What book started it all…

Recently I was asked what book introduced me to romance, and what do I remember about it?

Long story, actually. 🙂 I grew up as the only non-athlete in my family. I was little, scrawny, and completely uncoordinated. I was a wallflower, and the only thing that made me come to life was a book. The town library was my favorite place in the entire world. It sat directly between school and home — the perfect place to lose myself for hours.

This being in the days before cell phones and internet, I really have no idea what my mom thought I was doing all afternoon. Her only rule was, be home before the street lights came on. Fine by me. I’d sneak into the very back of the library where there were big, comfy bean bag chairs, and uncategorized romance novels on racks and racks. I’d open a Chem book, or whatever that day’s homework was, and then stick one of the naughty historicals from the racks right inside my school book. I started with Kathleen Woodiwiss The Flame And the Flower and then promptly inhaled everything she wrote and moved onto Judith McNaught.

I’d found my world, reading about juicy, forbidden love affairs between deliciously alpha heroes and the heroines I could only pretend to be. I got way more out of those books than I ever got out of Sex Ed class. A girl can’t get a better education than a good old fashioned historical romance.

How about you? What book started it all, introduced you to romance? And what do you remember about it?

57 Comments on “What book started it all…

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  1. I was nine years old and was visiting my neighbor and she had Harlequin books delivered every month. I hope I asked for permission, but I read a Margaret Way book and that started it all. I discovered that the library would let you take out as many of the paperback as you could carry for up to three weeks, so I quickly started to devour the books. Then I picked up Kathleen Woodiwiss Flame and the Flower and that opened up a whole new genre.

  2. The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I had read Danielle Steele before that but never really got into them. After my friend gave me The Flame and the Flower I was hooked. That was about 30 years ago. Then I found Diana Gabaldon…….enough said. 🙂

  3. My first was The Golden Unicorn by Phyllis Whitney. Then I wondered into the world of Kathleen Woodiwiss. I loved The Flame and the Flower but The Wolf and the Dove was my favorite. I couldn’t get enough of her books. I was saddened to hear she had passed away.

    From there I ventured into the world of Johanna Lindsey. I’m actually rereading o.e of her books now. I’m trying to hurry up and finish because I just received Simply Irresistible Saturday and can’t wait to read it.

    A couple of my other favorites are Victoria Alexander and Karen Hawkins.

  4. I was about 12 when my mom let me read one of her very sweet but oh-so-tame Harlequins. It was Summer in December by Essie Summers. I’d read at least one a week and plowed through her whole collection by the time I was 16. Then I started on more “mature” authors. Johanna Lindsey, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Mary Stewart, Bertrice Small, Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts and Maeve Binchy led to Linda Lael Miller, Rae Anne Thayne, Lori Foster, Carly Phillips, Kat Martin and, of course, Jill Shalvis.

  5. Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie was my first real romance novel. I still love it and reread it every other year (Bet Me too), but the thing I always remember about it is her use of the title Hot Fleshy Thighs, the water tower and that Liz and Phin are still one of my favorite couples.

  6. The Flame & the Flower by Kathlen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Mary Stewart- Moonspinners, Janet Dailey, Sandra Brown. I also discovered used book stores. These days I preorder books by you, Nora Roberts, Robyn Carr, Brenda Novak, Sandra Brown, Bella Andre, inglath Cooper, Marie Force, Melissa Foster, Barbara Freethy, Diana Gabaldon (Outlander!!), Kristen Higgins, Susan Mallery, Ava Miles, Christy Ridgeway, Roxanne St. Claire, Sherryl Woods. There are others but this is the majority of my current favorite authors, ❤️😀 📖

  7. It was December 1987 and we were coming home from a cruise but there was snow in Denver so we were delayed . . . for hours. Killing time I went into the store and Secret Fire by Johanna Lindsey was in the top 10 display. Bought it, read it, loved it, read it again. I haven’t looked back!

  8. My mum said I voraciously read right from when I was first able to. I loved Enid Blyton. When I was a really young teen I read my mum’s Victoria Holt books and I was hooked. I found Barbara Cartland, so romantic and perfect for a young teen and then Georgette Heyer. The bodice rippers of the early ’80s, I loved Shirlee Busbee, she wasn’t as vicious to her heroines and had so much researched history in her books, I loved them.

  9. Kathleen Woodwiss, loved her work. Jude Devereux, Judith McNaught, Linda Lael Miller, Catherine Hart. So many good authors!!

  10. I too started with Kathleen Woodwoss! Only my first read was Shanna. It’s still one of my top 5 favorites. All of her books were fantastic!

  11. All of the above and then some! Mine started with Gothic novels and morphed into Historical and back to contemporary. They all have to have a happily ever after or I’ll know the reason why. I remember back years ago my sister in law loaned me her copy of The Flame and The Flower, I was gobsmacked. Oh, and I never returned it. And she’s also the one to get me to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon which I’ve read twice. Really a great series.

  12. The first romance I read was so long ago I have no idea which it was! I graduated from The Bobbsey Twins to teen romance & then onto historical romance, Temptation, where I first read Jill Shalvis 🙂 I read a long list of contemporary romance authors where the one & only Jill Shalvis is right at the top!
    By the way, imagine my surprise when I took Chasing Christmas Eve off the tbr shelf, opened it up to find that the book had an autograph! Thanks Jill. Good reading but I’m just getting started!

  13. My introduction was like yours. I started with Woodiwiss, then McNaught. From there I was hooked. I found an erotic writer, Roberta Latow, hose characters were bigger than life. I also discovered you, for lighter reading, and Sharon Sala for books that made you think. Along the way I have added more authors. I do not like wimpy females, nor do I like abusive men. Within those guidelines I have SEP, Nora Roberts, Jill Barnett, and a few other excellent authors who make my days bearable.

  14. Like you my first modern romance writer was Kathleen Wodiwiss and “Flame and the Flower”. I’m older than you so that I also raid Rosemary Rogers, and anything that had a swash-buckling hero and damsel in distress. Another of my favorite authors at the time was Laurie McBain, Devil’s Desire. This was all in the 70s! By the mid80s and 90s, I got into Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, etc.

  15. I read a few of those teenage romance books back in middle school. This was before the bodice rippers which I devour once they came out. Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers, Judith McNaughton, Cynthia Wright, Beatrice Small, Johanna Lindsay, were all part of my daily reading. In fact I still own some of those originally released paperbacks.

    Jill – I hid my books inside the textbook IN CLASS. As long as I was in the back of the room.

  16. I have to say – I’m not really sure which book it was! But I’m pretty certain I’ve been reading some version of romance since my teens…so at least 23 years of loving romance books. But I do remember the “bodice rippers” my mother used to read every summer when she was out sunning.

  17. I honestly don’t have a clue…it was a long time ago…in a galaxy far, far away… All I know is that I haven’t stopped since!

  18. Susan Elizabeth Phillips “This Heart of Mine.” It had humor and a happily ever after. The heroine wasn’t anywhere close to being a model, but she still got the sexy, pro football hero.

  19. While it may sound like I’m trying to suck up to you (maybe I am), the truth is: Animal Attraction. It was the puppy on the cover. That led to reading book one and three (available at the time), which led to Lucky Harbor, and so on. It’s all your fault. 😉

  20. I started reading at age 10 a gothic romance but can’t remember the name but the first “long” romance I read outside of category ones was The Flame and the Flower.

  21. Janet Dailey’s Tidewater Lover when I was around 12 years old. Been reading voraciously ever since.

  22. Don’t forget The Wolf and The Dove.
    I was in the library so much that they offered me a job at 16!
    I was using my mom’s card to read.

  23. I started with The Flame and The Flower as well. Then moved on to Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, Mary Higgins Clark. Now I have a whole different set of favorite authors.

  24. I loved the Flame and the Flower. Whatever got you interested was a good thing because I do enjoy your books.

  25. I also found the love of romance novels in a Kathleen novel The Wild and The Dove. After that one I was hooked forever. I do read other genres and a lot of non-fiction but when I need an escape from life Romance is my go to.

    Thank you for all your hard work to bring us the ability to escape.

  26. The Flame and the Flower was my first. Followed by Rosemary Rogers’ books then on to Valley of the Dolls.

  27. I have no idea, I just picked up an M&B book one day in the library (I escaped there every day to get away from home) and never looked back

  28. I don’t remember the name of it (because I’m older than dirt) my girlfriend snagged it from her mom’s room. Holy moly it was about pirates. The heroine became a pirate and I was so on board with that. Books are my escape from reality. Movies are good, however nothing can match your own imagination and your own pictures in your head.

  29. Whitney, My Love was my first introduction (16 years old and in love with all those Dukes and Earls), it was quickly followed by Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James, and Julia Quinn. Then I discovered a taste for contemporary (you, Sarah Morgan, Susan Mallory just to name a few).

  30. My mother-in-law lent me the first book and I can’t remember the title. After I read it I realized I’d been reading romances since my pre-teen days. I loved to read Janet Lambert’s young adult books which were romances.

  31. Oh so many years ago I was a best sellers list reader. My daughter who was at UC Davis came home one weekend and said “mom you have to read this bike, you’ll love it”. That was a Kathleen Woodiwiss and I was hooked. Now I read a variety but if there is a Carr, Shalvis , Mallery or Putney around it is read. I discovered Brenda Novak recently and guess I had better add it to the list too. There are really too many to list. Reading is my escape .

  32. YES!! The Flame and the Flower for me too. It was the most engrossing story I had ever read. I was hooked.

  33. It was Flame and the Flower for me too. I discovered it on my grandmother’s bookshelf while visiting and secretly read it. Then I gobbled up all of Woodiwiss’s other works. Then I found my mom’s romance novels.

    I was the girl in high school who always carried a novel with her. Susan Johnson’s _Outlaw_ was one of my favorites.

  34. The Wildest Heart by Rosemary Rogers was my first romance. I was a reader from the time I learned to read. I have always loved the library. I was the same way, I could stay at the library all day.
    I don’t remember too much about The Wildest Heart anymore, it has been 44 years ago I read it, but I remember I was hooked on romance from then on. I have read 1000’s of them since then. I really enjoy you books, some of my favorites.

  35. Mary Stewart- Moonspinners after seeing the movie. But Katherine Woodwiss was wonderful. I read every one as soon as it came out. A friend at work introduced me to them.

  36. A friend lent me a copy of Sandra Brown’s French Silk. That was the first. I moved on to Heather Graham, Nora Roberts, Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught. By the time I finished high school I’m pretty sure I had read each one’s entire library!

  37. I remember sneaking a peak at my older sisters book Valley of the Dolls which I don’t think I would call romance. I do remember Shanna and then I read Julie Garwood and I loved Judith McNaught. Judith McNaught was actually the first author I ever met. I wen to a book signing in March of 2003 and that book is very special to me.

  38. I believe I was in 6th grade and it was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. A friend let me borrow it. I just started reading everything I could. Valerie Sherwood, Kathleen Woodiwiss, etc. When I got a little older I bought the 4 Harlequin books every month. My first monthly bill!

  39. I have been addicted to reading since I was 4 when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    I worked at libraries at different times.

    I was a reading snob. I did not understand how women could read “romance novels”. Surely they were better than that.

    After Mr Wonderful dumped me for a newer and better model, I moved to a new city, far from friends and family.

    I lived not far from a library and of course eventually felt like that is where I needed to be. I found the fiction section and there was a book by Judith McNaught – Until You.

    I recognized why -within that book there was love and happily ever after – I have never looked back.

  40. Catherine Coulter’s Sherbrooke Bride that I found left behind in a seat back on airplane – then I was hooked on Historical Romances.. this past year and a half I’ve gotten a bit burned out on reading just historical romances and started reading contemporary and luckily discovered Jill Shalvis! Now have been trying to catch up on all the great contemporary romances.

  41. I found Eugenia Price and read through all of her books which are New Orleans historicals and romances. Then one day I found Kathleen Woodiwiss and have read through hers. And, the rest is history as they say.

  42. I always hated reading. I always did the bare minimum. I was a math and science girl. I didn’t read for fun until I was an adult and teacher no less. I had major surgery that had me laid out for 8 weeks. A friend brought me Judith McNaught’s Paradise. I hated it at first. The beginning was so boring that I smack my friend with the book when she visited. But she told me to give it a few more pages. I could not put the remaining 600 pages down! Best. Book. Ever! That started my love of reading romance books. It also made me the perfect example to my students (without them knowing my love for romance). Find an author/genre you love. Then you will find your love for reading. For me it’s authors…Judith McNaught, Shalvis, and Lori Foster!

  43. Kathleen Woodiwiss The Flame And the Flower was also my first book. I didn’t get into reading until later in life – my daughter was put in the hospital & of course I stayed with her so a friend loaned me a book to read & I was hooked .

  44. Seems we both started out the same. The Flame and theFlower was my absolute favorite at the time. Judith McNaught and of course Johanna Lindsey! And, now way too many to even list….❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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