Before I continue to chronicle my life in books, I’d like to say a few words about the weather. It’s hot: brush-fire igniting, eyeball searing, cataract inducing, turn up your oven, burn your hands on the steering wheel, heat wave mania. I’m typing this in the early morning, so I’m not baking yet, but in an hour, my booty will be sticking to the seat of my cheap leather chair, so I better reminisce in record time.
Speaking of hot, I think it’s time I fill you in on my R-rated, bodice ripping 8th grade reading experience. This was when I learned about the birds and the bees via historical romance novels and V.C. Andrews….
8th grade. 1997-1998.
By the time I turned 13, I had read my way through all the Fear Streets and Christopher Pikes and Stephen Kings worth reading. So one afternoon—I remember this vividly—I was browsing the library for something to read when I stumbled upon V.C. Andrews. V.C. Andrews claimed a large chunk of the General Fiction section, so her name was hard to miss. I’ve just never felt the desire to check her out. But that afternoon, I was desperate for something scary to read, which made me more receptive to trying out new authors. I plucked Tarnished Gold off the shelf and saw this stepback:
Is this illustration pee-your-pants creepy or what? Naturally, I assumed V.C. Andrews specialized in horror. As I read my way through the convoluted family dramas, I realized that these books were more mushy “horror romances” than “ghoulish or supernatural horror.” The mushy angle is all in the sickening sweet narration of the V.C. Andrews heroines and there was a point when one of them (I forgot which one) said something about magical woodland creatures which made me wonder if she was nibbling magical woodland mushrooms. In fact, my entire V.C. Andrews reading experience was like some acid trip. The horror part? Pervert/rapist stepfathers/half-brothers/cousins, swamp bums, psycho grandmas locking children into attics, nympho twin sisters trying to steal your identity. Tell me that’s not freaky.
And you know what I consider the creepiest element? When the heroine and her half-brother/half-uncle/half-cousin did the deed, she would dub his equipment his “manhood.” I remember reading these books during silent reading and being bombarded with “manhoods” left and right. I thought the word was lame even then, but hey, who’s going to put down a book with this high of a “manhood” count? Not I.
V.C. Andrews aside, this also seemed to be the year I kept stumbling upon romance novels that I thought (after reading the back cover blurb, mind you), were supernatural/suspense/horror. Which brings me to my first adult romance: Catriona by Jeanette Baker.
In Catriona, lawyer Catherine Sutherland journeys to Scotland to spread her mother’s ashes. In Scotland, she is hounded by lucid dreams of a past life as a 15th century English lady named Catriona Wells, who is forced to marry a studly Scottish border lord, Patrick McKenzie. You should know that I’m summarizing this plot off the top of my head and I for one am impressed that I’m able to remember this much from such an obscure book.
Catriona was responsible for my initiation into this whole past lives/paranormal/time travel genre, which just so happens to be big in romance novel land.
Granted, my romance novel reading only lasted a year and a half. I stumbled upon Jude Deveraux in the same way: “Whoa, someone goes back in time? Trippy. I shall read on!” and finally ended the romance period with Nora Roberts.
In between big names like Jude Deveraux and Nora Roberts were one or two obscure Medieval Romances with plots I can’t recall for the life of me. There was one (The Falcon and the Sword) that had a bad ass midget (okay, to be politically correct, “little person”). I don’t remember what purpose the little person served. Was he a sidekick? I do remember, however, that the hero–whose name escapes me—was the sword. Yeah…
And while I’m on a rambling streak, I remember this other novel, This is All I Ask, where the hero had some lame-o nickname like “The Dragon.” And the heroine was grotesque, not that it matters, because The Dragon was blind. This makes all the groping necessary because it was the only way he could see into her soul…
Okay, my booty is officially stuck to my seat. Scrape me off with a spatula. I’m done.