Posted On March 11, 2018 by Print This Post

A Blast from the Past by Becke Martin Davis

I move so often it’s practically a hobby. I’ve been in Chicago almost six years and now we’re bracing for a cross-country trek to Eugene, Oregon. So, once again, I’m emptying bookcases in an attempt to organize (and pack) my gazillion books. The hard part is trying to find some books to give away.

 

Books are heavy and when you’re a bookaholic like I am, it means books multiply like rabbits around here. In our last move, we were downsizing from a big house to a two-bedroom condo. This move will put us back into a house, but one we’ll be sharing with both of my kids and my grandkids. There will be room for books, just not ALL of them. Hence: sort, stack and, whenever possible, give some away.

The fun part of this program is that unpacking bookshelves is like digging up buried treasure. I have layers of books on each shelf, and I don’t often work my way back to the first layer. The newer books tend to be at the front, so the treasures at the back go waaaaay back to my early days of reading romance.

I’ve been hooked on romantic suspense since my high school days but I didn’t become a hard core, loud-and-proud romance addict until I was living in London in the mid-1970s. There was a small street market in Grays Inn Road, just down the street from the venerable building that (back in the day) housed the London Times and the Sunday Times. I had a long commute on train and bus, so every day at lunchtime, I would pop out and restock my paperbacks. As I recall, you could get 10 books for one pound Sterling, and a full bag of paperbacks for not much more. The bookstalls were packed full of Mills and Boon books, the British equivalent of Harlequin, and I soon had a two-book-a-day habit.

When I moved back to the U.S. in December 1981, one of the first things I did was subscribe to Harlequin, Silhouette and Candlelight Ecstasy romance, adding new formats as they were created. So…Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Special Edition, and then Blaze, Desire and so on arrived in my mailbox often enough to feed my habit.

Rereading those books, which now almost qualify as antiques, is like going back in time. I hear the wheels of the train rolling into Charing Cross station as I zip through the worn Mills and Boon copies. I remember pairing up tiny baby socks while trying to read the latest Special Edition or Presents at the same time.

I read my way through all fifty states (and then some) with Janet Dailey. A literary scandal led me from Janet Dailey to Nora Roberts, and I read all of her books, too. I enjoyed discovering series authors like Patricia McLinn and Jessica Bird (who is now better known as J.R. Ward). Then, as now, I collected books by my favorite authors and those authors’ names fill me with good memories.

In recent years, I’ve been thrilled to find many familiar authors from my early days of romance reading on Facebook. Those authors helped me adjust to being a stay-at-home mom, and they saved my sanity when my son suffered with colic all those years ago. In my mind, they are literary legends. I still have more bookshelves to go through, but I thought I’d share some of the treasures I’ve unearthed. What drew you to these “category” books, and what keeps you coming back for more?

 

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What authors first hooked you on reading romance?

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Bio:

Becke joined the RU team in January 2011. She moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&N’s Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. During Becke’s twenty-plus years as a freelance garden writer, she wrote six garden books and one book about ‘N Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke also used to blog at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance Buy the Book blog. Writing as Becke Martin, she has three short stories in the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS anthology published by the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Chapter.

 

In the distant past, Becke sold advertising for the Chicago Sun-Times, the London Sunday Times and the Daily Herald. She has two adult children, two awesome granddaughters, one fabulous daughter-in-law and three cats. She has been married almost 47 years and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

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14 Responses to “A Blast from the Past by Becke Martin Davis”

  1. Looks like we’ve read many of the same books/same authors. Books do multiply like rabbits, don’t they?

    Posted by Staci Troilo | March 12, 2018, 8:05 am
    • Which authors were your favorites, Staci? The books I’ve pictured are a sampling of the books I’ve saved over the years. I used to have a whole bookcase filled, double-stacked, of my old Harlequins, Silhouettes and Mills and Boons. I donated a couple boxes of them to Lori Foster’s Reader/Author Get-Together a few years ago. (I also picked up a few for myself there, too!)

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 12, 2018, 10:30 am
  2. Thanks so much for the trip down Memory Lane…All the best on your new home And location!!!
    Rita Clay Estrada

    Posted by Rita clay estrada | March 12, 2018, 8:50 am
    • Thank you so much for stopping by today. Oh my gosh – I’m having a fangirl moment! I’m a longtime fan of Rita’s books and I was VERY excited to see her on Facebook!

      FYI, Rita and her mom were founding members of RWA and Rita served as the first RWA president.

      Rita – I’d like to issue a formal invitation for you to write a guest post for Romance University. I would love to get your perspective on the early days of RWA. Did you ever envision it would become the powerhouse it is today?

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 12, 2018, 10:40 am
  3. Your pictures do call up memories!

    I’ve always been about the romance, from Nancy and Ned to Laura and Manly. As a teenager, I read the Silhouette Young Adult romances. My mom had all the others, but I didn’t start reading them until I tried to subscribe to the YA book club and ended up getting the purple Special Editions instead. I had to hide them from her. 🙂 And it went on from there!

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | March 12, 2018, 10:20 am
    • Nancy and good old Ned Nickerson! I don’t recognize Laura and Manly – uh oh, what did I miss? (“Laura” is my sister’s name so I’d remember it for sure.) What first comes to mind is Laura from Luke and Laura – I was never into soap operas until I was pregnant with my daughter. I was put on bed rest for several weeks and I alternated reading and watching soaps! (I’m so embarrassed…)

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 12, 2018, 10:33 am
  4. Looking back at these books, I can think of so many ways the genre has changed. It was rare to come across the male POV, and it wasn’t unusual for the early categories to feature office romances of the boss/secretary type. I have fond (and still somewhat shocked) memories of several books where the loyal secretary or co-worker delivered meals to the sick boss and then stayed to work while the patient coughed and roamed the house in his robe and slippers. On one level, I did still love some of those books, I just didn’t see myself in that type of role.

    I still remember when the books took a turn toward today’s more explicit behind-the-bedroom door scenes. I remember the stir caused by a Rebecca Flanders book in particular – I remember all the buzz about that one!

    Charlotte Lamb (Sheila Holland) often trod into dangerous territory. A few of her books made me cringe but I still came back for more.

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 12, 2018, 10:54 am
  5. Apologies for the humongous images. I had to enlarge them quite a bit to get the author’s names to show. Also, I got such a kick out of those old covers. The Mills and Boon ones, especially, really take me back!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 12, 2018, 10:57 am
  6. Nice collection! And congrats on your new home in Oregon.

    To answer your question, Johanna Lindsey got me hooked on romance. From there I discovered Rosanne Bittner and Catherine Hart.

    Posted by Mercy | March 12, 2018, 11:50 am
    • I was late to historical romance (and to Western romance). I have a couple Johanna Lindsey books in my Waiting-to-be-Read pile but I don’t think I’ve actually read any of her books. Where should I start?

      I think I have read a couple of Rosanne Bittner’s books (did you know she has a book from 1991 that shows her name as F. Rosanne Bittner?).

      I think I have Catherine Hart’s book TEMPTATION around here someplace – that cover looks very familiar.

      The danger of asking for people’s favorite books and authors is that instead of thinning out my book collection, I usually end up adding to it!

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 12, 2018, 6:07 pm
  7. Oh Becke! What a wonderful post….all those books you get to go through! lol..when I moved 3 years ago my son was just horrified that I laughed and hugged books I hadn’t seen for awhile and cried when I had to throw some precious ones away. He didn’t understand. =) I compared it to his mechanic tools and then he had a better idea!

    Kathleen Woodiwiss got me started on historical romance and I wouldn’t read anything else for years. Johanna Lindsey, Jude Deveraux. Then I read Janet Evanovich and now I have a wild collection of books. =)

    Best of luck with the sorting Becke!! It’s so hard to do!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Peters | March 12, 2018, 8:21 pm
  8. Carrie – I just wrote a whole long response to your comment (you know me – of COURSE it was long) and then my computer froze up and the comment disappeared. Grrrrr!

    Discovering old, treasured books is definitely the best thing about this massive sort-out. The worst is the number of times I’m convinced I’ve lost my mind – there are books I KNOW would never give away, but they haven’t turned up yet and I only have two bookcases to go. (And one is all history, art and genealogy books – no paperbacks on those shelves.)

    I’ll wake up at night and think, “Where are my early Kristan Higgins books?” “Where are the rest of my Louise Penny books?” Luckily, I have come across some of the missing books. A few others may be at my daughter’s place or I might have passed them on to my daughter-in-law.

    This is going to drive me COMPLETELY insane: I’ve been bingeing on Julia Quinn romances recently. As I mentioned, I was slow to get into historical romance and I’m now trying to fill in books I missed over the years. Julia Quinn and Tessa Dare were two recent projects. I carefully wrote down all the titles I could find and then checked their websites for the titles I was missing. I have been using my checklist every time I go to Half Price Books. I was frustrated because I recognized some of the old book covers and was SURE I had those books, but couldn’t find them. It took some time, but I finally had them all! I cleared a shelf to put them on and – I can’t find a single one. My husband said, “Could you have put them in one of the boxes we took to Half Price Books by mistake?” Well, of COURSE I bloody could, and I only hope I didn’t do that. I keep hoping they’ll turn up in a shopping bag hanging on a doorknob or someplace else I’ve overlooked. I can hardly bear to write about it, this is driving me Absolutely NUTS!

    On the plus side, some of the books I couldn’t find HAVE turned up, so I live in hope…

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 13, 2018, 12:06 am
  9. Woo-hoo! I had a note on Facebook from Karen Van Der Zee! Fangirl moments all over the place from this post! 🙂

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 20, 2018, 8:04 am
  10. This was fun to read! I started off writing Mills and Boon romances, later in the Harlequin Presents series. It does my romantic heart good to read that my writing has been of some entertainment for you. Nowadays I write non-fiction stories about my (mis)adventures living in foreign countries. For some ‘romantic’ fun, here’s the story of my bizarre wedding in Africa: Wife Number One: https://wp.me/pWIVP-uW Also a blast from the past! Good luck with your move! Karen van der Zee aka Miss Footloose

    Posted by Karen van der Zee | March 20, 2018, 9:51 am

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