Monday, July 30, 2007

Librarian Dress Code

I mentioned in a post about RWA Dallas that I saw Ruth Ryan Langan at the big ole' Literary Signing and had her sign a copy of the first historical romance she ever published - Nevada Nights. This little gem was published back in 1985 under Pocket's long defunct Tapestry line (of which this was #55) and retailed for the staggering sum of $2.95 (those were the days).

This book is notable for a couple a few reasons:
  • It was the first romance I ever read
  • A "cool" older friend of mine loaned it to me
  • It has s-e-x in it! *gasp*
  • It was the first "grown-up" book I read in one day
I wanted to scan my copy for you all to bask in the 1980s, clinch cover art glory, but it just didn't turn out well. Luckily I found an image of the cover art online -

I'm a little worried about the hero of this story. Looking at the cover, it appears he has no neck. Maybe instead of pulling him towards her for a scorching kiss the heroine is saying, "Wait a minute darling while I screw your head back onto your shoulders."

But I love the depiction of the heroine here. My life long ambition is to own a dress like that, and if I did, I'd wear the darn thing to work. Heck, I might even wear it grocery shopping. And how come my hair never looks that good? Oh yeah, you can't afford a personal stylist on a librarian's salary.

But by far the best thing about these older titles are the overwrought plot descriptions. It's like the editorial department pulled out their copy of Purple Prose In Ten Easy Steps when writing the following:

In Virginia City, in a cheap saloon, Cameron found the one man whose memory lived in her heart.

The gentle beauty had left the convent where she had been raised to meet, at last, the father she had never known. But his sudden death thrust her into the frontier town run by gamblers, drifters, and outlaws. Frightened but proud, she bought a gun and learned how to use it.

Then she came face to face with the man who had awakened her from shy girlhood to sudden passion. Now, he was a gunslinger who called himself Colt. Now, he seemed hungry to use her - in a deadly game of greed and revenge!
How 1980s can you get? Seriously. And bless her heart, Langan really pulls out all the stops for this one. Convent raised heroine? Check. Mysterious gunslinger hero? Check. Soap opera plot involving the heroine's long lost family - most of whom are not very happy to see her? Check and check.

I was either 14 or 15 when I first read this and have to say that as a dewy-eyed teenager that I thought this was just about the most exciting book I'd ever read. Naturally I ordered a copy online some years later and reread it. Needless to say, it didn't stand the test of time - but what a great blast from the past! I easily understood and recalled how and why I found this book so riveting as a teen. It was a nice trip down Nostalgia Lane, but not a book I recommend that people run out and order. Besides, having read some of Langan's more recent work, I'm here to testify that she's gotten better with practice.

Still, I love to talk about it - if only because it's a bit of an oddity. I mean, when most people talk about the first romance novel they ever read it's usually written by Barbara Cartland or Kathleen Woodiwiss. Me? It was this little western from an author who has gone on to publish more than 80 novels. Really, it's kinda cool. It might also explain my current western romance addiction. Maybe Langan planted some sort of subliminal message in the text that short-circuited my hormonal, impressionable teenage brain. "You will love westerns. You will read westerns. You will buy westerns."

Now it's your turn. I encourage everyone to post in the comments, or post on your own blog, about the first romance novel you ever read. I'll even make it very low pressure - I won't tag anyone to start with.


Rosie said...

I did a post last September about my first romance novel. It was a frontier book by Saliee O'Brien I found in my grandparents basement called FAREWELL THE STRANGER. I loved it!
Here's the link if anyone's interested

Sherry Thomas said...

I really can't remember but I think there's a chance the first full-length romance I read was Rosemary Roger's Wanton. Now that would a hard-core introduction to the genre. For some reason I keep thinking that I'd read it before I read Sweet Savage Love (which I read before I turned 15).

Somehow I still managed to turn out semi-normal. :-)

Nicole said...

I'm honestly not sure, but I suspect it might be For the Roses by Garwood after that really awful made-for-tv movie.

Alie said...

Okay, here we go: My first romance was a Danielle Steel (horrible, I know). It was Season of Passion, I believe that's the title at least. It had s-e-x in it and I was embarassed ;) Now I can read a sex scene and not even blink hehe.