So let’s see, there was my horsey phase and my search for cat books. Both of these phases were defined as me reading every book I could get my hands on with the sought after theme. As I moved into my teen years, I followed the seemingly common trend of moving into the Romance phase. I get the feeling that the phase begins much earlier chronologically now than it did when I was young, still I was about 11 or 12 when I discovered Harlequin category romances. You remember, the sweet ones. When it was all about the relationship, the “spark” and the “longing”. The heroines were always virgins, there was kissing but no sex, and always a marriage proposal/understanding at the end.
As with all my other phases, I read every Harlequin I could get my hands on. And honestly there were some great stories which still stick with me. Devil on Horseback by Elizabeth Graham The Ice Maiden by Sally Wentworth and One of the Boys by Janet Dailey to name a few. I’m curious to read them again and see if my cynical adult brain would feel differently about them – yet at the same time I don’t want to know.
Harlequin and Silhouette dominated the romance market back then and they eventually realized what a huge market they could tap into by targeting teens. In 1981 Harlequin premiered their Sweet Dream line and a few months later along came Silhouette with their First Love series. I bought every one that hit the shelves for quite a while and devoured them. Cliquey Pizza has a wonderful post about the Silhouette series on her blog that details many of the titles. Each of these books dealt with the usual high school drama of first loves, first dates, friend drama etc. These stand-alone novels were immensely popular and led to the introduction in 1983 of the mega popular continuing teen series, Sweet Valley High. But that’s a separate post all it’s own. More to come on that front.
Category romances have evolved dramatically since my childhood days and, having no interest in reading sex scenes, I stopped reading them ages ago. I did move onto regular romance like Johanna Lindsey and Julie Garwood for awhile, but eventually stopped those too as I grew more cynical about the whole idea of love.
Recent trends towards erotica are not surprising but just as all my high school trends are returning (think legwarmers and leggings) it appears the “sweet” form of romance is also making a comeback. Readers are looking for “new and different”. They’re tired of the “norm” and what could be more new and different today than no explicit sex, no kink and no sleeping around. Interesting idea. Looking forward to seeing how the trend evolves.