I was on twitter a few weeks ago, which I know really doesn’t surprise any of you, when someone in my tweet stream mentioned being happy that Amazon had rolled out parental controls on the Kindle Fire so she no longer had to worry about her daughter reading her books. I am in no position to tell a parent what to allow or not allow their child to read but when I read that my first thought was that would have seriously messed up my introduction to adult romance. In other words, this could change the romance readers of the future.
I remember sneaking into my parents’ room and stealthily looking at a book on their headboard cubby that showed a man and woman in a clinch. I decided that since my Mom was due back home soon I would try to read it later and instead headed to the patio to browse their bookshelves there. I found a copy of The Bride and promptly started reading it. I was not old enough to understand all of the language and the context but I understood the humor, suspense, emotion, and decided this was a very good thing. So the next chance I had I went back and read A Rose in Winter. They were my gateway into adult romance and to this day remain well read favorites. I am not the only person who discovered adult romance in that fashion. Over the years I have talked to several other people, whose introduction to romance came from reading mom’s, grandmother’s, aunt’s, or elder sister’s books. All of us were younger than the “suggested” reading age so contextual understanding came later and we all were sneaking the not quite forbidden. They were not quite forbidden because we knew better than to ask for permission.
Remembering my introduction, I started to wonder what could/would have been different about my addiction to romance without the ability to sneak my mom’s print books. Would I have discovered romance? If I did, would I have started with historicals or an entirely different genre? How old would I have been? I was already reading SF/F so would I have given romance a chance at a later age? In today’s digital world sneaking a handheld reading device or phone might have been a bit more difficult than one of many print books. If I did have access to the device, parental controls would have required more finagling on my part. Yes, I can think of potential work-arounds but would I have had the motivation/curiosity without the first glance at a different looking book cover? On the other hand, would I have been so curious about what I was NOT supposed to read that I would have tried everything to get access?
Today I can look back and smile at those adventures and how they changed my reading for life. How will the next batch of romance readers get their start? Will they travel from books marketed at the Young Adult (YA) to New Adult (NA) to Adult or will they figure out how to make the leap to adult romance then expand in all directions from there?
What are your stories about your introduction to adult romance? If you have considered how to grow a romance reader in our digital age, what are your thoughts? I am going to give one of the commentators a $16 Amazon or BN gift card as thanks for sharing your answers. I will announce the winner on Wed the 15th. Good luck!