Monday, September 23, 2013

Doing it Old Skool

Old Skool. That's where I've spent the last few weeks. Living the dream. What dream? or more to the point which dream, I hear you cry. The stay up late, read til your eyes turn red and you want to call in sick but don't because you no longer work retail. Yes, I've been rereading Julie Garwood. And not contemporary Julie Garwood. Or even Western Julie Garwood or crazy -ass Regency Pirate Julie Garwood. No. I'm talking Medieval Scottish and Norman England. Oh, yeah. Old Skool. (did you notice the misspelling to make it more emphatically OS?)

I have this memory of Green and Orange. No. Not the NY Mets. I have very few memories of baseball. (they are baseball, right?) No, it was my parents' orange couch and a green book - The Secret. I was working at Crown Books at the time, and it had arrived in the shipment. Brand new. Day one. Or near abouts because this was the Olden Days when only novelists Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy and Scott Turow  arrived on the store floor on its proper release date.  So, back to The Secret and my parents' couch.

I stayed up all night reading that book. All night. As in, bed at about 5 in the morning. Jet lag for the next day. I loved it. Medieval Scotland, complete with daily bathing, Highland Games, and sweet cottages for the clan to live in. (Unless you were a warrior who preferred sleeping under the stars.) There were plaids, rushes on the floor, men tall as pine trees, a heroine in danger, and food eaten from trenchers.  Oh, yeah. Julie Garwood's Medieval Scotland. So glossy it should be sponsored by Maybelline. And I loved it. I loved Iain, with his way over the top alpha-ness, his broad shoulders, his bluster, his over protectiveness, the way he wore his plaid so masculinely, and the way he fell for the heroine.

And so, I wanted to revisit that feeling and see if I could still ignore the head-hopping, the historical not even inaccuracies but complete glossy blunders, a heroine so beautiful and naive as to not be believable, and a situation too farfetched to be even possible. I read The Secret when it was first published in 1992; it is twenty-three years later. I could have given birth and had a grandbaby in this time. My go-to reads now include Barbara Samuel O'Neal, Ruthie Knox, Simone St. Claire, Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I hesitated before picking up Ransom, the sequel to The Secret, which actually is my favorite of her Scottish Medievals, because in honesty, I didn't want to lose the love.

The feelings that Julie Garwood gave me, the clutch in my belly, the sighs, ohmygod, this feeling is why I want to write. This is what I want to create. And I was so afraid that if I reread her novels, all I would see is the problems, and I'd no longer read the story. But I needed the familiar. I wanted to feel it, experience it, be swept away by it. I wanted to once again read about Jamie in The Bride and Madelyne in Honor's Splendour warming Duncan's feet. To feel Brodick's possessive desire for Gillian in Ransom. So, down to the basement I went and pulled all of these books from the back of the keeper shelves, and set about reading them, plus several others.

And, yes, there are problems. But ohmygod, Julie Garwood still pulls me straight into those Medievals, and delivers on everything. Hot, possessive hero. Humor. Emotional rewards. It is all there. Still. I am brought back to that Orange and Green feeling of rightness. Of the power of being literally swept away for hours on end into a completely unreal, Brigadoon-ish Scotland - or the Highlands, to be more JG-accurate. And all has been good with my September.

What Old Skool books have you been reading - or meaning to read recently? Who made you want to write in the positive way? In the I-want-to-cause-that-in-my-reader way?


  1. Love a book that takes you out of the here and now. I took a break from my self-imposed hellish schedule and spent Sunday in bed with Sue Grafton's new W is for Wasted. She's old school in the way that all her stuff is set in the 1980s. No tweets, cells, FB or big screens. I love Kinsey, and loved just not thinking about tomorrow. Thanks for the great piece, R8!

  2. Marjanna ~ Fun post. I don't re-read books like you do. When I'm done with them, I'm, well . . . done.

    However, there are writers who still keep me up all night reading their newest books. And, OMG, I love it. Yes, I wake up after only an hour or two of sleep to walk through my day with a reader-induced hangover. But this is what I live for--both in reading and in writing.

    There is nothing better than a writer who can suck you into a story and transport you so that you forget the time and space in which you really live.

    Some of my go-to favorites are: Jill Shalvis, Jaci Burton, Kristan Higgins, Rachel Gibson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Susan Mallery. And I'm always looking for more! Because there's nothing like the rush I get from a really, really well-told love story. ;0)

    Enjoyed your post. Have a great week!

  3. Ohh, Emmelle, that is a lovely way to spend a Sunday! I recently re-read an Elizabeth Peters set in the 60s... where you sailed to the UK on an Ocean Liner, and wrote letters. With a STAMP and everything!

  4. Mackenzi, you know I love to re-read. And sometimes, I'll pick up a book, formerly loved, and it just doesn't work for me anymore. I don't know why. Maybe it's the crafting of the book. Maybe it's dated. Maybe my tastes have changed. But wow. Did the Highland Heroes of JG still ring OTT, melodramatically, completely unbelievably TRUE.

  5. I just re-read an old Linda Howard novella. Classic Linda is all protective, sexy, sexual heroes and give'em hell heroines who won't let the heroes but them into glass boxes. Yum!

    Authors I like to re-read for comfort at Lois McMaster Bujold, Dick Francis, 1990s Jayne Ann Krentz, Ms. Howard. Crusie and SEP, absolutely. Patricia Briggs for the Urban Fantasy lover in me. Gosh, I could go on...

    As for staying up too late to finish a book? I am publically chagrinned (and secretly thrilled) to say that yes, I still occasionally get caught in Story's web. Rather more often than I'll admit, in truth.

  6. I love rereading JAK. Every now and then, I go on a kick, and start with Golden Chance and Grand Passion, and go from there. Love rereading her books. And yes, Keely, name it and claim it. "I am an All Night Long reader!"

  7. Hi Marjanna - I also love to reread my favorites and these Julie Garwood's are some of my favorites as well. I love Honour's Splendor especially. I was just thinking about that book the other day. I think I'll give it another read. I love to read Johanna Lindsey's Malory series, too, for rereading. I also read and reread Kathleen Woodiwiss. I read far into the night during the summer when I was out of school, to the point that the back of my head would hurt where it was resting against the chair. I miss those days sometimes.

  8. Marjanna, was her hair ever in "glorious disarray?" That's a line for Kathleen Woodwise. Don't remember which book and in looking back there were some not so healthy concepts around sex and the ability to say NO in that book, but I loved that phrase: glorious disarray. Why can't my hair look like that when I awaken next to my alpha male? Instead of electrocution caught in a wind tunnel?

    OK my go to, revert to basics, comfort read is old Jayne Anne Krentz. Specifically, "Absolutely, Positively."


  9. Once in awhile I'll pull out an old Carla Neggers. And once in a rare while, I'll pull out my mom's romances. I can't remember the authors, but one has my all-time favorite tagline: A beautiful girl alone with the men of an Alaskan air base. Oh, no!

    I love to read them because they bring back feelings of curling up with them in the first place. I want to capture those feelings and put it in my own writing. Yum!