Romance has this thing about first times.
Everyone has their first time with a romance novel. Some of us remember them, and others don’t. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a plot trope or a particularly strange sex scene. Whenever people discuss romance together, particularly their first romance, I wonder how mine reflected the way that I read romance today—and how, invariably, reading romance ties me to those that read it before me in my life.
When I was thirteen, my mother still read a fair amount of Harlequin Intrigue novels (she’s since moved on to more suspense and single title romantic suspense), but Harlequin books were a big thing for her for years. I always got fascinated by the package that would come once a month with several books in the category line. Around this time, they also rereleased the Montana Mavericks collection, which my mother also ended up ordering on subscription. My mom would read some immediately and let others languish in her closet for weeks. This was before I realized that category authors wrote very different romances despite having a similar template, and that just reading one line could get very old, very fast.
I really wanted to read a romance. Something about the dude ranch yellows and the men in stetsons called to me. I loved the western setting, the dude ranches and flat grounds a far cry from the Pennsylvania dairy farms and forested mountains in which I grew up. So one day, I went down to the closet my mom stashed her books in and pulled out the book labeled number one in the line: Rogue Stallion by Diana Palmer.