Every Who down in Whoville may have liked Christmas a lot, but by fourth grade, my best girls and I'd had it with Dr. Seuss, were desperate to know what the whole "doing it" thing was all about -- and were scouring bookshelves and scoping under bedsteads of our relatives, frantic for even the whiff of a clue.

Unfortunately for me, nobody in my family read romance. So all I came up with was a couple scenes from my grandmother's large-print "Reader's Digest" fiction anthology that hinted at some sort of fondling by a scarred Israeli fighter pilot which had his beauteous bride "arching closer."  Then there was the perplexing copy of Melville's "Billy Budd " St. Nick left in my stocking in middle school, probably not understanding that shipboard homoeroticism wouldn't be my thing for another thirty years or so.

But can shadowy glimpses of sexuality gleaned from purloined romance novels -- and classic genre fiction we don't comprehend completely -- really form the readers we become? 

If you put the question to author and former Virgin Books erotica editor Adam Neville, the answer's a definitive, yes.  When I asked him about what influenced his ability to know which erotic fantasies women want to read about, Neville told me it began with snooping in his parents' library. "When I was an adolescent," says Neville, "I found my parents' copies of the works of Anais Nin .  They changed my life and the way I looked at women, their sexuality and their needs."

And the way he looked at his mom's girlfriends? "Well, yes, it rather did that," he admits with a laugh.

Yet our childhood reading also influences our writing, and for some successful authors, stumbling across a work of sexy or erotic genre fiction can have as much positive impact on their careers as the works of literary fiction and research materials that help refine their chops.  Historical-fiction writer Susan Holloway Scott -- "The French Mistress  " - says a banned-in-Boston classic from 1944 introduced her to the time period about which she'd write many novels.

"My first introduction to Restoration England came by way of an innocently dog-eared copy of Kathleen Winsor's "Forever Amber  " I found in the library one summer as a middle schooler," says Scott, whose new history blog with romance superstar Loretta Chase is TwoNerdyHistoryGirls.com.  "The thing that was most remarkable about the novel to me as a young girl, was that for a change, the main character having the lusty adventures was a woman, not a man!"

Today, access to classics of literary- and genre fiction - and just about any type of reading entertainment inbetween - is a click away for the enterprising young reader desperate eager for information. And that may not be such a bad idea. 

I mean, look how good we turned out.

What are the novels you probably shouldn't have been reading when you stumbled across them, but which changed your life - or just turned you on?  Which were the romances?  Do you hide those same books from your kids, grandchildren or other young'ns?

Cool Genre-Fiction Event 7.30 Tonight at Lincoln Center BN: Romance fave Anna DeStefano, debut phenom Leanna Renee Heiber and Two Guys Who Don't Write Romance Fiction.

Can U read/write more pages/words in a month than I can?
Double-dawg dare ya to try when you join me in the Unleash Your Story Read/Write-a-Thon for Cystic Fibrosis. Deets and prize info here!
Message Edited by Michelle_Buonfiglio on 08-25-2009 02:13 PM
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-25-2009 02:21 PM
I think Judith Krantz's PRINCESS DAISY was the first "Oh my GAWD" book I read. I remember a hot-but-really-creepy James Patterson book, but Bertrice Small's books were the real eye-openers for me.
by Moderator Melanie_Murray on ‎08-25-2009 02:52 PM

It was North and South, for me. Basically any scene with Ashton. There was the one in the barn. And the one at the military academy. The one...well, you get my drift.


I am happy to say that I don't have to worry about monitoring my daughter's reading for years to come. She can't even walk yet. I'm sure there will be some books - like half the ones on my shelf - that I won't want her to read until she's "of age." But she won't be any daughter of mine if she doesn't steal said books, hide them under her bed, and read them after I've fallen asleep. I have high hopes for her.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-25-2009 07:31 PM
I thought I was monitoring my daughter's reading -- and I did a decent job of it, at least while she was young. When she was a teenager, I found out that some online fan fiction is pretty much X-rated. And when I read some of her YA books, they were a lot more explicit than I realized. But it wasn't until recently when I mentioned hearing about the Anne Rice Sleeping Beauty books -- which I hadn't read -- that she informed me half the kids in her school had read those back in the day. Someone got a hold of a copy and passed it around! My daughter then bought a copy for me -- good grief! Not for me, folks -- I like hot romance, thanks anyway.
by on ‎08-25-2009 11:43 PM

(chuckle) Yeah that's my generation. Having copies of the Sleeping Beauty books that I just had to pass around even to girls I didn't like, made me several friends. It soon became you didn't talk to any girl who hadden't read at least book 1.


Anne Rice

Poppy Z Brite

J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Bram Stoker

Tabbitha King

Ursula K. Leguin

and many others


Warped my then little brain quite nicely.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-26-2009 08:41 AM

TiggerBear, you've become yet another woman I wish I knew when I was in high school. Maybe I'da been cool then.  Of course, since I hadnt read Anne Rice, maybe you wouldn't have talked to me.  sigh.


Oh, man, becke. Yeah, the fan fict and slash is hawt.  Like I said, it's all just a click away.  I keep telling my kids, don't be afraid if you've stumbled across something, just tell me about it. you won't get in trouble, I just want to be the one to answer your questions about it. But my son said the other day -- he's 12 -- 'yeah, but sometimes you just go too far.'  I told him someday he'd thank me for it.  I hope that's the truth!

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎08-26-2009 08:49 AM
Man, those 80s historicals, Melanie! I remember reading, was it John Jakes? -- cause I was obsessed w/the Colonial period -- and thinking of one scene, 'why does this guy like it when the woman drags her broken nails down his back?" 

I'm very impressed that you've got such lofty dreams for your progeny, too.  We want so much for them, don't we?

I keep telling my son I'm going to find a romance for him, cause he's dying to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood stuff since he found out a friend of mine let her son read them. That boy's in 8th grade, my son just started 7th. But I don't really want to introduce my son to the Brothers and their, em, larger-than-life characteristics quite yet. Funny, I'm not so worried bout the violence, just the body-image stuff.
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎08-26-2009 09:53 AM

Well I was the oldest of 4, my mom didn't read anything but classics you know Hemingway, the Brontes etc.. and in my pre-teen mind I couldn't pull out the OMG of the tales anyway.

I was a very sheltered child and as an example when in girls health class when I found out about intercourse, I raised my hand and told my teacher that my dad might do that but my mother NEVER would.

So by the time that romance novels came into my life I was already well into middle age and to make up for all that lost time I read everything that is recommended and some things that aren't.

I didn't restrict my daughter's reading choices in her formative years, but she's not a good scale to use because she never pushed buttons and never let me find out where my rope might have ended.

But if I had a child today say from 14 on I don't think I would restrict their reading either, they've already learned all the wrong things about sex on the street from their friends so why not let them find out how it should be in romance, younger than that I think they should be watched very closely.

And I agree with you about your son Michelle, those guys are pretty dark heros and might not be right for the psyche of a young man. 


by JulianneMacLean75 on ‎08-26-2009 12:21 PM

Hi Michelle - interesting topic.  I was in grade six when I read Judy Blume's FOREVER.  It was about first love and a first sexual experience, and didn't leave anything out.  I still remember quite vividly how they named the guy's penis: "Ralph."  I also remember giggling about it with my friends, who also read it. 


I don't think my mother had any clue what it was about.  If she had, I'm not sure if she would have taken it away.  I don't think she would have.  I think she would have let me read it, and maybe talked to me about it.


dhaupt is right though, these days they learn way too much from TV and the internet, so I don't think a love scene in a book is going to tip the scales and corrupt them.   And I'd rather my daughter read a romance novel (I agree 14+ is a good age) because at least most romances depict couples that are monogomous and committed to each other, and the sex comes with falling in LOVE, which is how it should be, when it happens. 

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-27-2009 10:59 AM

On further thought, I remember reading WOMEN IN LOVE and LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER because I'd heard rumors they were hot. Lucky me that they turned out to be great books.


As to the fan fic, my daughter was a huge Backstreet Boys fan. I'll never forget when she showed me a page of fan fiction and the first one I opened featured Nick Carter -- naked, tied up and covered in chocolate. 

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-27-2009 10:59 AM
Chatterley? That didn't look right.
by Moderator becke_davis on ‎08-27-2009 11:02 AM
And, oh my gosh, how could I forget Erica Jong's FEAR OF FLYING? I was married by the time that came out in 1973, but it still opened my eyes!
by on ‎08-27-2009 11:24 PM

Nah I would have dug a copy out of my bag, handed it you you and gone "I want this back. Go read this.".  We only excluded the girls who either wouldn't or who came back the next day horrified. They were a click interloper method.


I totally forgot about Lady Chatterly.

by ms_linda on ‎09-01-2009 12:59 AM

I'm not really a romance reader now but I remember reading a copy of Valley of the Dolls with my girlfriends as a pretty young teen. Pretty steamy memories! I never read the Sleeping Beauty books but I remember them being passed around my office a few years ago.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎09-01-2009 05:07 PM

Oh, Ms. Linda, I remember everybody was crazed for Valley of the Dolls!  Very hush-hush, "don't let the kids see it" stuff. I totally missed out on the Sleeping Beauty books, too.  I started reading romance about 5ish years ago, and then I thought back and remembered books i'd read that were kind of romance-y.  Maybe you'll try some now?

Didn't read Chatterly til I was in my late teens.  So it wasn't as naughty then. But I do remember borrowing it from my landlady who was kind of this very artsy  woman, so I felt very grown-up. And I appreciate that you would have included me w/ your posse, TiggerBear.


Becke, if it was FanFict, was Nick w/another Backstreet Boy?  Or maybe someone fromNSync? Oh, please say it was from NSync!


Hi, JulieAnne!  I snuck "Forever" w/ a girlfriend, too.  I think I ws pretty young, so it scared me a little.  Like you, I think the idea of introducing teens to the idea of love w/intimacy and sex through romance books is a great one.  I laugh when I hear someone -- albeit I dont' hear it often -- say romance is immoral. To me, it's highly moral and stresses commitment, love and trust and safety w/in relationships.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎09-01-2009 05:12 PM

Debbie, you so made me laugh w/your health class story!  I'm w/you.  Especially w/ access to Internet, I want to control as much information as I can. My son's really literal and inquisitive, so I've always answered his questions about sex straight on. And I encourage him to ask me about absolutely anything. This may not be right for everyone. But if I get to disseminate the info, I get to talk about sex, responsibility, protection, morality, obligation, etc. As he says, 'What did you do today? I got lectured about sex by my mom. woo hoo."  It's part of my evil genius.

by 1lovealways on ‎09-11-2009 12:16 AM

The first OMG book I read was "Sweet Savage Love," by Rosemary Rogers.  That book was hot, hot, hot!  I couldn't believe she was saying the things that she was and describing the love scenes like she did.  I remember thinking that this was how a book should be, so good you couldn't put it down.  And it was!  That book got passed around until the cover and pages were torn out.  I still have it today.  I find I can't let go of it.  In fact a rubber band holds it together.  When the book ends he says love words to her in Spanish.  I was so enthralled by those words that I had a friend of mine translate them for me.  I can still remember them to this day.  Mi alma, mi vida, amada mia whis means my soul, my life, my love!  Ooooooo!!!  Still beautiful!!!

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