went from Julie Garwood to Judith McNaught to Amanda Quick/ Jayne Ann Krentz to Diana Gabaldon to Virginia Henley to Nora Roberts to Kathleen Woodiwiss and so on and so on, loving every minute of it. All of my spare time was and is devoted to reading. The way a book can touch you is so special, so precious, that it is a miracle I can’t get enough of. I have read hundreds of books, and I have hundreds more to read. And it all started with Julie Garwood. If I ever have a chance to thank her, I will.

Since my family isn’t really made up of readers (my mom, dad and sister don’t get near a book unless they have to), I have my own little circle of friends on the internet. We talk about books and authors and give each other recommendations. Oh, and I love All About Romance. I found this site a couple months ago, and I always come here for recommendations. To end my little story, I’d like to send out a warm thanks to the whole romance world. My life has a little escape in it because of you all. It is my own little piece of paradise.

–Kelly A.

November 3, 2000:
Let me begin by saying that I am not one of the numerous readers who used to look down their noses at romances and had to be converted in the first place. I grew up in a warm and affectionate family with parents who openly showed their love for each other and who always encouraged their daughter’s romantic streak. I have never felt cynical about love stories in movies or books. As a child, I painted pictures of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and as a teenager, I wrote little love stories, which my friends read eagerly. In short, you could say that I am a dyed-in-the-wool, hopeless and unabashed romantic. I have always been drawn to books with a strongly romantic element and the prerequisite happy ending. It was only a matter of time that I should turn to romances. The funny thing is that despite being a romance reader of the younger generation, I basically went through all the stages of romance that this century has had to offer.

One of my first epic romances was Gone With the Wind, which I read at the age of thirteen. It being my mother’s favorite book, I had practically taken it in with the mother’s milk – and of course, my name makes it abundantly clear how fond my mom was of the movie and the main actress! When I was around fourteen, I discovered Victoria Holt, Madeline Brent, Catherine Cookson and Dorothy Eden and devoured most of their books avidly. That was my Gothic phase. At eighteen, I read my first romance, The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss, followed by Shirlee Busbee, Catherine Coulter and Johanna Lindsey. I had now entered the seventies, so to speak, when romance was still a budding genre. I finally got glimpses into the characters’ bedroom, which was both thrilling and shocking to me, considering the often rather rough treatment of the heroine at the hands of the hero. I enjoyed those romances to some degree, but they never felt completely right. I could never quite connect with the characters and always felt like a detached observer, rather than an involved participant. The thing is that since I live in Germany, those older romances were readily available in translations, while the more modern kinds have only been published more recently.

When I started studying English, I went actively in search of new romances in the original version, no small feat if you do not have access to the Internet and no possibility of going to the US. Luckily I discovered a second hand English bookstore, incredibly crammed, tiny and dusty, but a haven nevertheless. One of the first books I bought was Sandra Brown’s A Whole New Light. This book was a revelation to me. Not only became I aware of how different (and how much better) romances are in the original version, I also realized that there was another kind of romance out there, with sensitive heroes, self-confident heroines, hot love scenes, and a fresh and modern style, vastly different from the epic, sometimes plodding and slightly outdated romances of the seventies.

I discovered Linda Howard, Elizabeth Lowell, Kristin Hannah, Karen Robards and others, both in translations and in the original, always prefering the latter but often out of necessity resorting to the German version. Three years ago, I finally got access to the Internet, and with all the bookstores on the Web, I was finally able to lay my greedy little hands on every American book on the market if I wanted, a sensation of utter bliss. When I received my first book load of romances, I could have kissed the unsuspecting postman, but refrained from startling him and instead danced around in my room in glee. I felt like a child at Christmas, unwrapping the packages, assembling my treasures around me and spending hours looking at them and, of course, reading them.

Now my obsession really took wings: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, LaVyrle Spencer, Laura Kinsale, Teresa Medeiros, Penelope Williamson, Patricia Gaffney, Diana Gabaldon, Suzanne Brockmann, to name but a few – all those authors opened up a whole new world to me. It may sound hackneyed, but it felt like coming home. This was what I had been looking for all this time: emotional depth, humor, poignancy, lyrical writing, inventive plots, character development and simply a style that appealed to me.

All in all, it was not such a long search, but it still felt like a long journey, because in around ten years, I basically lived through the whole development of the romance genre. In a way, I have arrived at my destination now, but the journey never ends because there are always new authors to discover, new books to find and new stories to tell.

— Vivien Fritsche
Link to all of Vivien’s reviews and articles following her DIK Review of Kathryn Lynn Davis’ Too Deep for Tears

October 20, 2000:
It was a Wednesday. I was two months past my twenty-first birthday, and two days past my decision to leave my live-in boyfriend of two years. (Now, you’ll have to keep that in mind, because it will be an important factor later.) I had a quick trip to take, from Austin to San Diego, so I stopped at the grocery store to buy some magazines for the flight. The paperback section was next to the magazines, and for some inexplicable, unprecedented, unknown reason I picked up one of the best sellers and read the blurb. I left the store that day with Cosmo, Vogue, and a novel by someone called Jude Deveraux titled Sweet Liar. Later that day, I sat on a plane to California, completely enraptured by this thing . . . this “romance novel.” I could not put it down. I stayed up until 5 am finishing the book.

Wow, what a discovery I had made. Why had no one ever told me about these before? Three days later, I had loaded my car and left Austin behind for good. I was running away for the summer. Away from my now ex-boyfriend, college, everything. I was on my way to the beach to stay with my brother and his kids. Only, when I arrived his kids were gone to visit their mother for the summer, so I had an empty house each day, all to myself. Can you imagine how wonderful that was to little-ole, heart-broken, just discovered romances me??? I read all day and all night!

I bought several Jude Deveraux books, I think the Velvet series were the very next ones I read, and then I moved on to Judith McNaught (Jude had mentioned her in Sweet Liar). I fell in love with Something Wonderful and glommed her entire (short) backlist. My grandmother found out about my new obsession, and she sent me a book from a trilogy by this Texas author about this Texas family. I read Texas! Chase by Sandra Brown, and was thrilled to discover the backlist Sandra had for me!!!!! I’ll always be grateful to that woman in Waldenbooks one day that led me to Shanna, picked it up and shoved me to the checkout counter with it stating emphatically that I MUST read this book. Woodiwiss was next.

That’s about it, really. I read voraciously during my book-a-day habit that summer. It was the absolute best time in my life to discover the HEA world of romance. My own life was in turmoil, and if I stayed up until dawn, I could sleep until noon! I still love reading them, too, even though my life is quite settled down now. One of the guest closets in my house is my keeper shelf. I am in a period of serious re-reading right now. I’ve gotten tons more advice over the years, and I’ve found some more writers that I love and some that I didn’t love, too. I discovered this site in 1996 when I had come back to school in Texas. I love it! Keep up the good work.

–Cheri Faircloth

October 6, 2000:
As most of you, romance fans, I’m an avid reader and I always was. I discovered romance when I was 14 or 15 years old, with Barbara Cartland. My aunt had shelves of her books, and I read them all. I even borrowed some of them from the library, as discretely as I could, so as not to be seen with such silly books. Because they are silly: young and naive heroines from good but impoverished families, falling in love with much older, wealthy and aristocratic heroes. Even then I thought the heroines were too naive and innocent for my tastes. And the heroes much too old for the heroines (I’m not a fan of – how do you call that – May/December romances?). And most of all, the names of her heroines often made me laugh: Zinia, Alexia, Phillipa, Appolonia, Zia, Trixia, etc.,. always names ending with an “A”. Some of them were very ridiculous. Nevertheless, I have a pleasant memory of these books. Especially one; my favorite Cartland ever: Lord Ravenscar’s Revenge (I believe, I read it in French, and it was La vengeance de Lord Ravenscar). Maybe because both the hero and heroine were not perfect; they meet when he’s dead drunk and she looks like a lost woman (she was just beaten by her brother-in-law). What?! A Barbara Cartland hero who is drunk? My favorite! After reading a good number of her books I was tired of always reading the same plot, and gave up the goddess of love books.

During the next 5 or 6 years I didn’t read romance books. As I explained in a discussion at the Reader to Reader Message Board, there aren’t many romance publishers in France. The most important is Harlequin. I read some of their books, but wasn’t interested at all. It was in the late eighties, and they were simply horrible. I don’t remember any author or title, just the disgust. The heroines were supposed to be doctors, journalists, CEOs of important firms, or rocket scientists, strong and willful women of 22 years old. I was something like 16 or 17 years old when I read one in which the heroine is a famous archeologist, known throughout the world at the venerable age of 23 years old! As archeology is one of my passions I wondered, at this time, how I could became as famous as her in so little time. I didn’t succeed. In fact, the heroines were weak, with a brain small as a garden pea, always agreeing with the hero’s point of view. He knows so many things better than them. Ick! Heroines of 22 years and heroes of 40 years aren’t my cup of tea. So, I gave up the Harlequins, after 3 or 4 tries.

Then, I was again deprived of romance. I didn’t give up reading, but chose thrillers, science fiction, mainstream books and historical novels. I realized eventually that I prefer reading books with a happy ending, a love story (or several) and likable characters. Just the description of a romance for my tastes of course!

So, one day when I was alone before the bookshelves in the supermarket (didn’t want someone to see me, yes, I’m a coward), I picked up a book of a new collection entitled Aventures et passion (Adventures and Passion, historical), with a scarlet red cover (and a really attractive man on it). It was Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux. It was a revelation! ! I liked it so much I ran out to the supermarket the next day when I realized it was part of a series. I jumped on the poor saleswoman who was putting new books on the shelves, and obliged her to look for the rest of the series. I confess she looked at me very strangely. But she found them all, and it was the beginning of a new life for me! I discovered authors like Amanda Quick, Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Elizabeth Lowell, and Sandra Brown. I didn’t know at this time that they were famous authors. Two other collections were published for contemporary and romantic suspense. More new authors to add to my list: Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz (didn’t know then she was also Amanda Quick), Linda Howard, and Tess Geritsen. But the publisher released only 2-4 books a month. I read 2-6 books a week when I have time to read (I had, I was a student). Soon I was frustrated, driving all around my town to find books of these new collections. I couldn’t get enough of them – I’m a really avid reader.

Then, as I was surfing on the web at work (don’t repeat J) I had the idea of looking for sites about romance. I was thinking of French sites of course, but I found The Romance Reader and understood I wasn’t alone! I discovered an entire new world: lots of authors, lots of fans, reviews, interviews, web sites, editors. So much news about a part of the book industry I didn’t know was so important. I understood that French publishers didn’t care for their readers either, some of the books I had read were part of a series but the publishers didn’t tell us that. Gggrrrrr! For example, I have Julie Garwood’s Guardian Angel and The Gift. I never knew that there was a loosely related prequel (The Lyon’s Lady) and a sequel (Castles). In fact, Castles was translated, but they never told me what it was. Or even more stupidly, the first book of Susan Elizabeth Phillips to be translated in French was Dream A Little Dream. It’s a sequel, you stupid men! It can be read alone, but I think it’s more appreciated if one read Nobody’s Baby but Mine before-hand. Stupid publishers!.

But discovering TRR, and then AAR, made me even more frustrated, so many wonderful books presented and discussed. None I can find in my town. Sniff! How could I have them ? Lucky me, I soon found a job in Paris, and moved to the suburbs. I began buying in bookstores, but they aren’t romance friendly. So I resigned myself to ordering my books. And I’m as frustrated as ever because I’m always waiting for my orders to arrive. The life of a romance fan is a hard (and impoverished) life! I now have been reading romance for 6 or 7 years. I don’t have a favorite author, or auto-buy authors. I like Nora Roberts, Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, Linda Howard and Elizabeth Lowell. These I read in French and in English, because not all her books are translated (the French translated Untamed by Lowell but neither Forbidden nor Enchanted. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I told you they aren’t logical).

Thanks to ARR I discovered Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, Loretta Chase, Kathryn Shay, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Janet Evanovich, Adele Ashworth and Suzanne Brockmann. And I’m waiting to discover Lori Foster, Elizabeth Bevarly, Nicole Jordan, Geralyn Dawson, Marylin Pappano, Stef Ann Holm, Danelle Harmon and so many others.

Thanks! Thanks! Thanks! How could I live without this site, its reviewer and its fans? I can’t. I would die of boredom.

–Laurence Garand

September 29, 2000:
I’m not sure what I’ve stumbled upon here, I haven’t had much time to cruise around this site very much. This certainly intrigued me. I started reading romance with the classic, Gone With the Wind when I was in 10th grade, in the mid 70’s. It was for a women’s lit class, and the next romance I think I picked up was the other classic, Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I’ve never looked back since, I was totally hooked by historical romance.

I started mostly with books set in the American West, as I was fascinated with American Indians at the time. But the more non-fiction I read about them, such as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, the less I wanted to read that sub-genre, and I started reading medievals, starting with the best, Sharon Kay Penman and her The Sunne in Splendour. Ever since reading that book, she is one of my favorite authors, and this is my favorite genre to read.

My next favorite would be the regency-set historical, because of the Amanda Quick books. I love all those characters in all her books. My least favorite genre is contemporary, but I do read them. So I have been reading romance for over 20 years, and I know I will be a life long fan. I’m no different than a lot of readers, maybe someday I’ll write one. I have actually started 2 different books, but I’m not disciplined enough, and now I work too much and have too many pots going!

About 9 months ago, I’m not even sure how it happened, I joined a romance discussion list and I was instantly hooked. I need my daily fix of those emails and it drives my husband crazy! But he loves me dearly so he tolerates it, and even enables me sometimes!

When I was younger, my mom read series romance, and I turned my nose up at them and never read them. At the same time, I was sort of embarrassed to have her see the books I read; those awful covers. They’ve never done much for me. I don’t buy a book for its cover, in fact I may avoid it unless it is an author I know and love. Then my mom started reading them too!! So obviously it was time to grow up, and we now share books. Because of raves from friends on the list I’m on, I even started reading a few series books, like Lori Foster, whom I enjoy very much.

These are some of my favorite authors – Amanda Quick, Rosemary Hawley Jarmon, Judith Merkle Riley, Betina Krahn, Candace Camp, Dorothy Garlock, Jayne Ann Krentz, Mary Balogh, Karen Robards, Arnette Lamb, Diana Gabaldon, Sharon Kay Penman, and Stef Ann Holm.

As far as reading goes, I actually read many types of things, starting with my daily newspaper, the Detroit Free Press. I can’t live without that. I also like an occasional biography, and of course a history book, and some mystery, my favorites are Robert Parker and Dick Francis. My favorite magazine is Discover, so I fit the romance in when ever I can, but I try for daily as much as possible. I can go home for lunch, so that is a favorite time for reading.

— Linda L. White

September 22, 2000:
I’m a loud-mouthed, sarcastic, cranky cynic. Imagine everyone’s surprise when they find out I’m an avid romance reader! Finding this site was the highlight of my internet experience after buying my own home computer.

How did a cynic like me become addicted (yes it’s an addiction, almost as expensive as crack, but you don’t lose any weight) to romance? Well, I started young. I was about 10 years old when I stumbled upon my first Barbara Cartland. I was entranced by all the ellipses (“But Alrick… I cannot go with you… You are nothing but a …rake!”). I soon graduated to Harlequin Romances. No ellipses, but boy did I want to smack some of those heroines upside the head. I remember actually flinging a book across the room because I was so upset over how silly one girl – they were all girls back then – was. I went from Romances to Presents. I still read Presents, they are my favorite, only God knows why. Then, at age 18, I picked up a hefty book. Well, it was hefty for me and my diet of fast reading Presents. It was The Flame and the Flower. And then The Wolf and The Dove. And before I knew it, I had another expensive habit!

Many years have passed since then, yet I have not outgrown my love of romance books. I may become frustrated at some of the conventions of the genre, But that doesn’t stop me from gobbling the books up. Consider, I decided that marrying my then boyfriend was not a bad idea at all when I found out he had read Shanna and Gypsy Woman – and liked it! That was 15 years and 2 children ago. Romantic heroines can make good decisions.

Littered across my bedroom floor right now are many recent Harlequin Presents. I’m quick to pick up anything from Carole Mortimer, Miranda Lee, Penny Jordan and Lynne Graham. I’m a bit pickier when it comes to historicals. I will not bore anyone with my lists of don’t likes. Some of the more popular themes leave me cold. But Beatrice Small always gets my, ahem, juices flowing so to speak. I was overjoyed to see Kathleen Woodiwiss come out with 2 more books recently as she has always had a special place on my bookshelf (or floor, which is more to the truth).

–Michele Ann Cunningham

September 15, 2000:
I have been an avid reader since I was about four years old. My first introduction to romance fiction was Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind – I read it in Grade 7 for my English reading project. We had to analyze the book – its structure, themes etc. I devoured it and moved onto Judy Blume’s Forever the following year! Quite a change, but romance of a sort nonetheless. (My reading taste has always been eclectic.) Then I read Pride and Prejudice and Emma, before stumbling onto the First Love from Silhouette line. I read a lot of those books, but my favourites were those in Elaine Harper’s Jeannine and Craig series, starting with Love at First Sight (I still have my copy of that.) Does anyone else remember these? While reading those contemporaries, I was also reading historical romances by Woodiwiss, Gellis, Lofts and Plaidy.

While at university my reading habits changed somewhat. I rarely had time to read anything but assigned work during the term, and out of school chose to read more mainstream style fiction, though the authors I enjoyed most always used romance as a theme, including Sharon Kay Penman, Brenda Jagger and Noel Barber.

As is typical of many university students, I developed rather a snobby attitude towards romance fiction. I took up reading it again in the early nineties, as light reading after finishing my Masters Degree in History. My job was creatively stifling (I worked for a civilian division of the Canadian military) and I needed an outlet. My characters soon sprang to life and I started to write long hand, then typed it into the computer. At first that’s all it was, an outlet, a need to write, but as I continued to read romances I fell into the old “my book is better book than this” trap! Surely my brilliant tome would sell right away and I’d be rich and famous! Ok, well, I never actually figured on rich and famous, but, writing in isolation, I had no real clue as to how difficult the business was. I soon learned, especially after joining the Prodigy service and meeting up with the wonderful ladies on the Romance Fiction Readers and Writers BB, and began approaching the novels with a much healthier dose of respect. My keeper shelf began to groan, I started taking writing courses at the local community college and joined the local romance writers group (that later became an RWA chapter.)

What books were making my keeper shelf groan? Mostly historical romances set in the Middle Ages/Georgian/Regency periods by Jo Beverley, Marsha Canham, MJ Putney, Denise Domning, Diana Gabaldon and Denée Cody – all of whose work makes writing romance appear effortless. That’s the trick – it APPEARS effortless, but as I’ve learned, is far from that. Books by Elizabeth Chadwick, Claire Delacroix/Claire Cross, Shana Abé, Terri Brisbin, Karyn Monk, Suzanne Barclay, Deborah Hale, Jaclyn Reding, and Margaret Evans Porter have since joined those first keepers on my bookshelves.

For me reading romance has helped me at some very low points in my life. I remember reading Karyn Monk’s Surrender to a Stranger while recovering from surgery. For a few hours I forgot my own pain and journeyed to the depths of the Paris prison system during the French Revolution and cheered the hero and heroine as they worked towards their happy ending. I love being swept away to another time and place – that may sound cliché, but it really is true!! The books that haunt me the most are those that recreate the past in great detail and allow me into the lives of men and women determined to find a way over all the obstacles strewn on their path to true love. Suffering and rejoicing with these characters not only provides a kind of an outlet for some of my own emotions, but also reaffirms my belief in the power of love to heal and endure.

Like Robin, I have had people look at me askance when I mention that I both read and write romance fiction, especially those who know of my academic degrees. I explain to them that there is far more to the genre than most people are willing to give it credit for and have openly challenged some detractors to read some books first. One woman, the wife of a business acquaintance of my father’s, became a full blown convert to the genre and is always eager to discuss the latest Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley or Diana Gabaldon (though, I guess, we’re all still waiting for the next installment of Jamie and Claire’s story) whenever we meet.

I admit that, for a reader, I don’t read nearly as many books as others. In fact, if I get through a book in a week, it’s a miracle! I now tend to savor my books, draw them out for as long as I can. Partly it’s because I tend to read longer historical romances or historical fiction, and partly because I admit to watching TV more than I should! Though I only work part time, my days off are spent on my own writing. And that may be another reason for my not reading as quickly and as much – I tend to analyze books as I read them, though some authors write so well that I do get caught up in the story and ignore the craft.

My keeper shelves now have more than 150 novels (limited only by the size of my office and our house!) I will name but a few here – those that have truly touched me, left me in tears, both of sadness and joy and caused me to heave a deep sigh as I turn the last page and close the cover. The only way I can do this is alphabetically as it’s almost impossible to really pick just one favorite:

Shana Abé – The Truelove Bride
Jo Beverley – The Shattered Rose
Terri Brisbin – A Love Through Time
Marsha Canham – Through a Dark Mist
Elizabeth Chadwick – The Champion
Denée Cody – The Golden Rose
Claire Cross – The Last Highlander
Claire Delacroix – The Princess
Denise Domning – Winter’s Fire
Diana Gabaldon – Outlander
Roberta Gellis – Masques of Gold
Judith McNaught – Whitney, My Love
Anita Mills – Winter Roses
Karyn Monk – Surrender to a Stranger
Sharon Kay Penman – Here Be Dragons
Margaret Evans Porter – The Seducer
Mary Jo Putney – River of Fire
Jaclyn Reding – White Knight
Anya Seton – Green Darkness
Elizabeth Stuart – Where Love Dwells

–Teresa Eckford (Teresa has been reading AAR and LLB content since the beginning)

September 8, 2000:
I read my first romance novel, Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss, two decades ago at age 34 when I picked up it at the swimming pool book exchange. I loved the story but didn’t realize that it was part of a genre of books that shared common threads – faithful H/H, happily-ever-after-ending, etc. I didn’t read another romance novel for 18 years until a friend loaned me a copy of Julie Garwood’s For the Roses. Wow, yikes and hubba hubba! I immediately hit the local bookstores and glommed every Garwood still in print, which fortunately for me, were all of them!

Because I knew so little about the genre, my selection of books after the Garwood’s was very hit and miss. I grew increasingly dissatisfied with each book I read and decided that I couldn’t afford to continue shelling out $5-8 for a book without knowing something about it beforehand. Thus began my search on the Internet to see if, just maybe, there was a place out there that could help me make better choices. AAR met my expectations by about 500%. I had no idea that the kind of guidance I needed was a couple of mouse clicks away and more in-depth and complete than I ever could have hoped for!

Being reasonably bright, I decided to start by reading the Desert Isle Keeper books that had a time setting, locale and plot that appealed to me. I also figured I couldn’t go wrong with a list that gave DIK status to so many Julie Garwood’s! At the same time I discovered AAR, I found a used bookstore that specializes in romance novels and maintains a file list of regular customers much like a library. Each book returned earns one credit and that credit is used to reduce the price on a new purchase. I never have to pay more than $1 for a book and that includes romance classics such as Outlander and Flowers From the Storm.

I worked my way through the DIK list and read all the books that I felt would appeal to me. I was almost never disappointed but did occasionally encounter a book that others loved and I felt was a real wallbanger. I have bookmarked several other romance sites, but don’t feel as confident in their recommendations as I do AAR’s. I also enjoy the message boards and the opportunity to look at something familiar in entirely new ways. I love it when At the Back Fence tackles an issue (such as the Big Misunderstanding or sexual euphemisms) that is a particular nitpick of mine. It’s like being part of a book discussion group that is so much more diverse and interesting than any small neighborhood group could ever be.

I have started my own DIK library that includes Williamson, McNaught, Garwood, Kinsale, Gabaldon, Quick and Kleypas. These are my comfort reads and always take away the memory of a particularly bad romance novel. One of my most arduous undertakings as a romance reader, and one I’ve enjoyed tremendously, is maintaining a database in Access of all the books I’ve read. There are around 550 books in the database now and each listing includes a synopsis (usually a short and sweet version of an amazon.com synopsis), the AAR rating (if there is one), and the amazon.com rating. Once I’ve read the book, I add my own review and rating. I’ve also printed out copies of the database and given it to friends, family and the owner of the used bookstore in which I trade. It’s been a lot of fun to maintain and has now developed a life of its own.

My husband remains skeptical of romance novels as genuine literature and occasionally makes a wisecrack about what I’m reading, especially if the cover is particularly lurid. And, in fact, some of the book covers are so incredibly bad that I handmade a book cover last year that keeps all my reading choices under wraps. My son, who is 21 and still has an open mind, has recently asked that I recommend a romance book for him to read as he would like to see what all the fuss is about. Are they trashy bodice rippers or is there more to this genre than the literary snobs would have us believe? I’m in a quandary about what to recommend. It can’t be too explicit (I mean, I am, after all, his mother!), so that leaves out Dara Joy, although I think a young man would really enjoy the humor and science fiction in her Matrix of Destiny series. I’ve considered Outlander (my all time favorite) but don’t want to weigh him down with 700 pages and too much history. I’m starting to think Knight in Shining Armor might be just the ticket. It’s got humor, action and a love story that is a glorious example of what’s best about romance novels.

This has been fun to write. I feel as if I’ve just joined a book discussion group and am introducing myself to the group for the first time. I can’t wait to meet more members of our book group in the coming months.

–Kathy Lozito

September 1, 2000:
The year was 1981 and I was working part-time in the Emergency Department of our local hospital. Yes, I was that person (for eight long years!) who asked for your social security number as you were bleeding all over my counter. (One of my major pet peeves is that books and movies always portray these hard-working individuals as uncaring louts, but that is another story altogether . . . .) Working in an Emergency Department (not “Room” as incorrectly portrayed by books and movies, well there I go again . . . ) is usually a “feast or famine” situation. You’re either so busy time flies, or you’re left counting the holes in the ceiling tiles.

Being young and energetic, I endeavored to fill the “down” times with all sorts of constructive time-filling jobs. Then I was set straight by my co-workers, “Sit down, enjoy, read a magazine or book, it will get crazy in here before you know it!” Incredible as that seems, that’s what everyone did during slow times. Again, because I was young and eager to please, it was hard for me to adjust to this notion; read a magazine or a book during working hours? However, seeing illness and death, even murder on my first day on the job, soon had me looking for escape during a quiet moment. Again, my co-worker intervened and directed me to a little used closet which was completely filled with series romance novels. “Oh, I don’t read those type of books,” was my replay.

However, time and boredom worked together until I was finally ready to give those books a try. Incredibly, my first romance was the very first Silhouette Special Edition. To say I was amazed was an understatement. I loved the story, even the hint of sexuality, and the happy ending left me in tears. I was hooked after one book. Since I worked part-time, I would bring home stacks of romances to read on my days off! When I began in the Emergency Department, my daughter was six months old and I was trilled to only “have” to work part-time. Soon, reading romances during her nap time became my ritual.

I soon branched out to the other lines, Harlequin, Candlelight, and others. I became acquainted with the many terrific authors that started in series romances during the early 1980’s, like Linda Howard, Erin St. Clair (aka Sandra Brown), Nora Roberts, and many others. Eventually another co-worked suggested an historical romance, I believe it was The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. But I found it too long and the hero too unbelieveable. So I generally stuck with contemporary series romance.

Around this time, 1983 or 1984, I discovered a used book store with a separate room just for series romances, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! During the spring of 1985, we bought our first home. Our neighbors across the street had a child the age of my son (I now had two children!) and we became fast friends. I was amazed to find out she read romances as well. Only she read historicals exclusively as I was reading series. We had many hours of trading “keepers”. She introduced me to Johanna Lindsey while I introduced her to Sandra Brown and on and on we went. What a meeting of the minds! I soon subscribed to Romantic Times and we poured over each issue, reading everything published from the mid 80’s on. Unfortunately, changes not related to reading caused our lives to go in separate directions and our friendship suffered. However, we still get together from time to time and discuss the latest books, just like to old days.

These days, I read a little bit of everything. I still enjoy my series romances, especially Special Editions, Intimate Moments, and Harlequin American. I love my new found (for the last 15 years!) historicals, especially Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick, and others. In the last five years or so I have also gotten into the contemporaries by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson, and the ever-popular Linda Howard. I have seen very popluar authors wax and wane (like Garwood and Quick) and new hot authors (in many different ways!) appear on the scene, like Robin Schone and Laura Kinsale.

Our family finally got access to the internet in February of this year. Not long after that I discovered All About Romance and felt like I had found the gold mine of romance reading. I discovered many new authors to enjoy, like Julia Quinn, Patricia Gaffney, and Judith Ivory (how I missed those ladies I’ll never know!!), but I also found readers discovering authors that I had read for years. There is nothing quite like the joy of discovering a wonderful new author, especially from friends thru this site. I really enjoy the discussions, the reviews, and, of course, At the Back Fence. I look forward to the new directions romance authors will take us or which direction we will take them!

Once back in the mid 1980’s I wrote to Sandra Brown and told her I had awarded her the “Campbell’s Soup Award”, meaning she could write the directions on the back of a can of Campbell’s Soup and I could guarantee her husbands across the country would be going to work with a smile on their faces the next day! I believe the new “Campbell’s Soup Award” should go to Robin Schone, only the guys will not care (and even be glad) they never got around to dinner the night before!!

–Barbara L (aka Barbara4)

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