Friday, October 9, 2020

Lillie: The Birth of a Romance Reader

Today I've got something a little different to share from Lillie. She's talking about the most influential book in her Romance Reader Life and how romance novels have been there for her no matter what horrible things the world threw at her.

I know that's something many of us can relate to, myself included. Our particular details may change, our preferred books and authors as well, but almost all romance readers know this story by heart.

By the way, Lillie will be back with a few more guest reviews, including one for Archangel's Sun next month. Stay tuned! :)

The Birth of a Romance Reader (or A Love Letter to Julie Garwood)

Recently on Romance Twitter, a conversation was happening about the most influential books in our reading history. The books that formed us. Ana Coqui tweeted about a blog post she’d written about hers at Love In Panels. And it got me to thinking about the ones that were important to me. As I sat down to make my list I hit a stumbling block because it all came down to one book. I may still do a roundup someday about all the books I’ve loved but I can’t do that without doing this first.

Like many book lovers, I was that kid who would read anything I could get my hands on. And like many kids, I was a procrastinator. When I was in fourth grade, I had a book report due the next day, and realized at the last minute there wasn’t a single book that I owned that I hadn’t read. So, remembering the stack of books by my mother’s bed, I grabbed the one on the top, read it in a couple of hours, and wrote the book report. I don’t remember the title. I know it was a Silhouette Romance, had a purple cover, and was set on a sheep farm in Australia. I do remember that when I gave my oral report on it, my mother was immediately called to the school to discuss my “inappropriate” reading material, and I was banned from reading any more romances. That should’ve been the end to my new favorite genre but it wasn’t.

The life-changing summer of 1991 happened. I was eleven. My father had a massive heart attack. He was clinically dead twice before they were able to bring him back. He was given a temporary pacemaker and surgery was scheduled for the next morning. The doctors were honest and told us he had a fifty percent chance of not surviving the surgery. It was terrifying.

They took my father in for surgery at seven a.m. and somewhere around nine a relative gave me a dollar and told me to go get myself something from the vending machine. While I was wandering the hospital I saw a sign about a used book sale being hosted by the hospital volunteers. Me being me, I decided books were better than candy so off I went to find it.

There were tables upon tables piled with books. And almost all of them were romances. Silhouette and Harlequins were ten cents each, full length novels were a quarter. I loaded up and returned to the waiting room.

I don’t know why I chose to start with the book I did. Maybe the back cover copy caught my attention. Maybe it was just luck. But I started reading The Bride by Julie Garwood. While those excruciating hours crawled by, I lost myself in the story of Jamie and Alec. A young English woman sold into marriage to a scary Scotsman who might have killed his first wife. About her riding her horse through a field while standing on its back. About her starting three wars in one week. About joy, hope, love, and a happily ever after that was just on the horizon, waiting for me to get there.

My father made it through his surgery but there were complications that led to him being in the hospital for two months. I visited that book sale many more times during those months, but for a poor family even cheap books become out of reach. And at that point, the lovely, wonderful women running the book sale offered to turn it into my personal library. When I finished a book, I could return it and get another at no charge. When we were finally able to leave the hospital, only one book went with me and it was The Bride.

Three years later, my father passed away and as I was drowning in grief, I reached for the lifeline that had saved me before. Romance novels. And specifically The Bride. I had many more books from Garwood’s backlist by then as well as other romances and that’s where I lived for months until I was able to face life again.

A few years later our house had a flood that wiped out most of my book collection. But I sat in the bathroom with a blow dryer and my original copy of The Bride. That book was special. It had to be saved. The Bride had been through hell with me and I wasn’t losing it to a little water.

Fast forward seven years and I was a new mom with no time to read. We were on our way to my son’s three-month checkup, and remembering the wait last time, I grabbed a book off my bookshelf and shoved it in the diaper bag. Old reliable, now a little warped and water-stained, The Bride. At the appointment I heard three very scary words. “Failure to thrive.” My son was admitted immediately into the children’s hospital where they ran every test imaginable. I read The Bride three times cover to cover in those four days. It saved my sanity until the problem was found and we could go home with a plan to get my baby healthy again.

It’s funny. While The Bride was my first Garwood book, it’s not my favorite. That title is reserved for The Secret. And there are plenty of other books I love and reread often. But something about Jamie and Alec keep drawing me back year after year.

Now it’s 2020, almost thirty years since I picked up that first Garwood. The world is on fire (literally in some places), a deadly pandemic has changed life as we know it, and our country is a mess. And I’ve been unable to shut out the noise long enough to truly enjoy reading. Until tonight. Someone I follow on Twitter is reading The Bride right now so I thought why not. I pulled it up on my kindle (the original print copy has been retired) and lost myself in hope, joy, and love. And the happily ever after that is always, always waiting.  

~ Lillie

The Bride
by Julie Garwood
Publisher: Berkley (June 7, 2011) *LATEST REPRINT*
Series: Lairds' Fiancees, 1
Genre: Historical Romance (M/F)

An arranged marriage leads to passionate love in this classic Scottish historical romance from #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood.
By edict of the king, the mighty Scottish laird Alec Kincaid must take an English bride. His choice is Jamie, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison—a feisty, violet-eyed beauty. Alec aches to touch her, to tame her, to possess her...forever. But Jamie has vowed never to surrender to a man she considers a highland barbarian.
Alec is everything Jamie’s heart has warned her against—an arrogant scoundrel whose rough good looks speak of savage pleasures. While Kincaid’s scorching kisses set fire to her blood, she is determined to resist him...until one rapturous moment quells their clash of wills, and something far more dangerous than desire threatens to conquer her senses...

Where to Buy*:
More Info:

Thanks for this post, Lillie! I'm glad that you were able to find solace in romance novels, and I'm so glad to have you as part of this amazing community. 💖


Until Next Time,

No comments :

Post a Comment