Writers tend to play the "When I Grow Up" card often. As in, "When I grow up I want to be Nora Roberts." Or Eloisa James or Marion Lennox or Barbara Samuel or Nalini Singh. It's not so much an envy thing as a respect thing: respect for the writer, the woman and her work. (Also we live a lot of our lives in a fantasy world!)
But long before I started respecting the dickens out of brilliant women who write brilliant books, I was a reader and there were only the books, which I immersed myself in from my early teens. My introduction to romance was through the serialised abridged versions of Mills & Boons in an English magazine which my mother bought for the recipes, knitting patterns and famous people. English Womens Weekly, I think?
Condensed, serialised, once a week, was never going to be enough. To feed my obsession I haunted the op shop, picking up pre-loved M&Bs and Barbara Cartlands and Lucy Walkers. Lucy Walker was my favourite and my absolute favourite stories featured a governess brought to the Australian outback by a tall, dark enigmatic stranger. In my favourite of favourites he was A Man Named Masters, which I still think is an inspired title.
I wanted to be that governess. Not only to the extent of living the story through her eyes in her point of view as a stranger to the outback and to masterful, enigmatic men, but I decided that: when I grow up, I want to be a governess in the outback. To the extent that I longed for the weekly arrival of The Land and Weekly Times newspapers almost as much as the English Womens Weekly, because I covertly scoured the classifieds for such jobs. (Being an early teen I was able to gloss right over the facts, such as the children. I was only thinking of the outback and the romance.)
I moved on, although I never stopped living the stories I read through the eyes of the heroine. While immersed in a fabulous story, I've wanted to be a hard-edged FBI agent, an English aristocrat, a ride-at-full-tilt polo player, an attorney with all the smarts and all the lines, a doctor with the heart and the courage to work beyond borders, and a score of others. That is what romance novels have given me: fabulous stories by fabulous women about fabulous women.
I don't need ask if anyone else is inspired by the books we love. Or if anyone was as obsessive about romance in their early teens as I, but I will ask if anyone read books in those formative years which inspired "When I grow up, I want to be…" dreams. Perhaps ones as fantastical as mine, perhaps ones with a tad more realism.
PS: In a weirdish moment of synchronicity, a spam email landed in my inbox while I was finishing this post with the subject line: Did You Dream of Being A Teacher?
Love this post, Bron! It's been a long time since I read a Lucy Walker, but I'd love to revisit her. I must go on the hunt.ReplyDelete
When I was a wee little thing, I read a book about mermaids...so for a very long time I wanted to be a mermaid. Soooo badly too. Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre also had me wanting to be an orphan (I obviously hadn't thought through the wider repercussions of that). And, like you, the Outback (and outback men) held an allure for me. Rather than governess, though, I wanted to be a jillaroo (that way I'd get to ride a horse) or a cook on muster (I don't know why I thought that would be glamorous!).
Mind you, I always told my primary school teachers I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Still...you know, it'd be great to be a mermaid. ;-)
LOL on thinking right through the orphan ramifications…and the mermaid ones, too, I would think. (Is it only me who hates that pruney-skin-from-being-in-water-too-long thing A LOT?)Delete
Funny about the jillaroo dream. Perhaps that felt too close to real life for me as a farm-girl? I have no idea why I thought a governess position would be glamorous either. I blame Lucy Walker.
Hard for a mermaid to write I should think. Especially longhand. :-)
I used to read a lot of the Woman's Day comic type romance stories and the small format Woman's Weekly magazines and lots of those were nurses so yep I always wanted to be a nurse never did though met a great guy who is now my hubby :)
Helen, meeting your husband was definitely more romantic than being a nurse…not that I don't admire nurses, because I admire the heck out of them, but not as romantic as a profession as in those stories.Delete
For a long time I wanted to be a goat herd on a Swiss mountain. I think it was the hunks of cheese and bread that attracted me. Does that count? I still love cheese and bread, but I don't much like goats, mountains or snow.ReplyDelete
A secret yodeller, perhaps?Delete
LOL. That is really funny, Claire. I am picturing you in a Sound of Music style costume dancing around in the edelweiss with your bread and cheese (but no goats, curiously.) There is nothing quite like the imagination of youth, is there?ReplyDelete
It was reading Heidi that did it, in case you haven't guessed.Delete
Lovely post, Bron!!ReplyDelete
I loved Barbara Taylor Bradford novels and wanted to grow up and run a business empire.
Jen, did you dream of wearing power suits with stinking big shoulder pads. *g* I read an M&B back in the early days by an Australian author -- I'm thinking Ann Charlton -- with a heroine boss and her male PA. It was brilliant.Delete
Sadly I didn't discover romance books until quite late in the piece, so I didn't have a hankering to be a governess in the outback...but I was hugely inspired by loads of books I read (still am!)...I always wanted to have some kind of secret group, like the famous five and solve mysteries with a dog, then later I wanted to be a ballet dancer and read a zillion ballet books...but top of my list was to live in Tudor times and watch the interesting goings-on at Henry 8th's court...and wear those lovely dresses. Unfortunately none of that happened so I ended up being a nurse for a long time, inspired by the TV show Angels (truly). Funny how it all turns out!ReplyDelete
Fabulous post, Bron! As another Lucy Walker fan, I wanted to be a governess in the outback too! Or on a sheep station in the South Island of New Zealand when I discovered Esse Summers! Then an opera singer when I read the Warrender series in the English Women's Weekly. Not being able to hold a tune in a bucket was just a minor glitch!ReplyDelete
Thanks for a great walk down memory lane!
Bronwyn, I loved Lucy Walker, and I own A Man Called Masters. When I was growing up, her romances were 'allowed' by my mother because they were rather sweet and lovely. Eventually I was also allowed to read Georgette Heyer. My early romance reading!ReplyDelete