Having recently re-read "A Kingdom of Dreams" (which was almost as pleasurable as it was the first few times), it got me thinking about how my reading has changed over the last....oh, 24 years I've been reading romance. I remember how it all started innocently enough, when I was reading the "Sweet Valley High" books, then the Bantam Young Love books of the early 80's. From there, I filched my mom's Harlequin romances and read my first adult romance, "Burning Obsession" by Carole Mortimer (1982), and the rest was that thing they call history.
Over the years, I've gotten quite an education on romances. There have been hits and misses, and plenty of confusion. (Imagine my surprise? disgust? horror? when sometime shortly after that first Harlequin Presents, I unwittingly came across a naughty, naughty erotic romance involving cucumbers. I have never looked at a salad the same since....) But more than anything, the years have given me a sustaining love of the genre, with all it's flaws and revelations and tantrums and rebellion, as well as the numerous subgenres that have come to life as romances have evolved and changed with the times. It's been an amazing ride.
Sometimes though, I try to jump outside of my self-created box of comfort and try something new, just to see what else is out there, what I could be missing, or even to jump-start my love of romances again when I find myself sliding into a slump. I've always loved biographies, especially those of those glamourous actors and actresses of the 30's and 40's (Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Maureen O'Hara). As a teenager, I was a huge Stephen King fan, devouring his imaginative, and lengthy, tomes until I'd just about permanently overdosed on horror. I would occasionally read true crime stories but they were too realistic and gruesome for my liking. Of course, I have become fascinated with different places (Scotland), legends (Loch Ness monster, King Arthur), and history, and would feed that particular craving. But through it all, I still managed to hold onto my love of romances. Nothing inspires me more than picking up an incredibly romantic and emotional story about falling in love. The guaranteed happily ever after kept me coming back for more, and I have thousands of stories catalogued in my head, some permanently lost in the ether that floats up there.
I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this other than to wonder if, in the last few years, I've reached my romance reading limit and need to replenish the enthusiasm. When I do not react as strongly to a favorite storyline or if I feel my interest is severely lagging, I feel like I should go exploring outside my comfort zone. Leave romance behind for non-fiction, or the classics, or even something off the bestseller list. But the thing is, I don't want to. Not really. Or sure, I try to get all intellectual and smug and pretend that I am all fired up over "The Kite Runner" when in actuality, I can't drum up enough enthusiasm to even find out what it's all about. (Okay I already knew, but that's because I know that a movie has been made about it).
Yet I'm a bit stubborn and truly want to give it a try to break outside that comfort zone and read something completely different. So my question(s) is:
What non-romance book would you recommend?
What made you like it so much?
Do you only read romance, or enjoy mixing it up?