Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Remembering a Book with Fondness

Annie writes:

I’m looking for a really special book. When I was a freshman in high
school, our school library was full of old books from the sixties and
seventies that no one had read or even leafed through since 1987. When I
found this book, I spent 10 minutes out of my lunch period for weeks reading
it, not checking it out, just a few pages then putting it back. It was about
a British or American daughter of a painting restorer who, after her father
died, had to travel to France to fulfill her father’s last contract. Her
employer was, I think, an extremely handsome, wealthy widower with a young
daughter who didn’t really want this presumptuous miss to handle his
damaged works of art. He relented after a while, of course. And then fell in
love with her (duh). The plot turned to some missing family jewels, and I
think the widowers’ brother had something to do with their disappearance.
It was a romantic, dreamy book that I remember with a lot of fondness.
Please help me find it!

This was how I found Susan Elizabeth Phillips – I started reading “First Lady” in line at the drugstore near my grad school, and stood there for nearly half an hour, letting people go ahead of me. I couldn’t afford the paperback, if I recall. But eventually I went back because I was totally hooked. And I still remember that book, like Annie says, with fondness. An unexpected find that rocked.

Do you have an unexpected find in your romance history? And, more importantly, do you remember this one?

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  1. 1
    SusiB says:

    I know this book! It’s The King of the Castle by Victoria Holt. I loved reading her books as a teenager. In fact, I think I want to reread it. It was unusual (for Holt’s books) in that the heroine was named Dallas.

  2. 2

    Wow, swift resolution!

    I didn’t know what book that was, but I did want to mention my first romance (aside from Forever—thanks, Mom!) I was fifteen and volunteered at a teen crisis hotline in Portland, Maine, and we had piles of donated paperbacks lying around. Hardly anyone ever called needing me to talk them off a ledge or explain how not to get crotch rot, so I read a lot of said paperbacks, once I’d finished The New Our Bodies Ourselves. I don’t recall what my first romance was called, or exactly what it was about. It was contemporary, and pretty far-fetched, but I do remember thinking, “Holy forced seductions, Batman! They just said cock!” Quite the transcendent change of pace after the clinical smut I’d glommed from OBO.

    I was too embarrassed to get a romance out from my library or to buy one, but I was totally blown away that there were books out there with sex all-up-ins. No way! Is that, like, even legal? From then on, I stole romances whenever possible from waiting rooms and the neglected bookshelves of friends’ moms. Now I write them. Thank you, anonymous book donor!

    I pity these young kids who grow up on the net; stumbling across filthy things was way more serendipitous when I was a kid, wistful sigh.

  3. 3
    Tice Belmont says:

    Oh, yay, SusiB. I knew this plot sounded familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I loved Victoria Holt too! I fell in love with her when I read On the Night of the Seventh Moon. Loved it!

  4. 4
    Buffy says:

    I don’t remember the first romance book I read. I’ve read hundreds since. The few that made an impression on me were published fairly recently with the exception of Loving Julia by Karen Robards. I have a thing for the tortured or aloof hero. Sebastian is a spectacular character and the book is a My Fair Lady theme.

    I also LOVE LOVE LOVE Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh. I’ve read and re-read that book so many times and every time I just want a Wulfric of my very own to take home and muss up.

  5. 5
    Liz says:

    when i was in high school, i came across Beyond Compare by Candace Camp at Target.  For some reason it didn’t strike me that it was an historical, which I shied away from because i was always told that historicals were porn, until I started reading it.  Of course, once I was reading it i couldn’t put it down, not with anachronistic feminism as well as aspects of the paranormal running rampant in the book.  It wasn’t long before i realized that historicals were not porn.

  6. 6
    Silver James says:

    While technically not a romance since there wasn’t a true HEA, my first romance was THE SPY WHO LOVE ME by Ian Fleming. Seriously. Read the book. The man was a master. James will always be my dream alpha. I’d read all the books in the children’s section of our small public library and my dad made arrangements for me to read the adult section. ANYTHING. I. WANTED. The first book I checked out was that Fleming. My husband found a first edition for me for our 25th wedding anniversary. Now that was romantic, too!

  7. 7
    Brigit says:

    I’ve read this book! But I always thought “Dallas” was part of the author’s name – no wonder I never found it again. Well, not only had the heroine an unusual name, she also had a job – which was very unusual for a period piece, I think.

    As a teenager (more than a decade ago), I’ve read a lot of Victoria Holt, that must have been my first exposure to romance (the one set in Australia about the opal mine and the one with the limping heroine).

  8. 8
    Nadia says:

    I read a shit-ton of categories and historicals while in high school but didn’t take them with me to college.  In fact, I sold them all along with the bulk of my earthly possessions in a garage sale before I left for school.  Of course, there is this magical week during college called Spring Break, and I hit the college bookstore that first year to find something, anything to read on the beach.  They didn’t have a huge leisure reading selection, but lo and behold, SEP’s Glitter Baby was newly released and caught my eye in all its movie-stars-fashion-models-creepy-father-hot-wounded-hero goodness.  We all read the hell out of that book, and it became the first of many in the stolen milk crate o’ trashy books that resided under my desk in the sorority house.  Thus began my enduring love of SEP.

  9. 9
    flip says:

    It is definitely King of the Castle by Victoria Holt. It was one of the first romances that I ever read.

  10. 10
    Marla says:

    The first romance I read, at about 12 years old, was Mistress of Mellyn. I think that was Victoria Holt. I also loved her Night of the Seventh Moon – I was pretty much set on marrying a man with a cool name like Maximillian instead of all the Davids and Chrises I knew. And I STILL want to be a painting conservator like in King of the Castle – I thought that was just the coolest job.

    When I read M of M, I didn’t know what a “romance novel” was. I just found this book in the junior high library, and I remember how DIFFERENT it seemed to me – it was all about the girl/woman, she was the main character, and her thoughts and concerns drove the story. I think I found the love story part to be kinda mushy at that age, but I liked all the mystery and adventure. It was almost a feminist genre to me, because the females were the central characters.

  11. 11
    Gabrielle says:

    My first romance novel was Until You by Judith McNaught. I was about 12 or 13 and I had to steal it from my sister because she thought I was too young to read it. I stayed up all night to finish it, with a booklight buried underneath my covers because I didn’t want her to find out. I’ve been hooked ever since and still have a strong partiality for Stephen Westmoreland. After that book, I devoured all of Judith McNaught’s other books and she’s still my favourite author :)

  12. 12
    Cidi says:

    The “one with the limp” is Menfreya, still one of my favourites, I started reading Victoria Holt after my mother told me that my Nana used to read her.  Nana died when I was six (over 20 years ago)  so I never really got to know her, but I love the fact that we like the same kind of books.

  13. 13
    Deb Kinnard says:

    MENFREYA IN THE MORNING started my love affair with Cornwall. First thing I did once I landed on that side of the pond was to go there. All through my teenager years I read and loved everything Holt I could get my hands on, with the exception of LEGEND OF THE SEVENTH VIRGIN. No HEA in this one. Yuck. Wonder why Holt wandered from the True Path?

  14. 14
    Vicki says:

    My piano teacher in Port of Spain loved Victoria Holt and started lending them to me when I was 11. I would sneak them home with my music theory books. Bride of Pendorric was my favorite. It still holds up well, I think.

  15. 15
    Sarah says:

    It was in high school. My best friend got sucked into reading ‘The Bride’ by Julie Garwood and practically ignored me every time I tried to talk to her.

    Curious about it, I stopped and picked it up when I needed something to read, just to see what the deal was about. It was my first introduction to Romance novels, it’s still one of my favorites to this day.

    This was actually my best friend’s first dip into them too. We still swap books fifteen years later.

  16. 16
    Nina says:

    I was in 6th grade, I think.  I found a Reader’s Digest book with two stories by Victoria Holt on my Grandma’s bookshelf.  I stayed up all night reading it.  After that, I read as many of her books as I could find at the local library.  Later, I fell in love with Patricia Veryan, and Judith McNaught.

  17. 17
    Annie says:

    Thank you so much for finding it for me! I guess it was the first romance novel I ever read, huh…I’m going to go buy it right now, and reread it. Much love!

  18. 18
    Diana says:

    Sarah, you may already know this, but SEP is currently working on Teddy Beaudine’s book, and Lucy Jorik from First Lady may be his leading lady.  There’s also a chance that Meg from What I Did for Love will be the heroine.  I’m rooting for Lucy!

  19. 19
    tiddlywinks1979 says:

    My first romance was Man of My Dreams by Johanna Lindsey.  I’ve been hooked since!

  20. 20
    Fiona says:

    The first romance I clearly remember reading was “Shanna” by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  I was 14 or 15, messing around in the attic and found a whole box of books that must’ve been my mom’s.  I still have that copy and pull it out once a year or so.  (Also in that box was the incredible “Soul Flame” by Barbara Wood.)

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