I move so often it’s practically a hobby. I’ve been in Chicago almost six years and now we’re bracing for a cross-country trek to Eugene, Oregon. So, once again, I’m emptying bookcases in an attempt to organize (and pack) my gazillion books. The hard part is trying to find some books to give away.
Books are heavy and when you’re a bookaholic like I am, it means books multiply like rabbits around here. In our last move, we were downsizing from a big house to a two-bedroom condo. This move will put us back into a house, but one we’ll be sharing with both of my kids and my grandkids. There will be room for books, just not ALL of them. Hence: sort, stack and, whenever possible, give some away.
The fun part of this program is that unpacking bookshelves is like digging up buried treasure. I have layers of books on each shelf, and I don’t often work my way back to the first layer. The newer books tend to be at the front, so the treasures at the back go waaaaay back to my early days of reading romance.
I’ve been hooked on romantic suspense since my high school days but I didn’t become a hard core, loud-and-proud romance addict until I was living in London in the mid-1970s. There was a small street market in Grays Inn Road, just down the street from the venerable building that (back in the day) housed the London Times and the Sunday Times. I had a long commute on train and bus, so every day at lunchtime, I would pop out and restock my paperbacks. As I recall, you could get 10 books for one pound Sterling, and a full bag of paperbacks for not much more. The bookstalls were packed full of Mills and Boon books, the British equivalent of Harlequin, and I soon had a two-book-a-day habit.
When I moved back to the U.S. in December 1981, one of the first things I did was subscribe to Harlequin, Silhouette and Candlelight Ecstasy romance, adding new formats as they were created. So…Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Special Edition, and then Blaze, Desire and so on arrived in my mailbox often enough to feed my habit.
Rereading those books, which now almost qualify as antiques, is like going back in time. I hear the wheels of the train rolling into Charing Cross station as I zip through the worn Mills and Boon copies. I remember pairing up tiny baby socks while trying to read the latest Special Edition or Presents at the same time.
I read my way through all fifty states (and then some) with Janet Dailey. A literary scandal led me from Janet Dailey to Nora Roberts, and I read all of her books, too. I enjoyed discovering series authors like Patricia McLinn and Jessica Bird (who is now better known as J.R. Ward). Then, as now, I collected books by my favorite authors and those authors’ names fill me with good memories.
In recent years, I’ve been thrilled to find many familiar authors from my early days of romance reading on Facebook. Those authors helped me adjust to being a stay-at-home mom, and they saved my sanity when my son suffered with colic all those years ago. In my mind, they are literary legends. I still have more bookshelves to go through, but I thought I’d share some of the treasures I’ve unearthed. What drew you to these “category” books, and what keeps you coming back for more?
What authors first hooked you on reading romance?
Becke joined the RU team in January 2011. She moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&N’s Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. During Becke’s twenty-plus years as a freelance garden writer, she wrote six garden books and one book about ‘N Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke also used to blog at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance Buy the Book blog. Writing as Becke Martin, she has three short stories in the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS anthology published by the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Chapter.
In the distant past, Becke sold advertising for the Chicago Sun-Times, the London Sunday Times and the Daily Herald. She has two adult children, two awesome granddaughters, one fabulous daughter-in-law and three cats. She has been married almost 47 years and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park.