Friday, July 07, 2006


The time -- I can't recall exactly, but it was after school.

The year -- Well, shoot. I can't recall that exactly either, but it was near the end of my middle school years, which were late 70's. Let's say 1978.

The title -- Hey, wait a minute. I know this one. Young and Fair. The title caught my attention on the elementary school library shelf (this was back when you simply had elementary and high school, and I was an "upper classman" in the elementary school realm -- 7th or 8th grade).

The author -- Well, what do you know. I know this one too. Rosamund du Jardin. Wonderful author. WONDERFUL!

The hero -- Greg Colby. Is that an amazing hero name or what? Greg...Colby. Kind of rolls off the tongue and has your heart skip a beat. So, naturally, when the modern-day Colby hero (Colby Donaldson from Survivor) surfaced, I was all in favor of the cutie winning the million. He came close, didn't he? And as Greg Colby was in Young and Fair, his modern namesake also ended up being a nice guy. Did the nice guy finish last? I don't think so. I saw Colby in the movie Red Eye last weekend.

The heroine -- Lissa Powell. Great heroine name too. Lissa. I can say that when I read this book, I "became" Lissa, the foster girl who lost her parents and found love. Oh man, what a story. The major event? -- My introduction to the world of reading, and loving, romance. I can still recall the way that hardcover book, a historical, felt in my hand as I turned the pages slowly, not wanting to miss a single word of Lissa's story. And then I recall checking out all of Ms. du Jardin's books from the library and reading them cover-to-cover, and then checking them all out again and again. I was hooked.

Would you like to see the cover that sparked my interest way back then? I found it in an antique bookstore recently...

The blurb: Lissa Powell has always wondered who she really was. Discovered by her foster parents when she was about four during the Chicago fire of 1871, the story begins when she is sixteen years old and forced to go out on her own when her foster mother dies. She stays at a boarding house where she meets Effie Cunningham who helps her to find a job at Harrison Colby's, a large department store. There she meets Greg Colby, the handsome son and heir of the store owner. When Lissa finds out who she really is will her feelings change for this or any other young man in her life?

So, how did that very first romance affect my life? Hmmm...let's see.

1) I decided to write professionally. Did this book do that? Probably not by itself, but it sure didn't hurt.
2) I cheered for Colby on Survivor before the rest of the world drooled over him when he described Jerri's description of chocolate.
3) I became a foster parent (a wonderful and rewarding experience, let me tell you). True, my hubby and I may have made that decision on our own without the fact that I loved the people who took care of Lissa in Young and Fair and wanted to be like them. But there had definitely been a spark planted way-back-when by Ms. du Jardin's wonderful story.

Now, there you have it. My introduction to romance, courtesy of Rosamund du Jardin's Young and Fair. Care to share your very first romance novel? Do you remember the title? The hero? The heroine? Would you, like I did, search it out in antique bookstores so you could have a copy to always remind you of the special bond between a reader and romance?

Share, share, share :)

Kelley St. John


Carla Swafford said...

Probably everyone has heard me say that Roberta Gellis's BOND OF BLOOD was my first romance and I picked it at the library. At the time, I was twelve, I didn't know that's what it was. I just know that it had a horse and a knight on the front. And it was gooooood. Of course, at the time, I didn't quite get the love scenes, but years later (1976) when I bought the paperback, I fell in love with Leah and Cain all over again.

Then three years ago, I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Roberta Gellis. She signed the book I had kept all these years (reading over and over again - isn't that one of the best parts of owning a book?). I could tell she was tickled that I had kept the book. She signed it "For Carla. Kind enough to be a faithful reader." :::sigh::::

BTW, the price of the book was $1.75. The original hardback was released in 1965.

Kelley St. John said...

Oh, a signed copy! How SPECIAL!!! Young and Fair has a 1963 copyright, and Rosamund du Jardin died on Mar 27, 1963. I doubt I will ever find a signed copy anywhere...


Paula said...

I don't remember if this is actually the first romance I read, but this is the romance that convinced me to keep reading romances: GONE BEFORE MORNING by Lilian Peake.

Typical 70s era Harlequin, with a gruff and cold hero and a spunky heroine, but there was poetry quoting and lots of really cool dialogue and the romance had such a great payoff after all the hero and heroine had to go through.

Kathy said...

I would have say Kathleen Woodiwiss', The Flame And The Flower and The Wolf And The Dove won me over in my mid teens.

Problem Child said...

Skye O'Malley

The book that hooked me...

MaryF said...

I loved Janet Dailey's Harlequins back in the day, and when I saw one at a used book sale, I bought it.

The ones I would really love to have are the books I got from Scholastic book orders, but of course I can't remember the titles. There were two books that I read till they fell apart. I'm sure my mom threw them away.

gaill wills said...

Oh! problemchild! When I read the blog entry that was the book that jumped into my head! I'm sure it wasn't the first romance I'd read, but it was the one that hooked me as a romance reader also! In fact, I was at a thrift store a few weeks ago and found a copy and, of course had to buy it. I'm sure my original copy is in a box somewhere, but I couldn't resist buying it and I didn't wait to read it again. A few days ago my evil twin asked me what I was reading and when I said Skye O'Malley her response was something to the effect of that is an excellent choice in a reread.

Deborah Matthews said...

You youngsters don't have as far back to remember as I do. (g) I don't really know what book hooked me. I do remember in the 70s I read a lot of the Gothics as well as Grace Livingston Hill. That was also the time I loved DARK SHADOWS. I still have my set of books. Later, I read K. Woodwiss.

jennifer echols said...

Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. This is actually a YA or even middle grade romance by the author of the beloved children's books Henry Huggins and Beezus and Ramona. I can't tell you how many times I read Fifteen between the 5th and 8th grades. I told my next door neighbor and constant companion that it was the best book I'd ever read. He told me The Hobbit was the best book he'd ever read. We agreed to read each other's books and compare, but we never got around to it. Well, I finally read The Hobbit a few years ago. There are no girls in it. *yawn*