I believe I was about twelve or thirteen when I discovered my first “romance.” As an avid reader I was always prowling through the fiction section in my school library, looking for something I hadn’t already read. I don’t remember the name of the book or author, but I still remember the vicarious thrill I felt when the hero swept the heroine up into his arms to give her a forceful kiss. There was no turning back. I had no more interest in Nancy Drew or the Bobbsie Twins, it was all romance all the time.
By the ninth grade I had discovered Harlequin Romances and Barbara Cartland. Through them I saw the world, visited exotic locations, and learned of foreign cultures, but most of all, I fell in love time and time again with suave and sophisticated alpha men. All of my spending money that I earned by delivering newspapers and baby sitting went to buy Harlequins or the latest Barbara Cartland. These were books that were small enough to conceal inside other books, inside my jacket pocket, or even tucked inside the top of my knee high’s. I couldn’t get enough of them, but at the same time, I always felt embarrassed for other people to see what I was reading.
Romances were silly and frivolous and a cause for ridicule when I was caught reading one, so I began hiding them. I began creating my own book covers out of paper bags, making up some story about it being a borrowed book that I didn’t want to get damaged, which fooled no one. The paper covers gradually changed to cloth, plastic or leather, each one a little better than the last, but all purchased for the same reason—to hide the fact that I was reading a romance novel.
Thankfully, over the years the perception of reading romance novels has changed. It’s been a long time since I felt the need to conceal what I was reading. In fact, I have met a lot of nice people by talking about what ever romance novel we were reading. When my sister gave me a book cover for Christmas a couple of years ago, I tossed it into a drawer thinking it might be handy to use to hold coupons.
Now a days, if the girl ringing up my purchases at Wal-mart gives a little smirk when she sees a Harlequin in the pile, I boldly look her in the eye and dare her to comment, no longer ashamed or embarrassed about being caught reading romance novels.
So how many of you have a drawer full of book covers that you no longer need to use?