Thursday, January 13, 2011

I love you Karen Robards!
(Or: The Joys of Discovering a Backlist)

Karen Robards is one of the big romantic suspense stars in our industry. I've read a number of her books over the past few years and really enjoyed them. But it wasn't until recently that I learned she used to write historicals. That's when one of those great moments happens as a reader: I discovered her backlist. [Aside: this is where having a kindle is a great boon not only to an author but also to a reader. I downloaded about 10 of her books in a week.]

I think I've mentioned before that I've been reading romance off and on for more years than I want to claim. My earliest romance memories are of books like The Wolf and the Dove & Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Catherine Coulter, Judith McNaught, Shirlee Busbey, Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey were also early favorites of mine. I read romance off an on through college and a little less in law school, but I do remember reading Julie Garwood in the early 90s. From the list of author's above, you can see I was there to read most of the classics of our genre.

I'm sure this has had an impact on my writing. I love what has been called "old school" romance, and many readers and reviewers have picked up on this in their comments about my books. One of the things I love about old school romances is the emotional intensity and gut-clenching "black moments" (the disastrous point in the romance--usually about 3/4 of the way through the book when a relationship between the hero and heroine seems impossible).

Good black moments are hard to find in today's romances, in part, IMO, because it's harder to get away with some of the things "old school" romances used to get away with. By this I'm referring to many things, from story lines, to what would today be called asshole heroes, to the really really bad things that used to happen to characters, and to the fact that often the hero's POV wasn't often used, making him--and his thoughts--more of enigma. If the heroine couldn't be sure of the heroes feelings, neither could we.

I haven't gone back and read all my old favorites, but one of the problems I've found with some that I have is that they often don't quite hold up to my memories. I don't have the tolerance I used to for certain plot devices (from big misunderstandings, to "forced seduction", etc.).

So imagine my delight when I discovered an "old school" author who I'd somehow missed the first time around, but who's books have held up extremely well. She has some of the sexiest heroes I've come across in a long time--Alpha with a capital A. I must give credit to my friend and CP Jami Alden (who shares my love of old school) for pointing me in her direction. We sound like excited teenagers when we discuss these books, LOL, but I think the love and enthusiasm part of the magic. I love the romance genre, and when I find books like Karen Robards's, it reminds me of why.

So if you love old school romances, Alpha heroes, or just want a lesson in how an author can do a romance trope extremely well, here are some books I loved:

Forbidden Love: I know it's "wrong"--in this ward/guardian book the heroine is much younger than the hero--but God, I loved this book!

Loving Julia: Pygmallion done right. One of her most popular/well-loved books.

Dark Torment: Loved this one: Irish hero sent to Australia as a convict; heroine is daughter of his owner.

Scandalous: Read a while ago, but spinster sister saves family.

Desire in the Sun: slave hero with plantation owner daughter heroine

To Love a Woman: Not a historical, and sex might be on the edge at times for some, but loved this VERY alpha hero.

So what are the books you read that got you into the genre? Have you had an experience like mine, where you find a new author, and then gorge happily on their backlist?