Firsts as Favourites

Yesterday an interesting At the Back Fence column went up at All About Romance. Among other things, Laurie raises the theory that the first books we’ve read by a specific author are often our favourite novels by that author. She wrote about this in more detail ten years ago in At the Back Fence #9:

ARE OUR FIRSTS OUR FAVORITES? This question, and get your minds out of the gutter ;), was brought to my attention by a Prodigy pal. Gretchen was struck by the fact that, although so many of us are such fans of Julie Garwood, most of us cannot agree on which of her books is best. For instance, Gretchen likes The Bride best. I like Castles best. It turns out that she read The Bride first. I read Castles first. Were we on to something? Could we say that readers tend to prefer the first book they read by a beloved author? As it turns out, yes . . . and no. . . .
When I looked through my library database, I discovered that my firsts are usually my favorites. It has held true for Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, Rexanne Becnel, Teresa Medeiros, Judith McNaught, Lisa Kleypas, and Kathryn Lynn Davis. But it is not always the case — my favorites by Ruth Langan, Amanda Quick, Deborah Simmons, Elizabeth Elliott, Linda Lael Miller, and Katherine Sutcliffe were not the first books I read.

Now, when I looked through my bookshelves, I came to a similar result. My firsts are often my favourites: Gaelen Foley’s LORD OF FIRE, Teresa Medeiros’ THE BRIDE & THE BEAST, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s THIS HEART OF MINE, Stephanie Laurens’s A RAKE’S VOW, Nora Roberts’s THE MACGREGOR GROOMS, Victoria Holt’s THE DEVIL ON HORSEBACK, Penelope Williamson’s KEEPER OF THE DREAM. However, this is not to say that later books by these authors are worse — not at all! I absolutely adored Teresa’s YOURS UNTIL DAWN; Gaelen’s latest, HIS WICKED KISS with its jungle-reared heroine is absolutely intriguing; and I don’t really have to tell you that Nora Roberts is a top-notch author. It’s just that the books I read first hold a special place in my heart. I guess this is comparable to whether you are a Lymond-fan or a Niccolo-lover: it depends on which series you read first. 🙂

Moreover, I’ve found that I’ve got a special love for my early romances — which makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? With your first secret baby or amnesia plot, you’re totally charmed by the whole concept of it. Yet when you discover that secret babies and amnesia abound in romance (just like dragons and hidden kings do in fantasy), you are no longer quite as surprised and start looking more closely at the execution of the specific plot. I still love secret babies and amnesia, yet I want to see some fresh ideas being brought to these motifs. (Wow, now I sound like all these editors during the publishers’ spotlights: “We want the same, but different.” *g*)

Can you still remember your first secret baby book? Mine was Anita Mills’s THE DUKE’S DOUBLE, a very sweet story indeed. And my first amnesia book was Penny Jordan’s LOVER BY DECEPTION with its lovely, lovely cover (I really liked the old, painted M&B covers much better than the new ones with the photographs!). And I still can remember the sheer wonder I felt when reading Stephanie Laurens’s A RAKE’S VOW, one of the first romances I ever read: I was totally enchanted by the heroine, who might be a Regency miss, but nevertheless is eager to explore her sexuality and makes a grab at what she wants, i.e. she basically seduces the hero to seduce her and to make love to her. This was a truly refreshing change from all the poor sexually active women who end up being dead as doornails in the classics. And this was what made me fall in love with romance: the celebration of female sexuality and sensuality. Who cares that this might not be historically correct? It nurtures women today — something that in my opinion is much more important than historical accuracy (which can never be fully achieved in fiction anyway …)!