Monday, May 28, 2007


By Suzanne Welsh

Like most writers, reading is an integral part of my life. Even though I write and work fulltime, I read at least two or more books a week.

The other day my daughter asked me if I remembered the first book I ever fell in love with. I've forgotten the actual name of the book, but it was about Ping, the Chinese duck. It was the first book I bought through Scholastic books at school in the second grade. I read that book every day for months. The art in it was exceptional, but the words painted an even greater picture in my mind. I fell in love with that duck, and cried at the end.

When I told my daughter this, she started laughing. She'd meant the first romance I ever read. Well, that was a bit more difficult to recall.

Around the age of twelve, while visiting family in Tennessee, I discovered my two aunts' closets full of romances. My aunts generously let me pack an entire grocery bag of books to take home with me to read over the summer. There were dozens of Harlequins, a multitude of Barbara Cartlands, and some classic Grace Livingston Hills. So I cut my romance reading teeth on a mixture of contemporaries, historicals and turn of the century inspirationals. And just like with Ping, I fell in love with every hero and heroine in every one of those books.

If I had to narrow my love of romances down to one particular story, it would be a book titled The Black Horse Inn, an American historical that took place during the Revolutionary war. There's a courageous heroine, a strong hero, an evil uncle, the Sons of Liberty, Tory spies, and lots of drama. For years I've been searching for the book in used bookstores and on line. One day I hope to add a copy to my keeper shelf.

The next most influential book was Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Flame and The Flower. I got my first copy in my Junior year of high school. By the time I graduated, I'd worn out three copies! Following quickly on her heels were Patricia Matthews and Johanna Lindsey, then Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux. Now, I no longer remember the books by the titles but by the authors who influenced me.

So what book or author hooked you on reading romances?

Pirate's Booty and $15 Fandango gift certificate: filmphan (needs to contact Caren at carencrane @

Autographed copy of Tawny Weber's "Double Dare": danette b (needs to contact Tawny at tawny @

Liquor-filled chocolates: kimberly l (needs to contact Cindy at
cindymm18 @


Anna Campbell said...

Suz, what a great post. I love thinking about my favourite books. Ping the Chinese duck sounds fab. My favourite childhood reading was a really lovely version of Snow White (not the Disney version). And a couple of big gorgeous Oxford Press fairytale books of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. They had really elaborate illustrations and I remember being fascinated by the historical costumes. Probably where my fascination with all things historical started...

Christine Wells said...

Suz, lovely post. I think I vaguely remember Ping, too! I must read The Flame and the Flower--everyone says how wonderful it is.
I had so many favourite books as a child, it's difficult to pick one. The first books I loved were probably Dr Seuss, followed by Anne of Green Gables and The Children of Cherry Tree Farm. I never had access to genre romances as a girl, so I suppose the first romance I read was Pride and Prejudice, closely followed by Heyer's Friday's Child and probably Gone with the Wind as well. Ahh, so many wonderful memories. Great post, I love talking about well-loved books.

Hrdwrkdmom said...

Romance book was started with the Flame and the Flower like you, now, also like you, too many titles but a long list of authors. My reading experience started before I was even in school. I was reading "The Golden Books" when I was three, or so my mother told me, I remember reading them when I was in school, and Lousia Mae Alcott got me on the road to classics.

Caren Crane said...

Hrdwrkdmom, I loved Louisa Mae Alcott, too! So much so that I even read a kid's biography of her - and I was not into non-fiction.

But the first book I remember being completely captivated by was "The Forgotten Beasts of Eld" by Patricia A. McKillip. I was 11 and already an avid reader. My mother worked pulling book orders that year at Ingram in Nashville. She brought it home as a gift (the cover was gorgeous!) and I fell hard and fast for fantasy.

I still love fantasy and historicals of all sorts. Makes everyone wonder why I write contemporary. Well, the research is loads easier. *g*

Kirsten said...

Anna, there's still time to read The Story of Ping! Suz, thanks for reminding me about that sweet book. I'll have to go find it for my kids.

My favorite books were those where something absolutely HORRIBLE happened to the heroine (often at the hands of the hero) early in the book and he didn't discover her wounds until the end.

It's a wonder I turned out as normal as I did. :-)

Charlotte Lamb wrote intense romances for Harlequin Presents along these lines.

In Tears of Gold (Laurie McBain), the hero continues to abuse the heroine throughout most of the book, though mostly just in an emotional way.

One of my absolute FAVs was Caress and Conquer, by Donna Comeaux Zide--the heroine gets raped in the beginning by the hero. (What were we all thinking?!)

I tried to reread a few of these in the last year or so and, WOW, have things changed (I think for the better)! So they're on my keeper shelf, but not going to be reread anytime soon. I wonder what makes a keeper a "reread-er", even twenty or thirty years later?

Caren Crane said...

Oh, and I meant to say, it was Barbara Cartland who got me started on romance. I'm a Regency lover from the first! My second love was Harlequin Presents (all those exotic millionaires, you know). My next older sister got me started on Kathleen Woodiwiss, which was quite racy after the others. But I liked it!

I also really enjoyed Cynthia Freeman, who wrote more contemporary historicals in the 80s, but died in 1990 (far too young). It's awful to lose your favorite authors!

Kirsten said...

Caren and hrdwkdmom, I went through a summer where I devoured all of Alcott's books. Rose in Winter was my favorite.

And Caren, did you read the Anne McCaffrey books? Ah, Dragonflight is still my favorite book of all time! With David Eddings Belgariad a close second. Now those are keepers and rereaders!

Joan said...

Ping the duck. I swear, that rings a bell. Not sure I want to be reminded of that though since you said you cried at the end. (Tell me Ping did NOT end up in a Chinatown window).

My mother fostered my love of reading. She always took us down to the Bookmobile every week where I remember getting these little biographies on famous people (Annie Oakley, Juliet Lowe who founded the Girl Scouts). I have an entire chest full of books from Scholastic about a single mother raising a little girl in called "The Janitor's Daughter" and my absolute favorite "A Lantern in Her Hand" about a frontier woman's life starting from her arrival from Ireland, through marriage, building a homestead, raising her children each with their own gifts. I finally found an old copy of that and have re-read it several times.

As to romance my first exposure was also Kathleen Woodiwess. While I did read "Flame and the Flower" my strongest memory is of "Shanna" and "The Wolf and the Dove". From there I went into Johanna Lindsey (LOVE "A Fire in Winter") Jude Devareux and a handful of others.

It is cool to go back and read these earlier efforts. I found one of Johanna Lindsey's from back in the 80's. I had a hard time reading it because every and I mean just about every sentence ended in an exclamation mark!! I mean it!!! Every one!!!

I love the warm spot these books left in my heart.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Joan, no Ping didn't end up in chop suey in Chinatown! How devestating that would be to a child. I think he got lost from his owner and found his way back. That's why I cried.

Anne of Green Gables. OH my! I loved Gilbert Blythe, of course after I hated him at first. And I loved Little Women and Jo's boys by Alcott, too.

As far as biogrophies go, I've always enjoyed those. My most favorite was "Wyatt Earp". Probably why I love the movie Tombstone. (That and Val Kilmer makes the sexiest dying man ever!)

Sandy Blair said...

My first Romance was by a man...Zane Gray's WILD FLOWER. Great tale.

danetteb said...

My first romance book was Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon,I loved it beacause there wasn't just romance, it has action ,suspense,family loyalty,heroes with fangs and more.

I also want to say thank you Bandits for picking me as one of the booty winners and thank you Anna for introducing me to the bandits blog *g*
Hugs, Danette

Anna Campbell said...

Danette, I was really excited for you when I saw you'd won a prize too. Congratulations. Call by often. There's always something happening here and prize giveaways are going to be regular events.

Helen said...

I remember the story of Ping as a child and loved it. I have always read encouraged by my mother I loved Enid Blyton Secret Seven, Famous Five then as I got older I read all of Agatha Christies and then in the 70's my mother gave me Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers to read and that was that I was hooked and over the years I have read numerous authors Kathleen Woodiwiss, Shirlee Busbee,Johanna Lindsey,Jude Devereaux,Judith McNaught,Julie Garwood,Samantha James and the list goes on and on and we readers have the internet now so we can learn of many more new authors that are writing such wonderful books for us to read. Keep up the good work everyone there can never be enough books for me to read.
Have Fun

Hrdwrkdmom said...

Kirsten, I think my fave was Rose in Bloom, and grew up in love with her uncle

Jill James said...

My first romance was Jennifer Blake's Royal Seduction. I fell in love with historical romances from there on. She made the bayous of Louisiana come to life.

Before that, as a child, I was into biographies. I loved reading about Marie Antonette, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, and Martha Curtis Washington.

I did not read the Flame and the Flower until years later. I think I was 30 or something.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Kirsten, you know I read all the Pern books many, many times. Matter of fact, I still have my original set of the Menolly books and of the first three Dragonriders books. I always wanted a fire lizard!

Helen, thank you for your post. I couldn't remember the name of the very first "hot" romance I read. It was my aforementioned sister's copy of Rosemary Rogers' "Sweet Savage Love". I think my mother found out I was reading it and tried to stop me (I was probably 14), but I got it back and read it in secret. What can I say? I wanted to know. *g*

FilmPhan said...

The first romance that I read was Nora Roberts the three witch sisters trilogy. I stopped for awhile and then I picked up "Man in a Kilt" by Sandra Blair at WalMart because it looked fun and the cover was bright neon yellow. I was also like less than $4 so I thought I can't really lose on this deal. And that's when I kept reading romance.

What got me online was Teresa Mederios and Kinley MacGregor. I fell in love with their stories and then I found giant online communities and blogs. Now I visit a ton of websites and am exposed to so many great and wonderful authors.

Thanks so much for picking me as a winner of the Pirate Booty! How exciting!

Jo Davis said...

Suz, great post!

The book that got me turned on to romance was "The Lord of Far Island" by Victoria Holt. From there, I graduated to Johanna Lindsey, Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodwiss, and Jennifer Blake's historicals. The first contemporary romances I read were Nora.

Today, I read every great book I can get my hands on, regardless of sub-genre. Around 300 books a year!


Caren Crane said...

Joan wrote: I had a hard time reading it because every and I mean just about every sentence ended in an exclamation mark!! I mean it!!! Every one!!!

Joan, this made me laugh. I swear, it's always an education to read favorites from 20 or 30 years ago. Styles of writing and speaking and all forms of communication, really, have changed so much in that time. I can still appreciate my old faves, but they are not the same these days. :-(

Trish Milburn said...

It's amazing how many of us got hooked on romance through Kathleen Woodiwiss books. No different here.

filmphan, the Three Sisters Island trilogy are my favorite Nora books.

As a child, I was a huge fan of books like the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, Julie of the Wolves, Robinson Crusoe, the Swiss Family Robinson, etc.