I used to adore the older Julie Garwoods, but recently I’ve reread a few & discovered they aren’t as fantastic as I thought they were. Perhaps I’ve evolved?
got me thinking … have I evolved, as a reader, over the years? Have my reading habits really altered? What has happened to make me change my mind about an old favourite?
Taking a page off Cindy, I cast my memory back to my childhood. Back then, I lived in a world of knights, fairies, pixies and magic. It was Greek myths, Enid Blyton and lots of fairy tales for me. Then I progress on to Marion Zimmer Bradley and sci-fi/ fantasy, mysteries and medical thrillers in my teens. My first brush with romance came in the form of a (I think it was called) Sweet Sixteen book during my mid-teens. Naturally, it didn’t leave that much of an impression (I couldn’t even remember its title, let alone the author!) because I went right back to my Robin Cook and MZB.
It wasn’t until I started working for a couple of years, at the ripe old age of 25, that I finally found the IT-romance which got me hooked forever on the genre. Julie Garwood’s Saving Grace was really that — my saving grace. Till this day, I’m very sentimental about this book. I didn’t keep that first borrowed copy but eventually bought one to keep, for old time’s sake. And … I still read it now and then.
My first few forays into romance were all set in either medieval times or Regency England. I think this strong preference ties back to my childhood obsession with knights and Arthurian tales. In fact, my favourite MZB books are all about Avalon and the series revolves around medieval Britain, Wales, druids, warriors and priestesses. I was a hopeless dreamer then.
Life and its demands intruded, and for a while I read a lot more contemporary novels. Judith Krantz, Jilly Cooper, Danielle Steele, Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins and even Harold Robins walked in and out of my life for a while. Those were the times when I needed books set in the relatively modern world. Work was intense and my career just started taking off, so I was looking for modern heroines, I guess.
Then I got married, settled down to have kids, and that’s when JG, Elizabeth Thornton, Quick and Feather et al came back to brighten my days again. It’s kind of telling actually. No matter how I’ve progressed, and grown wiser (I hope) through the years, I seem to return more and more often to Historical and Regency romances.
Sure, there were some — I shan’t name them here — that upon reading again, make me cringe and wonder what made me pick it up in the first place. I also progressed from veteran/ more experienced (read: older) authors to new (and younger) authors, especially in the last 5 years. This was the period when I started reading JulieQ, Gaelen Foley, Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas. Lately, I began reading contemporaries again, more as a breather or spacer between historicals, and sometimes, as pure entertainment or fluff reading and definitely when I need a laugh.
I guess this is also because my image of a heroine has evolved over the years. I no longer accept spineless, whiny heroines who let alpha-males step all over them. Slowly, I started looking out for females with the courage to stand up for what they belive in, be it love, family or a cause. Heroes and heroines who rose above a broken past to triumph in life or a crisis or whatever situation they’re in tend to get my vote. And the hero who appreciates intelligent, capable females and is not afraid to show his softer side wins me over right away.
So, yes, in a way my reading habits have evolved because of my needs for a stronger, more progressive heroine, and a more open-minded, sensitive hero. It’ll be interesting to revisit some of my old faves just to compare my feelings/ reactions then and now. But I’m going to be really selective. There are some that I’d rather not touch again.
What about you? How have you, as a reader, evolved over the years? What was the key factor behind the evolution?
p.s. I’m still a sucker for the H/H chemistry, that sparkle and Venus/Mars sizzle.