Reading was my escape from reality when I was growing up. My childhood wasn’t sublime and I spent a large portion of time by myself. So I read. Books were my escape as they didn’t judge, yell, ignore, or hurt me. Romance, straight fiction, mystery, coming of age, fantasy...nothing was out of bounds for me.
Mysteries have always been my first love. I adored watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents on CBS and Mystery! on PBS. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys filled my young literary needs. I discovered Trixie Belden by accident when I was looking for a particular Nancy Drew book, which had already been checked out of the library. The librarian asked if I had ever read Trixie Belden and it was then my love affair started.
Trixie Belden was a girl after my own heart. She wasn’t as poised or self assured as Nancy Drew. She wasn’t rich or beautiful. She didn’t have a boyfriend who drove a snazzy sports car. She was average. Like me. Trixie was the quintessential teenager who grumbled about chores, boys, and her parents. The appeal of Trixie was not only her detecting skills but her strength and perseverance. She didn’t rely on a male figure as her savior. She and her best friend/sidekick Honey always managed more often than not to save themselves and solve the mystery. The fact she could and did make mistakes only endeared her to me more. At a time when my life was overwhelmed by internal and external forces, Trixie was my port in the storm.
Set in a fictional town in upstate New York, Trixie with her brothers and friends form a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen. From there they find themselves embroiled in a series of mysteries that span their teen years. Though romance was definitely not a theme, various ‘connections’ are made between six of the seven members. Trixie and Jim, Honey and Brian, and Diana and Mart. I’m sad to say Trixie and Jim’s complicated relationship (there was a four year age difference, after all) was downplayed later in the series. It was a subtle example of outgrowing a crush.
An interesting fact about this series. There were 39 books total published between 1948-1986. The series was originally authored by Julie Campbell Tatham. But Tatham only wrote the first six books; the other 33 were written by various other authors all under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. To date, no one knows exactly who the other authors were or how many of them there were in total.
With Trixie I became enamoured with strong intelligent fallible heroines. Though my love for pure mystery lasted well into my teen years, my need for romance became more prevalent as I got older and I found a new passion—romantic suspense. Barbara Michaels, Phyllis Whitney, and Sidney Sheldon caught my eye early on. I was hooked by the darkness that surrounded but never defeated the heroines in Michaels's and Whitney's stories, while entranced by the sheer determination of the heroines who occupied Sheldon’s storylines. All three authors wrote strong heroines who were able to persevere against incredible odds.
By the '90s, Heather Graham, Karen Harper, and Nora Roberts quickly became my go-to authors. Suspense, mystery, romance, and engaging characters and storylines drew me in and held me hostage. I did step off the beaten path for a little as I worked my way through historical romances, though I continued to look for those that stressed a mystery or a suspenseful subplot. Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, and Amanda Quick all offered a well-balanced romance with intriguing suspense and mystery. Sometimes they even tossed in a dash of the supernatural. The supernatural aspects led me into paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Such authors as Anne Bishop, Ilona Andrews, and Nalini Singh build such fabulous alternative worlds anchored in realism with dynamic heroines, sensual romances, and of course, fabulous suspense filled storylines. From there I ventured into erotic romances and with the inclusion of Jasmine Haynes, Anne Calhoun, etc...on my bookshelf, my life was finally complete.
Though I now read any and all genres at any given time, I still continue to choose authors and stories where strong heroines use their wits and skills to save the day and get their man.