My love affair with romance fiction began more than half a century ago with books borrowed from my mother’s bookshelves. The summer I turned ten, my mother, weary of my whining about being bored and having nothing to read, pointed me toward her bookshelves and ordered me to find something to read. I found Emilie Loring.
Loring’s is not a name frequently mentioned in romance fiction circles these days, but over a million copies of her romance novels were in print by the time of her death in 1951 (a number of years before my tenth summer). Loring’s novels would be classified as “kisses only” by today’s standards, but they seemed quite daring to a ten-year-old in a more innocent age. I still remember my shocked delight at one scene in a marriage-of-convenience tale when the hero plunged his hand down the heroine’s housecoat (far more glamorous apparel than the humble noun suggests) to retrieve a key she had dropped there to prevent his venturing into danger. I read a dozen or so Loring books that summer, I remember the titles—Here Comes the Sun (1924), The Solitary Horseman (1927), Today is Yours (1938), Love Came Laughing By (1949)—but details of characters and plots are beyond the scope of memory. What I do remember is the joy I found in the independent heroines, the strong heroes, and the happily-ever-after endings, qualities that I still look for in my romance reading all these years later.