My mom read romance novels as a baby-sitting teenager; a regular client of hers had whole shelves filled with bodice-rippers, and she would read one in an evening while the kids were asleep. She didn’t buy them for herself, though, and the bookshelves in my house growing up contained books by Isaac Asimov and Agatha Christie, as well as more than one set of encyclopedias. During high school, I cycled through literary phases: Greek myths, Catcher In The Rye, Shakespeare, the Beats. I read a single V.C. Andrews book on a dare from a friend.
I wasn’t introduced to paperback romances until my early twenties, when I worked the night shift at a plastic bag factory. The locker room had a box of books for people to swap. I would skim the box’s offerings occasionally, but nothing about the long-haired, kilted men on their covers enticed me.
Today, I write love stories, but my reading habits run more toward non-fiction books—about salt, or the Kennedys, or a family-run diner. I want to find the kind of love stories that speak to my experiences, so this year, I’m trying to figure out romance novels. Among the first to catch my eye was Time Out, a 2012 Harlequin Blaze novel (“fun, sexy and always steamy”) by Jill Shalvis.
A few years ago, I started watching As The World Turns. [...]