I remember my first time like it was yesterday. I was sixteen. Much too young to be doing what I was doing. But there was this smokin’ hot pirate who I simply couldn’t resist. I’m talking about, of course, reading my very first romance novel. Wait… what did YOU think I was talking about? Well, anyway, the memory of Jonathan Creighton Hale and his lust for Lady Catherine Aldley still burns in my mind.
You see, my mother, two older sisters, and I were driving to Disney World. Imagine, for a moment, four mostly grown-up women crammed into a Chevette, driving straight to Orlando from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Nothing says family vacation like a relaxing twenty-two hour ride in a tiny backseat. But we were ecstatic because we were embarking on our first visit to the Magic Kingdom. All our collective lives we’d been looking forward to that trip. After driving through the night, past Ruby Falls, and Macon County, we were giddy with exhaustion and excitement, not to mention hopped up on Tab and Little Debbie cakes.
Although each of us had a driver’s license, my oldest sister drove the entire way. Why? Because my middle sister was more interested in finding Hall & Oates on the radio, I’d only had my permit for a couple of weeks, and my mother couldn’t turn left. We didn’t have the yet-to-be invented GPS or On-Star. We had maps, and something from AAA called a Trip-Tick. We didn’t have game-boys, iPods, cell phones or even a cassette player in the car. It was a Chevette, remember? So the only form of entertainment we had was the radio (gasp!), conversation (aka bickering), or reading. Luckily, a quick stop at an Indiana gas station provided me with a life-altering option. On a rickety wire shelf sat a motley selection of books. Now, we all know how sixteen-year-old girls are nothing if not adaptable, easy-going, simple to please, the list goes on. So needless to say, I was not impressed with the reading selection.
Until one titillating cover caught my eye.
A shirtless man (who bore a striking resemblance to Erik Estrada) was clutching a bosomy vixen against his muscled torso. (She looked like Cheryl Ladd. It was the 80’s, people. Work with me, here.) Looking at the cover art, you couldn’t quite tell if she was pulling him closer or trying to push him away. The tag line read, “He claimed her as his pirate’s prize – then humiliated her as only a pirate can humiliate a lady.” “Hmm,” I says to myself. “That sounds interesting.” So I surreptitiously purchased the book while my mother used the restroom, and I snuck it back to the car.
My secret was soon revealed. As I read, I giggled, I gasped, I flushed, and I sighed. And I finally had to confess what I was reading. I told them about the captivating adventure of Lady Catherine and her untamed pirate (who was secretly a duke, because, come on! Aren’t they all? I mean who wants to read about a pirate who’s really nothing but a scalawag?) I read aloud lines like, “Yes, she was drunk. Drunk on the heady nectar of his love.” The book, Island Flame by Karen Robards, is a bodice-ripping cheese-fest at its absolute finest. And I say that with the utmost of affection. (If you never had your bodice ripped, you owe it to yourself to give it a whirl.)
When the gleaming spires of the Magic Kingdom came into view, I asked my sister to please drive a little slower because I wasn’t putting that book down until it was finished. I blissfully soaked in the final paragraph just as she put the car in park. Life was good. A few hours later, my heart raced, giddy with joy once again as I climbed into a little fiberglass boat and set off on my own adventure with the Pirates of the Caribbean. The boat bobbed precariously, water splashed, and the hiss and pop of gunfire sounded in the distance. We floated blithely from the cave to suddenly find a huge pirate ship bearing down on us! Cannonballs lobbed into the water, each one closer than the next. And I couldn’t help myself. I yelled out, “Don’t shoot, Jon! It’s Cathy!” And my own mother pretended not to know me.
My copy of Island Flame is held together with dingy surgical tape. The pages are yellow and crackle when you turn them. Yet, I still love this book. It was the first one which truly swept me away to another place (okay, besides Narnia, maybe) and made me want to write. To write about passion, and about history. To elicit powerful emotions and tell an extraordinary story about men and women who might have lived in another time, but loved like there was no tomorrow.
9 thoughts on “My First Time”
LOVE this! I can’t believe you got to do Pirates of the Caribbean right afterwards. Perfect timing! It also makes me remember how thrilling it was to write my first romance, after reading so many wonderful stories. It was like being invited to a secret club. 🙂
Ah…. I also remember a trip to Florida and our need to make time for the smut novels (as only my mother would call them!) Imagine my surprise years later to discover that she was stockpiling these books in her own home! I will have to do some investigating at home to find photographic proof of you in the hotel room reading away… The romance in the book was much more interesting than the romance a middle-aged man named “Cat”was offering you, I am sure.
OMG, I forgot all about that creepy longe lizard!! Too funny!
Excellent post, Tracy. I have to admit, I really never got into romance novels until I was already married. Someone suggested Kathleen Woodiwiss. I rushed right out and bought Shanna, and OMG! I was hooked.
I’m so glad the romance industry has gotten away from those bodice rippers, too. Like you, I love the sexual tension of persuasion way better.
Now what about your REAL first time??
I’ll have to fill you in on that off line, Liz!
Tracy, I love your story. It is so true. Books fill us with inspiration. And I believe you picked up that book for a reason.
Although I’ve always loved paranormal romance and fantasy, I never actually knew I could write a book. I’d earned a Master’s degree, so I knew I could write, but could I construct an interesting story that people would want to read, and OMG, could I actually make it 300 pages long? Like many other people, after reading the Twilight Saga, this dormant passion surged inside of me and I just had to write. I remember sneaking around just so that I could read the books. I had to know what was going to happen next. Not to mention, I felt 17 again, lol.
Long story short, I wrote my first book in a matter of months, and I’ve been reading, writing and learning the craft ever since. To this day, I’m grateful to Stephenie Meyer for showing me that anything is possible and to follow my dreams. It is my hope to someday inspire someone else to follow their passion as she did for me. After all, writing is sharing something with others that brings you so much joy and hoping to ignite the same feeling within them.
Thank you for sharing “Your First Time” with us! 🙂
Great post, Tracy. I was somewhere between fourteen and sixteen when I read my first romance and I was hooked. I loved them. I read Harlequin for years. They were much “tamer” back then so my mom didn’t have so much of a problem. I read a lot of Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney as well.
Theresa didn’t lie. My mom bought hundreds and hundreds of romance novels. She started sharing them with me when i was in my mid 20’s. I hauled aways grocery bags full of them when she was “thinning the herd” She went weekly up to the used bookstore to keep herself in new titles. Little did I know the shelf i kept 50 or so books on here became Amy’s little library when she was but a teenager. I wonder what mom would think about expanding Amy’s understanding of sex and love, at that age, with her donations to me.
I love this – historical romance and Narnia, you’re my kind of reader 😉 I remember reading my first Georgette Heyer. It was LOVE. After I’d exhausted her I went into mourning until I discovered Eva Ibbotson (a Company of Swans). And I grew up on Elizabeth Goudge and Mary Stewart without really realising they counted as romance writers. It took me years to realise there was a whole swathe of authors out there writing in this genre… I remember reading my first Johanna Lindsay (I have a love hate relationship with her work) . It’s only the last few years though I have come out of the literary closet and OWNED my romance reading instead of treating it like a dirty little secret – and now I’m reading ludicrous volumes and writing ludicrous volumes and it feels like coming home. God bless romance authors!