Once I’d started reading historical romance with Julie Garwood, I did sort of dive into that particular pool headfirst. I remember reading a lot of mostly medievals in those next few years of the early 1990s. All the while still reading some contemporaries and searching for that elusive perfect fantasy/science fiction romance combination to appear on the horizon. There were occasional fits and starts in that direction with the new Leisure/Love Spell line but not a lot of enthusiasm on my part for what they were producing.
But back to reading historical romances, I slowly began to dip my toe into the Regency era and it was definitely slow going. Regencies are an acquired taste, long and short or what we in romance call the Traditional Regency Romance. For some strange reason, I have it in my head that Rendezvous by Amanda Quick was the first time I encountered oral sex in a romance. Except that can’t possibly be right, since I’m pretty sure I started reading Garwood before Quick and I know that had to be in Garwood’s books somewhere.
Of course, it might’ve been the male/female power-struggle aspect that the Quick books are infamous for that made a particular scene or two or three stick in my head, so to speak. 😉 I’m not talking about forced seduction or anything like that, mind you, but rather simply two strong-willed people going at it in all areas of their relationship. Literally, in all areas of the relationship. Again with the attitudes and how they’re used, you see.
And I have to say, Quick’s relationships were intriguing. Like her or not or just say she’s formulaic but she saw a major area of the romance mythology that could be exploited and went for it. In doing so, she became a master of the genre or simply proved she already was one. She knew that at their heart romance novels are basically creation myths built upon existing legends which in turn meant that they had to have the foundation of two strong people to build something greater than themselves. Then she looked at one of the most popular, time tested romance myths around, the Gothic with its wrongfully accused heroes and sometimes heroines, and she in turn decided to exploit that for all it was worth by turning the Gothic construct on its head.
By simply and logically having the two people believe in each other against all odds from the get-go.
And it worked. Or rather works because anytime readers can say they can repeatedly, periodically binge on a single author’s work, something is going on. Periodically as in routinely about once every year, give or take. Maybe more often if a new book catches my attention and gets me started early.
Well, of course it works. Why wouldn’t it work? That was the entire point she was making; that she made over and over again in book after book. Right into best-seller status.
Doesn’t mean they don’t have to fight it out with each other or that they automatically believe they’re supposed to be together. Or at least one of them usually doesn’t. But what it did mean is that we got the Gothic construct without all the misunderstandings gumming up the works and could get right to the challenge of working out the relationship – while at the same time get on with solving whatever mystery might exist, too. Win-win from a romance point of view.
I definitely wanted more of what I later came to call the mating challenge style of romance plot – which is basically two equally matched titans going head-to-head in a battle of wits if not a downright physical battle. (The physical battles added on will come much later with the advent of paranormals and science fiction romances.) But at that time, my ever increasing cravings presented a problem on two fronts. Not that many authors were doing them yet for one. For another, at this time, I didn’t even realize Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz were the same authors and Jayne Castle, well, I’m not sure that AKA existed at all yet. Heck, I might’ve run across Krentz in categories before or maybe not. If so, she hadn’t made an impression on me. The Quick books did, however, but even so, I’m not sure she was writing the same type of stuff yet in her other AKA’s. I also hadn’t found her older futuristic romances. Yet. Plus, I wasn’t all that interested in contemporary single title or categories because I’d suddenly found a new interest.
Make that obsession.
Which ironically combined all that had come before.
Honorable, if not cuddly alphas. Mating challenges. A bit of mystery. Fantasy if not science fiction. A setting out of time and place. Humor. Hot, hot, hot sex scenes.
Oh, boy. Wonder who’s up next?