by Michelle Douglas
I have a degree in English Literature. I also have a Master of Philosophy (English). I’ve studied Renaissance Drama, Romance and Realism in the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Romantic Poets, Modernism and Colonial Fiction. I’ve read Homer, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Proust, Joyce and Hemingway. Occasionally even the odd female has made the reading lists and I’d study them too – Austen, the Brontes, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolfe.
But it recently occurred to me that although I have been an avid reader of romance novels since I was a teenager, there are some serious holes in my romance reading education. For example, I have never read anything by Laura Kinsale or Loretta Chase (or Jayne Ann Krentz or Linda Howard or Stephanie Laurens or…oh, there are so many!). And it’s started me thinking…
If I were ever going to teach an academic course on “Reading The Romance” what novels would I chose as my set texts? What romance novels do I think best capture the spirit of romance? Which novels do I think display all the best that the romance genre has to offer? This is what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (though any of her novels would suit)
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I’d choose these because they became the pattern for so many romances that followed. Plus I love them.
3. Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale
4. Mr Impossible by Loretta Chase
5. Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
I’ve not read any of these, but I desperately want to. They do seem to be seen as ideal examples of The Romance by a lot of readers (and academics) too.
6. Something (anything!) by Jennifer Crusie – Bet Me, perhaps, or Welcome to Temptation?
I’ve read the first—loved it!—but I’ve yet to read the second. A Jenny Crusie novel is such fun.
7. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (or, frankly, anything by Heyer)
Oh how I love her regency romances – they’re real comfort food for the soul. Her characterisations are impeccable.
8. Something (again anything!) by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – Ain’t She Sweet or Match Me If You Can.
In my opinion, Susan Elizabeth Phillips is the mistress of romantic comedy. The two novels I’ve named are the only ones of hers I’ve read so far, but I seriously want to glom her backlist.
I’d like to have 10 books for my reading list, but I’m not sure what else I should add. I expect The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss should make the list, but I’ve tried to read it and just can’t get into it. E.M. Hull’s The Sheik isn’t there, and I’d definitely be interested in reading that. Oops, and there’s no Nora there yet.
So…what do you think I should slot in for my final two places? Are there books you’d remove from my list? Hmm…and should I make this a list of 12?