How I Fell in Love with Romance: Authors Share Books that Made Them Love the Genre

In this post originally, which originally appeared on the Harlequin Ever After blog, three Harlequin Series authors share the books that made them fall in love with romance!

Last month, we asked New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne which books made her fall in love with the romance genre, and we are continuing our look into the reading history of some of your favorites so we can discover which books made them the romance authors they are today. Today, we learn about the wonderful books that made Harlequin Special Edition Author Darby Baham, Harlequin Romance Author Hana Sheik, and Harlequin Historical Author Eva Shepherd first read romance novels!

Darby Baham, Author of Bloom Where You’re Planted, Loves ACCIDENTAL DIVA

Okay, don’t judge me, but I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m a kid of the 80s, a product of Pizza Hut’s Book It program, and oh so many Scholastic book fairs, but I have to admit that it took until I was graduating from college to really fall in love with romance novels. It’s kind of an odd thing to acknowledge considering I’m a romance writer now, and I love nothing more these days than curling up with a book where I know I’ll get to enjoy all the messy twists and turns of the journey to a happy ending. But it’s true. While I’d, of course, read some romance novels as a kid—who didn’t read at least one Harlequin or Danielle Steel book growing up—I was much more of a poetry and non-fiction book kind of girl.

And then I read ACCIDENTAL DIVA by Tia Williams, and all that changed.

This book was sexy but not raunchy, and fun but not frivolous—and I quickly found myself engulfed in Billie’s world of being a beauty editor who suddenly couldn’t stop thinking about this gorgeous, slightly too edgy, but charmingly addictive man who’d come into her life. Every touch Tia wrote about felt real. Every conflict seemed urgent. And I could, for once, totally see me and my friends managing many of the same life issues the characters in the book dealt with. So, I needed, no I craved, more. I read the book several times; each time I’d finish reading it, I’d pick it up again to plunge myself right back into that world, knowing in the end my girl got her passionate, all-consuming love after all.

But most importantly, ACCIDENTAL DIVA helped me to realize I needed more than just this story. I wanted my life to be filled with as many stories as I could gather about women, like me—ambitious, imperfect, but trying their best—getting to be loved too. And that’s how I fell in love with romance. One book that touched my soul in ways I never thought possible led me to others that would do the same, and then to wondering if I too could write the kind of words that would be that light for readers just like me.

Hana Sheik, Author of Temptation in Istanbul, Loves A MISTLETOE MARRIAGE

I was ten or eleven when I read my first romance book and realized that romance was an actual thing that existed outside of the realm of fanfiction and fandoms. That book was A MISTLETOE MARRIAGE by Jeanne Allan, and I discovered it by accident in a moving box after my family had just moved.

Published as a Harlequin Romance in 1996, A MISTLETOE MARRIAGE is a holiday-themed second chance, reunion romance. It’s all about redemption and forgiving past mistakes; there’s a broody rancher, tantalizing opposites attract tension between the rancher and his runaway city-slicker wife, and the essence of family and country magic that makes me want to swoon as I type this. I was instantly hooked, and it was my gateway to many other romances.

It was also when I realized I could one day be a romance author. That I would be a Harlequin Romance author. That my book would be published 21 years after A MISTLETOE MARRIAGE. It feels very full circle to me to have had a Harlequin Romance be my first romance book.

This is why A MISTLETOE MARRIAGE remains one of my best discoveries, and for a long time it was a secret I kept from my parents—even though I’m certain it was my dad who bought the used book from our local book market. My copy of the book is now a little battered and the pages have yellowed, but it will always be a comfort read to me. For all the reasons above, it holds a prized place on my bookshelf and an even more special place in my heart.

Eva Shepherd, Author of A Dance to Save the Debutante, Loves Emma Darcy…

Answering the question, when did you fall in love with the romance genre, is easy.

I was on holiday with my family, staying at a bach (which is what holiday homes are called in New Zealand and is pronounced batch). It was summer but the rain didn’t stop. I’d run out of things to do and books to read, but a previous guest had left a pile of romance books behind. I started reading them, got hooked, and have remained hooked ever since.

I can’t remember the names of all the authors I read, but one stood out. Emma Darcy. I then read everything she had written and continued to devour books in the Presents line. I’ve got too many favorites to name them all, but the list has to include Natalie Anderson and Heidi Rice. I love their humor and fast-paced writing style.

Even though I now write historical romances, I was rather late in discovering that genre, which thinking back is surprising. I did a degree in history, spend endless hours watching history documentaries, and love historical dramas.

I’ve also read most of the classics, with Elizabeth Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and Becky Sharp from VANITY FAIR being among my all-time favorite fictional characters. I’ve read both books countless times and probably seen every screen adaptation going.

It wasn’t until I spotted a book by Tessa Dare in the recently returned section of my local library that I became a convert to historical romances. She had me laughing out loud and I rushed to read her entire back catalogue. Then I discovered Julia Quinn, Courtney Milan, Johanna Shupe — the list goes on and on.

I often return to my first love, contemporary romance, but now my heart really does belong to historical romance.

What books made you fall in love with the romance genre? Share with us in the comments below!