Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The one that started it all

After an extended break from the blog (though not from the inspirational subject material), I've decided to return with a post paying homage to the book that started it all. Well, maybe not "ALL" in the sense of the genre as a whole, but "all" in the sense of my introduction to the paranormal romance genre. No, that's not right either. Not only was this book my introduction to the wonderful and varied world of paranormal romance, it was my introduction to romance as a genre.

Let me set the scene. Roughly a year and a half ago, I was a recovering English major getting my masters in Communication. I read text books. I read classic literature. When feeling lighthearted, I read Neil Gaiman. I DID NOT, nor would I ever, read romance. It was crass, it was trashy, it was unsophisticated, and it was certainly below my standards of literary enjoyment (not that I was biased, or anything). I was content in my superior (see: unnecessarily prejudiced) understanding of genre fiction. Then I went home for Christmas break and was quite literally assaulted by my mother, bearing a copy of J.R. Ward's Dark Lover.

"READ THIS!" She told me in the loving-yet-fear-inspiring tone that only a mother can use.

I argued that I didn't read romance. Couldn't she understand that? Romances were read by bored housewives who didn't understand the joys of reading GREAT LITERATURE. Mom wasn't buying it. I got the ultimate mom blackmail; the look that says "I went through labor for you, read the damn book or I'll end the life I so generously gave you." Who can argue with that? (As a sidenote, my mother's a total badass. But seriously. As in, for her midlife crisis she skipped buying a new car and changed professions...becoming a professional firefighter...in her 40s. Yeah, she's not someone you mess with.) I took the book.

The book, as mentioned above, was J. R. Ward's Dark Lover. I reluctantly sat to read in front of the Christmas tree. I stayed there for 8 hours. I read the book in one sitting, rereading some passages two and three times. In the course of a night, I saw the error of my ways. Without any reference beyond my own narrowminded beliefs, I had summarily dismissed an entire (and thriving) genre of fiction. A genre that I was amazed to discover I *loved*. I returned to my mother, book in hand, praising her superior knowledge and begging to borrow the rest in the series. I whipped through the next two books in the series just as quickly. My pace slowed over the next few books simply because I returned to grad school and my professors actually expected me to read academic literature. Didn't they understand I had just discovered a vibrant new world? A world of vampires and magic and incredible, mind-blowing sex? Alas, they did not. Their lack of support for my fledgling addiction did nothing to thwart my desire to immerse myself completely in the pararom world, and that's exactly what I've done.

Time has passed. While I still adore J. R. Ward, I am now versed in many pararom series besides her's. I also happily acknowledge my drastic change of heart. I've gone from a snooty, nose-in-air, faux intellectual, to a woman proud to admit my great appreciation for a thriving genre that allows me to indulge my darker fantasies in mythical worlds where the supernatural is common and creatures of all kinds go bump (and grind) in the night.

So, without further ado, I want to honor J. R. Ward for writing Dark Lover, the book that introduced me to the romance genre and showed me all I was missing.

Until next time,

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