Shannon Stacey

Reunion with my first love

A combination of whining to my friends that I can’t find anything to read that’s not meh, and this conversation over at the Smart Bitches’ blog led me to the library, where I checked out Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught, which somehow, despite my having devoured books like this in my teens, I must have missed.


Exactly what my reader’s heart was craving. Here was a book that wouldn’t let me read two sentences, make the short kid’s lunch, read a paragraph, go out and get the mail, read a page, wash the dishes and so on. Here was a book that made me curl up on the couch with my fleece blanket and lose myself in the story. No breakneck pacing, no dead people, no talking heads set in some blank Twilight Zone of setting.

Historical romances were my first love. Jude Deveraux and Linda Lael Miller and Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood and probably my favorite—definitely in the top 5 of an All-Time list—Laurie McBain. They wrote stories about strong, Alpha men and spunky women amidst grand and lavish settings you could lose yourself in. Books you could sink your teeth into.

I’m not really sure when I wandered away from historical romance. Originally, that’s what I dreamed of writing. But, while I love to read about them, I have no patience for researching Dukes and Earls and peerage laws and period clothing. So I wrote westerns. Very unoriginal ones with outlaw heros and schoolmarm heroines. Fortunately, I stopped doing that.

It became obvious to me at some point that nobody wants the historicals I wanted to write—Russian historical romances spanning the hundreds of years of Romanov rule—and I decided to try a contemporary category. My historical romance reading went downhill from there. Everything from reading to know the line to keeping up with the market to my favorite historical authors turning to contemporary has brought me to a point where I can probably count the number of historical romances I’ve read in the past several years on one hand.

I’m almost afraid to go on a historical romance glom, though. I don’t want the magic to be gone. I don’t want to find chick lit in gowns or romantic suspense with swords instead of guns. I don’t want watered-down beta pirates or heroines who don’t tremble just a little.

So for now I’m going rummaging in the back of the bookshelves. I think I’ll read a Laurie McBain book next, and then revisit the Montgomery men. Then…who knows.

15 comments to “Reunion with my first love”

  1. Anna Lucia
      · September 19th, 2005 at 10:18 am · Link

    Ah, Shan. Quite apart from anything else, this is a beautifully written entry.

    I’m not a *huge* historicals fan. By that I mean that I love them, but have read very few. But, like you, I’ve been wary of reading more, because of that much publicised ‘meh’ out there, and the rants of ‘same old same old’.

    I don’t want to find chick lit in gowns or romantic suspense with swords instead of guns. I don’t want watered-down beta pirates or heroines who don’t tremble just a little.


    But that got me thinking…. is it REALLY that bad out there? Readers and writers keep telling us that they’re fed up with reading the same thing. That what they are reading is just not… special. Not sparkling.

    And I’m wondering just how many readers are not buying, because someone somewhere has told them not to bother.

    I’m not sure exactly what point I’m trying to make – but that can’t be good for the industry. I just don’t believe that there are so few gems and so many lumps of coal.

    Anyway, I’m glad you take the time to celebrate the gems on here. There’s hope for us all….

    Oh, and just to maintain consistency, and so that you can roll your eyes and groan, WRITE the F***ING Romanov-era ROMANCE. I have promised myself that every time you mention it, I will say that, until you write it. (And yes, I know it’s not that simple).

    I believe in you.

  2. Shannon
      · September 19th, 2005 at 10:33 am · Link

    :love: I love you, Anna.

    And I’m wondering just how many readers are not buying, because someone somewhere has told them not to bother.

    Ooh! You’re quite right. That’s exactly why I haven’t picked up any, and why I’m burrowing into my decade+ old keeper pile. Hmmm…I’m not normally a sheep.

    I’ll have to pick some up this week. :nod:

  3. Anna Lucia
      · September 19th, 2005 at 1:49 pm · Link

    I’m a terrible sheep – not consciously, but I notice it from time to time.

    :love: too.

  4. Charlene T
      · September 19th, 2005 at 3:02 pm · Link

    My fave by her is Kingdom of Dreams. There’s nothing like a good historical! :nod: One author who doesn’t write like every book is a screenplay is JoAnn Ross. You might really like her contemporaries. I find the detail and pacing just like my favorite old historicals used to be.

  5. Shannon
      · September 19th, 2005 at 5:00 pm · Link

    I think I have two JoAnn Ross books in my TBR pile. I’ll have to bump them up.

    And I :love: Kingdom of Dreams!

    (I just now noticed that the entire first paragraph of this entry is one sentence. Dayum. Have a , or ,, or even ,,,! :rofl:)

  6. Gabriele
      · September 19th, 2005 at 6:08 pm · Link

    I would love to read Russian Romanov Romances.

    Go write a few. :whip:


  7. Charlene T
      · September 19th, 2005 at 9:20 pm · Link

    I second the :whip: on the Romanovs. Or isit third by now? Whatever, bring on those hot Russians!

  8. Sharon
      · September 20th, 2005 at 10:48 am · Link

    It IS that bad out there. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some really great historicals being published, but they’re much harder to find. I’ve given up on Avon completely. And they used to be my favorite publisher of historicals. Maybe it’s just me, but they put out the same story every single month only they stick a different cover, title and author’s name on it.

    I don’t know what the hell has happened. I hear everywhere that readers are tired of the same old stuff but someone has to be buying them up because the publishers are still pushing into a saturated market.

    Is it just me or is there a trend toward shoving current PC topics into an 1800s setting? It’s very annoying. Nothing worse than writing a historical novel with a 2005 mentality.

  9. Sandy L
      · September 20th, 2005 at 11:16 am · Link

    I agree with Sharon. I’ve been picking up older historicals by Anya Seton, Iris Johnasen, and Lisa Kleypas’s older titles. They may not be PC, but they have an “out of the box” feel that keeps me entertained. I still will buy Lisa Kleypas, Liz Carlyle. Lorraine Heath’s new one looks promising, but am starting to use the UBS for anything that sounds interesting but is the same old same old.

  10. Stef
      · September 20th, 2005 at 11:44 am · Link

    Shannon, we must be soul sisters or something. Laurie McBain is my all time favorite historical author. It kills me, but I somehow lost all of her books when I moved in 1996. Otherwise, I know I’d reread them.

    And I’ve been a sucker for all things Russian and Romanov since I saw Nicholas and Alexandra, about a hundred years ago. (I think I was 12) I have scads of books about Russian history, the Romanov dynasty, and of course, the last, ill-fated ruling family.

    Are you going to RWA next year? I want to meet you, live and in person so we can schmooze about McBain and glom on the Russians.

    And I’ll second what Anna said – Write the F***ING Romanov Romance!


  11. Jaci Burton
      · September 20th, 2005 at 1:46 pm · Link

    Write the book, Shan. :whip:

  12. Shannon
      · September 21st, 2005 at 9:37 am · Link

    Someday. I’ll write it someday.

    I remember watching that movie for the first time, Stef. I was…7 maybe? We were living in England. And when I asked why the army was shooting their own people my mother said “Because they asked their king for some bread.”


    Clearly I just had to read more about this horrible monster. And so an obsession was born. :nod: I don’t have any plans to go to RWA next year, but you never know.

    I just finished a recently published historical set in almost turn of the century London. I thought “Wow, a Bombshell in crosets.”


    Time for some Woodiwiss, me thinks. :thumb:

  13. Stef
      · September 23rd, 2005 at 9:18 pm · Link

    Don’t forget Dr. Zhivago. I loved that movie. The colors, the music, everything. Well, except that they sounded British and not Russian. But the music…

    Okay, so I’ll have to hang out with you in cyberspace and nag you to write the Russian novel from long distance. ‘sokay – I can do that.

    And too cool that you lived in England!

  14. Shannon
      · September 24th, 2005 at 11:41 am · Link

    Omar Sharif.


    He and Yul Bryner were the pirates/sheiks/lords/captors/etcetera etcetera etcetera of my youth. :love:

    And we were stationed in England for three years. My favorite times there were when we lived off base. Walking through Biscester with fish and chips. :nod:

  15. charlene
      · September 29th, 2005 at 9:35 pm · Link

    I love reading romance novels also and I’ve read a few ones written by Judith McNaught. Actually, I have a friend who has a collection of the her entire work. One of the books I cannot forget is the Night Whispers. I just love the heroine there who happens to be a police woman and an heiress to a large fortune. Anyway keep on writing romance novels. There’s nothing wrong in exploring new topics. There’s always a lot to write about in matters of romance and love. Good luck!

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