Wednesday, July 20

The Books That Changed Me...

...and there have been quite a few over the years. For this post, I'm going to talk about two of them. One a romance, one, not. Because, although I'm a romance writer, I have never read romance exclusively.

I first picked up 'Adorable Sunday' by Marlene Fanta Shyer during summer vacation at a yard sale. The cover was torn off but the pages were dog-eared -- a sure sign to me that it was a good book. Boy, was it. I locked myself in my room, skipped dinner and read through the night to find out if Sunday - a girl with braces and bad skin - would actually succeed as a model. Turns out she did - it's fiction, after all! - but more than that, she grew up. At 13 when she got her braces off, she was 'discovered' but through the next year it was Sunday making the discoveries - she learned that things that look perfect often aren't, that even 'really beautiful girls' (like her biggest competition) have big problems - like suicide and abuse. Most of all, she figured out that she didn't want to just be beautiful. She wanted more than that. Sounds corny, and I suppose it was...but at 11 it captured what it meant to be a young girl, coming of age and figuring out her life.

A couple of years later, having exhausted all of the YA books in my school and town library (have I mentioned before that I'm a complete bookworm??), I raided my grandmother's stash of Harlequins. And a romance reader was born. I devoured her stash of Betty Neels and Margery Hilton and Emilie Loring (boy, could those women write!!), but it was a book by Sue Peters that grabbed me and still hasn't let go. Unwilling Woman was one of the last Harlequin Romances that Sue wrote, as far as I can tell. It's the story of a woman blackmailed into marriage when the real bride - her only friend - abandons the groom at the altar. Max, the hero, was yummy in his love for horses. Jess was amazing as a woman who knew she was beaten but still didn't give up her dream of being self-sufficient. There were no love scenes and only a few kisses, but when Max rescued Jess from a dream and held her through the night, I cried buckets. That scene still gets me and sometimes I think it is more magical than some of the hot-and-heavy full-on love scenes I've read today.

Those are two, among many, books that touched my heart and made me look at the world differently. They're also two of the first books I read that made me realize this crazy writing business was where I wanted to be. How about you?


  1. Great post! I still read Betty Neels when I just want a comfort read. All you need is a blankie and something warm to drink. :-)

  2. I love books that have soul puzzle pieces layered deep, and throughout, the story the hero's heart finds them and completes her. Beautiful Maria of my Soul is one such book.

  3. Oh, Kristi. I felt good just reading your post. I love those old HQs. They were my summer staple reading during my 6th and 7th grade years. It's funny how much more emotion those writers covered without the full-out love scenes we read today.
    Ah, nostalgia.

  4. My mom never read Harlequins so I never had them lying around the house, the first one I ever read was given to me by a good friend when we were in our twenties. Deck the Halls by Heather Allison. Loved it. Light, fun, and romantic.

    Heather Allison is better known as Heather MacAllister in other HQ lines.

  5. Liz, Betty Neals, a cup of cocoa and cool night are perfect!

    Em, you're so right...I like to have those epiphanies as I read.

    D'Ann, emotion, emotion, emotion. High drama - that's what those old Harlequin Romances and Presents are to me.

    Margie, love Heather Allison/MacAllistair...glad your friend 'introduced' you!

  6. Margie, I read "Deck the Halls" too. It was a great book!