Old Skool Favorites: A Reading Challenge

Book CoverRedHeadedGirl has been going though the Old Skool romance time travel machine, ever since she found her own lost Help a Bitch Out book. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the older romances I’ve read and loved, and whether they hold up to a re-reading now that it’s been years since I last read them.

So I’ve compiled a reading list of my own for 2011, which I’m calling the “Old Skool Favorites”, books that I read and remember enjoying (even if I can’t remember the title or author and have to dig through the webby recesses of my brain to find a clue to track them down) and want to re-read to see what I think of them now. Maybe I’ll ruin a few of my fondest memories, but my re-read of Midsummer Magic, the first romance I ever read, didn’t turn me away or leave me with a “What the hell was I thinking?” feeling when I finished it.

imageIf you’ve been reading the genre for awhile, you probably have some old favorites that you haven’t re-read in a long time. Every wonder if they stand up to a revisit, if the memory you hold is the same as the book you hold in your hands today? Sometimes, the way-back old skool romances we remember aren’t great because they are good stories – sometimes they’re awesome because of the unfiltered crazysauce within them. Sometimes they’re comfort reads, or they’re connected to a time period that is flooded with nostalgia, which then spills over on to the book, whether the book itself was fantastic or not.

With the Old Skool Favorites challenge, I’m going to re-read my old-skool favorites. I’d love it if you’d join me and re-read yours. You can blog about it or email me, but I think it’s important to know where the genre has been (who it’s been with!) and how it’s changed over the years, and how we as readers have changed too. I hereby and eagerly invite you to join me in a re-read of your oldest favorites, whether they are ridiculous or wonderpants.

My reading list so far, which I will definitely add to as I find more books in storage:

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What would be on your Old Skool reading list? Want to join me in a re-read?

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  1. 1
    Moth says:

    Maybe The Raider, by Jude Deveraux. That was my first romance novel. My older sister read it first then handed it to me and said, “Read this.” She was kind of scary at that age so I did what she said.

    Problem with a re-read is I know Deveraux’s books don’t hold up. I tried to reread my other favorite of hers “Velvet Song” and oh, it was so bad.

  2. 2
    Lyssa says:

    Wow, Old skool? There are those I think I will still like, if only for comfort sake. Jude Deveraux’s medieval series, Roberta Gellis’ Rosalyn Chronicals, Nora, (runs to check the wayback machine *otherwise known as her bookshelves*) Early Mallory Series by Johanna Lindsey, JAK earlier works (1989 and before if they are over 20 yrs old they are old skool) and …stops and smiles, In honor of SEP’s Simply Irrisistable, Fancy pants, published 1989.  Be nice to read Teddys story beginning and end!

    spamword year63: Runs and hides her Birth Certificate…I have no idea what you are talking about!!!!

  3. 3
    aussiegirl says:

    I have to try and think back to when I first started reading romances and it’s making my head hurt :-)
    My first romance was back in 1979 and it was a Barbara Cartland – for the life of me could not tell you which one it was as I was not too impressed. Then the only romances I could find at that age was through my school library which had lots of Harlequins or Mills and Boon as we knew them. So I can remember reading Anne Mather, Charlotte Lamb, Janette Dailey. I know that I read lots lots more but can’t remember the authors.
    I actually did not start reading non category romances until the mid 1980’s when I had a job and could buy to my heart’s content.

  4. 4
    Tina C. says:

    I might just join you on that as I have a few that I remember loving back in the day, including a really really old Anne Stuart that I’ve carried with me from house to house, state to state, for the past 20-something years—Against the Wind, from 1985.  (Check out this cover.  No really.  You’ve got to see this!)  I also have some old, beloved Iris Johansen and Jude Devereaux titles.  I don’t think I can face some of the old Coulter books, though.

  5. 5
    Cat Marsters says:

    Ah, Jude Deveraux. I still have several shelves of her books and I’m kind of scared to reread them, because I loved them so much and don’t want to spoil the magic. I reread one recently because it sounded like a HABO and I wanted to check, and while I still enjoyed the setting and the twists of the plot, I found the hero to be full of asshattery. My abiding memory of him now is not how he risked his life to save the daughter he didn’t know he had, but how he relieved the heroine of her virginity, in a wood, after she’d just been kidnapped, then left her sleeping and wandered off for a few months, only to be angry that she wasn’t there when he returned (and of course, to be suspicious when he saw her with a baby of exactly the right age to be his).

    I’d rather keep my rose-tinted memories of A Knight in Shining Armor intact!

  6. 6

    I think the very first historical I ever read was called “My Enemy, My Love” by Elaine… um, something. I can’t remember the author’s last name to save my life. Second was Heather Graham’s “Sweet Savage Eden,” which I remember being a little rape-tastic. They kind of blur after that, but another one I remember as a real favorite was Jude Deveraux’s “The Conquest.”

  7. 7
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    If we’re being really “old skool,” I’d recommend Anya Seton’s KATHERINE—historical fiction, but a passionate romance at the center of it.  And how about a little love for SWEET SAVAGE LOVE—yes, it’s full of rapey stuff and a complete douchebag hero, but it’s one of the first “bodice rippers.”  I’d also put in a word for one of the first regencies I read, THE ABANDONED BRIDE by Edith Layton.

  8. 8
    Kathy says:

    My oldest favorite old school is “Angel in Scarlet”, by Jennifer Wilde.  Unless you count “Flowers in the Attic” series as romance.

  9. 9

    You know you’re welcoming a poopstorm of HaBOs, right? Because I can’t remember the title or even the covers of my first romances. They were all sneakily-read donations to the paltry “library” on hand for the volunteers at the crisis hotline I worked at as a teenager. Thankfully (?) our phone didn’t ring that often, so there was plenty of time to read cast-off romances. This would have been the mid-nineties, but the books were largely from the eighties. Many a hero in a puffy shirt, be it tucked into tight stonewashed jeans or pirate britches, lots of raised, swoopy, gold script. They all blurred together. I mainly remember the sex scenes (hey, I was fifteen) as they were just as much an education as the dog-eared copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves also on hand for when callers had anatomical crises. Historical romance told me of the mysterious glistening “bead” at the tip of the hero’s “flesh sword” (to the hilt!). And Our Bodies, Ourselves explained what in the heck the author was talking about. Damn, I wish I remembered enough to look those books up!

  10. 10
    Diane says:

    I remember someone handing me a Barbara Cartland when I was in college – I think they came with packages of detergent or something at the time.  All I remember was the heroine’s stupid name – Fenella.  What did Cartland do?  Reach into her spice cabinet and add an a?  The mind boggles – Marjorama.  Oregana.  Of course, the perfect name for one of her insipid heroines would have to be Vanilla.

  11. 11
    JoanneF says:

    What?  No Johanna Lindsey?  No Kathleen Woodiwiss?  I’m talking OLD, old skool.  Of Lindsey’s, I’d recommend “Tender Is the Storm,” even if only for the fantastic cover art http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/johanna-lindsey/tender-is-storm.htm  My a.ll-time favorite Woodiwiss is “A Rose In Winter.”  I still have a huge crush on Christopher Seton.  Hmmmm…………..considering the books I recommended, maybe I have a thing about men with dual personalities.

    In any case, I doubt they’d hold up well now.  The florid prose alone would probably drive me insane.

  12. 12
    thecautionarytale says:

    saw the Judith McNaught historicals and did the super squishy squee until I noticed you left “Whittney, My Love” off. I think that book is my all time favorite. It wasn’t my first but it was the first that was any good.  Clayton Westmoreland melted my butter and still does. In fact, I’m gonna read it now.

  13. 13
    kbrum says:

    Johanna lindsey “Secret Fire” Plus some other JL 80’s and early 90’s books but defintely won’t ever ever read the early pirate/sheihk rapey ones.

    Kathleen Woodiwiss “a Rose in Winter” plus her book about the man with the burnt/scarred face(?)
    A big yeah @discodollydeb – “Katherine” by Anya Seton hopefully should be a good reread .seton wrote some other books too, including one one settlers in the new world “Green” in the title.

    Big No to barbara cartland

    yes to a really truly old Mills & Boon early 80’s: “Black Saxon” author forgotten, covering story on recalcitrant norman gel heading off to strengthen union between another stormin norman but ends up with black haired saxon instead.This aging tween loved that cover.No scarey violent rapey stuff maybe sexist dated stereotypes.

    Bettina Krahn? mid 90’s   title,  Elizabethan setting, swedish diplomat hero.

    Clan of Cave Bear series

    list goes on …..dreams …. back to you

    can49 : can I list 49 books?

  14. 14
    kbrum says:

    in drafting a definition of “old skool” – would that need to include element to highlight that the book needs to be left on shelf of rented holiday house, or bought second hand etc cos you be too embarrassed to actually buy a new unread copy from the bookshop.?

    AND read furtively?

  15. 15
    MichleKS says:

    My first historical romance was by Virginia Henley, The Raven and The Rose if I remember the title correctly. And now I’m seriously tempted to check out the two used bookstores near me to see if they have a copy. The girl sitting next to me in my sophmore (high school) English class loaned it to me and I didn’t want to give it back. I also read Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armor around the same time (and I still have a copy of that- original edition too) and that one is a bit laughable now but I still love it.

    I didn’t start reading romance in earnest until after I graduated high school then spent the next few years trying to play catch-up. But I was never really able to get into old skool historical- I tried Woodiwiss and McNaught and a few others but I just couldn’t get into the classics. I read some historicals (loved Marsha Canham), but I mostly gravitated to contemporaries (Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Tami Hoag) with a few time-travel (Kay Hooper’s The Wizard of Seattle was a favorite) and some futuristics (The Skypirate and Lord of the Storm by Justine Dare).

    Now I’m seriously thinking of going through my books and pulling down some of those to re-read this year. Thanks for the fun suggestion.

  16. 16
    SB Sarah says:

    Oh! I forgot my favorite old Lindsay, Silver Angel. Most bizarre kidnapping harem story, and yet it is craaaaaack. I have to re-read that one too!

  17. 17

    I’m taking notes.  :D

    A trilogy I have fond memories of (and re-read a few years ago) is The Orphan Train Trilogy by Linda Lael Miller.  Ridonkulous, no understanding of corsetry, lots of sex in many positions all over the Wild(ish) West. 

    Aw yeah. 

    I also have, in fact, read the Fabio Pirate book.  Speaking of ridonkulous.

  18. 18

    Windflower is still a classic, but it’s part of the Old Skool crowd.  And how can we overlook The Wolf and the Dove and The Flame and The Flower, two books that began it all?

    There were also some early Karen Robards historicals I’d put on that list, but I don’t have them on my keeper shelf.  The other book I’d put there is Judith McNaught’s 1984 contemporary Double Standards, or as I always think of it, “That sexual harassment suit waiting to happen book”.

  19. 19
    Susan Reader says:

    kbrum, I remember that Elizabethan with the Swedish diplomat!  None of the Betina Krahns on the Fantastic Fiction website sound like it though…

    “Black Saxon” is by Alex Andrews, an old, old Masquerade from when that was Mills & Boon’s historical line. 

    My absolute favorite Masquerade (I think it was also published in North America by Harlequin) was “A Pride of MacDonalds” by Valentina Luellen.  Campbell hero (Gorgeous cover, too.  It’s somewhere up in the attic…

    “efforts64”:  I’ll dedicate sixty-four hours of effort to thinking up my list!

  20. 20
    Susan Reader says:

    Oops! Book description got cut off…

    “Pride of MacDonalds”…Campbell hero meets MacDonald heroine when he is raiding her family’s house.  Both of them are back in Scotland after years away.  Eventually they fall in love and convince their families to let them get married, only to have their wedding used as the springboard for the Glencoe massacre.  Not surprisingly, they decide that if they’re going to have any chance at a HEA they have to leave Scotland.

    I reread and reread and reread it…

    “effort87”?  Now I have to spend 87 hours thinking of my list?

  21. 21
    Kati says:

    What about Nora Roberts’ Irish Thoroughbred? It came out in 1983 and it has punishing kisses, roaring pleasure and feisty hair tossing. It’s a classic!

  22. 22
    Tiblet says:

    Judith E. French-Fortune’s Mistress
    Bertrice Small-Lost Love Found
    Catherine Coulter-Sweet Surrender (re-released as Evening Star)
    Shannon Drake-Blue Heaven, Black Knight
    Megan Daniel-All The Time We Need
    And several more I have no idea on the titles…

  23. 23
    Cris says:

    No one has mentioned Jude Devereaux’s “A Knight in Shining Armour”?!  I’d been reading romances for years and had a strong love for Janet Dailey books from my teens through my early 20’s, but when I read “Knight” I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Best book EVER!  (at the time)  But like others, I’m kind of afraid to re-read it.  Jude’s books of the last 10 years have disillusioned me quite a bit, so I hate to completely ruin it.  Then again, really, BEST BOOK EVER!

    Also, speaking of Dailey, I may go to the used bookstore for some of the Montgomery books to re-read, I loved them… but I won’t buy her books new anymore.

  24. 24
    Cris says:

    Wait a minute.  Daily was the Calder books, Devereaux was the Montgomerys.  My bad.  Loved the Calders too, but not as much as the Montgomerys :)

  25. 25
    Carin says:

    The old skool I remember is Catherine Coulter’s The Sherbrooke Bride.  First romance I bought myself and read cover to cover, many times.  I remember it being kind of rapey (though not nearly as much as the next two.)  It’s definitely got the angle where he’s angry because she gets him all aroused, and clearly that’s HER fault. 

    I don’t know if I’d still enjoy it. I’ve definitely got fond memories, but eventually I got rid of it (and the other Coulter books) because of the rapey-ness and after a particularly horrible “novel”  (Devil’s Embrace) I read by Coulter.  That one included rape-by-the-“hero”, rape by a group of kidnappers, and “healing”-rape-by-the-hero.  That book is one I really wish I could unread.  And kind of on princple with that, I’m done with Coulter.

    On another note, the cover you show for Blaze Wyndham?  My first thought was “menage?”  That was my laugh for the day!

  26. 26
    Elise Logan says:

    A Knight in Shining Armor is totally crack. Definitely that. And, for some reason, Shanna by Woodiwiss is like crack for me, even though I want to slap that stupid wench every time I read the book. I’m a fan of the Savage Thunder JL – though Silver Angel definitely wins the WTF moment. I love my Rosalyn Chronicles – I actually just reread them last year. If you can reread some Old Skool Elizabeth Lowell, that’s total bonus. She’s “expanded and rereleased” every dang thing she ever wrote.

    Also, we all know I have the Treasure Trove of Loveswept ™ which I keep to remind me that 2/3 of my fave authors started there.

    Spamword: plans72 – because I’m planning 72 kinds of awesome for these rereads.

  27. 27
    Lora says:

    I’ll be Janet Dailey all the way. My romance library was the floor of my grandpa’s closet, so the Calder Saga was a major influence==I wish I remembered which one had the young hot Spanish soccer player in it….I also loved the Regency Summer short story compilation but my fave is an old (1992 I think) Silhouette Christmas with four stories in it—a Mary Balogh, a Debbie Macomber…it was awesome. I’ll check them out.

  28. 28
    cate says:

    I have a sudden longing to pull out my Dinah Dean collection
    Flight from the Eagle , Tatya’s Story et al….And after Susan Reader’s comment, I suddenly remembered how utterly cracktastic Valentina Luellen was & dug out my copy of   Francesca….. Skullduggery with the Borgia’s !!!!!!
    OOOOh I’ve just found Jan Constant’s The Rebel & the Redcoat……..Mills & Boon’s Masquerade line was fantastic ( & I can’t believe how many I have stashed at the back of the bookcase!!!!!!!)

  29. 29
    Aimelynn says:

    The first non-YA romance I read was Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer. It’s a tiny bit rapey (the hero forces the heroine to kiss him at gunpoint) but it made my 13 year old heart go pitter-patter. Besides that one, there are only two others that I have kept after all this time: The Gamble (also by Spencer), and My Fair Gentleman (like My Fair Lady, but in reverse!) by Jan Freed. I still read them every few years, and I still count them as some of my favourites.

    spamword: seemed 33. When I was 13, 33 seemed ancient!

  30. 30
    Lynn M says:

    Oh, wow, these posts are bringing back memories! I think if I had to list three, the first would be Johanna Lindsay’s A Pirate’s Love, Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove and Calder’s This Calder Sky. At least those are the most representative of old skool I have on my keeper shelf yet haven’t read in ages. Actually, my first true romances were from the old Silhouette First Love series. I read those like popping candy. I kept a handful and everyone once in a while go back for a quick smile.

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