6 Authors Who Inspired Me To Read (and write!)

As an avid reader, books have always featured prominently in my life. I can’t recall a birthday or Christmas that I’ve not asked for books.  I was on a first-name basis with my librarian, and spent all my pocket money in the local second-hand store, buying romance books. 

Which brings me to this post.  I remember quite distinctly the very first time I picked up a romance novel – I was twelve, the place was my school library, and the book was Captive Bride by Johanna Lindsay.  Yes, my school librarian was either very progressive or very clueless.  What I also remember was how much Christina and Alex’s story impacted on me (yes, I can still recall their first names without having to check the back cover blurb of my dogeared copy!).  And throughout my reading years, Johanna Lindsey has been an automatic buy for me, the ultimate experience in escapism.  She always delivers the author’s promise of a great story experience every time.  So here’s my list of six authors who have influenced my reading (and writing!)

Shirlee Busbee – both Gypsy Lady and Lady Vixen were groundbreaking for me.  I never knew romances to be bursting with so much excitement, so much breathless passion. And the characters..? Strong heroines and equally strong alpha males who’d stop at nothing to get the heroine.  I adored Lady Vixen’s Nicole for her cabin boy-turned sexy woman, the humor and the history 🙂  Gypsy Lady was gritty, sometimes shocking (especially the scene at the end where the villian abducts Catherine) and amazingly written.

Jude Deveraux – For her “Velvet” and “Lady” series, as well as her amazing time travel, Knight In Shining Armour.  She introduced me to the great humor of romance heroines and made me cry 🙂

Johanna Lindsey – for all the reasons mentioned above, plus the fact that she has written outside the box so many times, including time travel and futuristic. And for the beauty of her glorious alpha hero in Angel, which reduced me to tears (hey, I’m a sucker for an emotional story!)

Elynne Mitchell – I devoured her “Silver Brumby” series when I was nine, and also remember correcting my teacher with the proper spelling of ‘willy-willy’ (yeah, I was pedantic even then!).  I think this would count as one of the first continuities I’ve ever enjoyed 🙂

Kathleen Woodiwiss – For The Flame and the Flower and, particularly, Ashes in The Wind.  The scene where Alaina is captured by the villain and Cole comes to rescue her still brings me to tears.  I adored it so much I copied the scene in a notepad so I could read it again and again after I’d returned my borrowed copy.

Dean Koontz – for the breathless scope of his stories (time travel, horror, supernatural), for writing strong heroines (outside traditional romance novels) and for the brilliant understated use of the dialogue tag “he/she said”.

Nora Roberts – the first book I’d ever read of hers was Hot Ice.  A wonderful, humorous adventure-filled story which reminds me of Romancing the Stone.  Nora, along with Dell’s Candlelight Ecstasy line, introduced me to contemporary novels.

Which authors have inspired you to read? To write? What books are your keepers? Anyone recommend some keepers or insights into what resonates most and by whom?

*BONUS!* post a comment and win a copy of Paula Roe’s first Desire, Forgotten Marriage!


50 Responses to “6 Authors Who Inspired Me To Read (and write!)”

  1. I have been voraciously since I learned how, and for the past dozen years I’ve read mainly romance, so I understand what you are saying *grin* I have way too many keepers–I am an inveterate re-reader, so it’s difficult to chose. However… I still have my very own copy of Johanna Lindsey’s “Angel.”
    “Always to Remember” by Lorraine Heath.
    “Morning Glory” by LaVyrle Spencer.
    “Silver Lining” by Maggie Osborne.
    “Annie’s Song” by Catherine Anderson.
    Nora Roberts has written many of my keepers, particularly the Dream and Born trilogies.
    Linda Howard’s “Mr Perfect” and “Cry No More” along with several of her very old categories–who can forget “MacKenzie’s Mountain”? *sigh* The best first line in a romance novel ever!
    Elizabeth Lowell’s medieval trilogy, her Only series, her Donovans, her… *ahem*

    Okay, I’ll stop now.

    What makes a book a keeper for me are the characters. Good characterization will trump plot twists for me every time. If I can’t believe that *this* character would react that particular way to this specific event, I can’t buy the premise of the book.

    Thank you for inviting us to talk about our favorite books!

    (unless you are willing to ship to the USA, please don’t enter me in the contest)

  2. Hi Aztec Lady! No discrimination here – of course we ship to the US 🙂

    Heaps of people rave about Linda Howard (esp. MacKenzie’s Mountain), so I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read one yet! Must go out and get me some.

    There’s also heaps of other books I adore which are on my keeper shelf – Maggie Shayne’s Miranda’s Viking is brilliant, as is Sharon Sala’s The Way to Yesterday. I agree – characters make or break a book. And there’s nothing worse than reading heroines that are TSTL!

  3. Thank you, Paula!

    Oh, I agree about Maggie Shayne’s “Miranda’s Viking”–and if you haven’t read her “Gingerbread Man” you should. It’s much darker but oh so excellent! As for Linda Howard, you are in for a treat! A word of caution, though: “Cry No More” is very very intense, so perhaps you should start with some of her other titles. (She doesn’t have a website, but wikipedia has a complete list of her books)

    The TSTL heroine makes me yell at the poor innocent book *chuckle* but she’s in close competition with the arrogant unmitigated jerk of a hero.

  4. Hi Paula!
    I think the first romance I picked up was by Penny Jordan – it was a harlequin that must’ve been mailed to my mom. (Funny she got that because… my mom doesn’t read books in English.) When little, I thought Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeline L’Engle and Lloyd Alexander books were romantic. 😛 I also have to say, I love the covers like the Shirlee Busbee one. I miss those.
    In HS, I found some copies of Barbara Cartland books, and was quite entertained. I also mostly only read Classics in hs – but I discovered Lisa Kleypas, Julia London, and Judith Ivory. There was no stopping me from there! I think the characters or stories really make the books. Sometimes lines from books stick with me – in “Lost in Your Arms” by Christina Dodd, the hero says he’s the marrow of [the heroine’s] bones, and she’ll never be rid of him – etc. Loved it.

  5. Aztec Lady – jerk heroes are definitely NOT allowed LOL.

    JSL – I ADORE those old covers! I still have the original Kathleen Woodiwiss and Shirlee Busbees, not to mention Johanna Lindseys with different Fabio variations (a black-haired Fabio on Keeper of the Heart and Angel still throws me!) Did you know Amazon let you post up different covers? I’ve tried but my stoopid scanner is having a hissy fit…

  6. Azteclady, I just heard from Rebekah who won the pink diamond keyring/watch a few weeks ago and she just got it so if you’re lucky enough to win Paula’s book, it may just take a couple weeks. Good luck!

    Favourite books? There are so many. In the old, pre-romance days, I adored The Fountainhead and esp Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, still read that one every couple of years. Loved many of James Michener’s books, great history. I read mostly contemporary political history and autobiographies back then. More recently, the Diana Gabaldon time travels series rates highly, as does JD Robb’s In Death series. Nora Roberts’ All the Possibilities turned me onto category books and the STs of hers I’ve read I have enjoyed. Quade, the Irresistible One made our Bron an auto-buy. I haven’t tried a lot of SF but really enjoy Nalini’s books and also Eileen Wilks Rule books. And Barbara Samuel counts as one of the most evocative yet real writers I have read. She makes me go ‘Wow!”

    Must go and stop hogging the comments box! Great post, Paula!

  7. I was introduced to romance with books by Julie Garwood and Jude Devereaux. Anything by Julie is a keeper in my mind. My favorites include “The Lion’s Lady” and “The Bride.” “The Wicked Lover” and “Games of Pleasure” by Julia Ross are definitely keepers. I agree with azteclady about Linda Howard’s “Cry No More.” It was amazing and it’s true that some people couldn’t handle that kind of intensity in a romance novel I on the other hand require a romance to have substance.

  8. Jan, this may sound weird, but I was thinking about the cost of shipping not the time *sheepish*

    If you want to try some excellent science fiction, check Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. It’s really, really good.

    Jane, my favorite Julie Garwood is “Saving Grace” *sigh* Gabriel…

  9. Hi Paula,
    No – I didn’t know Amazon let people post older covers- how fun! I have to admit I’m not as big on the Fabio covers – Fabio makes me laugh – but I’m pretty sure he was on the covers of some Diana Palmer books I read last year. And I chucked when I saw them. I haven’t read too many Johanna Lindseys – oh and I like the old covers of Julia Quinn books, with the one word title in giant dramatic script, and some sort of girly frou frou item on it too. Loved all of those books.

  10. Rebekah Elrod Says:

    I first romance book I ever picked up was Nora Roberts MacKade brothers series. I loved them they had just the right amount of everything in them. Hauntings , humor, romance, and even a little danger. A romance has has to have that little extra for me to enjoy it. I started out reading Stephen Kings horror books so I like a little big of danger, suspense, and scary in my books. So as long as a romance has just one of those I usually enjoy it.

  11. Patricia Cochran Says:

    Hello to all,

    Reading history in a nutshell: Secret Garden – my all-time favorite! Early favorite authors: Westerns,
    Woodiwiss, McBain, Lindsay, Cartland, Heyer, Mary Stewart, all early M&B authors, all early Harlequin authors. Keepers: Roberts, Macomber Angel books, Terry McLaughlin’s Maybe Baby, Cheryl Kaye
    Tardif’s Whale Song. Today’s favorites: anything I can get my hands on in Contemporary Romance,
    Historical Romance, Regency, Romantic Suspense, and Romantic Mystery genres.

    Pat Cochran.

  12. azteclady, we hope there are heaps of US authors out there who like our books and are following this series so natch, we don’t mind shipping to the States. Or anywhere!
    Azteclady is an intriguing handle, btw, where does that come from? Are you from Sth/Central America?

  13. Virginia H. Says:

    All of the authors you mention are inspiring authors, love them. I am also a big fan of Constance O’Banyon which is an author you don’t hear much from. She has had some really good books in the past and I have most of her books. I do reread sometimes. Her best book was Rebel Temptress, which was a lot like Gone With The Wind.

  14. Hi Paula, great topic. Don’t get me started! I also have JL’s Angel among my keepers — it has everything doesn’t it? Dark, mysterious, tough, sexy hero (who IS a hero), feisty heroine, forced marriage, danger, a big cat. Love that book like chocolate. I’m also a BIG fan of McKenzie’s Mountain and agree with you, azteclady, best first line evah. Oh, and Nora’s McKade brothers: also in my keepers. I think that was my introduction to the magic of closely linked brothers’ books and she set such a high standard. Have read many since; not many have matched up.

    The books that got me started on romance though, way back then, were Georgette Heyer’s witty and wonderful regencies and Lucy Walker’s outback category romances. I absorbed those stories. Oh, and another series I loved way-back-then: Jilly Cooper’s “little” books with the heroine’s name as the title. Bella and Imogen and Harriet and Octavia et al. Then I found Susan Napier and read EVERY M&B I could find with her name on the cover. I didn’t “find” single title romance until relatively recent years, mostly because I just didn’t see them anywhere in my youth. I know I would have been attracted if I had seen those covers! Our librarians definitely not as liberal as yours, Paula. 🙂

    I did say, don’t get me started!


    PS: thank you, Jan. Quade was one of the funnest books I’ve written. That one and Beyond Control. (Which I wanted to be Seb: The Strong and Silent One.) 🙂

  15. Yikes, I’ve written a short story!

  16. Jan, I’m Mexican born and raised, now living in the US. I have French and Catalán blood with a bit of Mixtec thrown in for flavor–but since the Mixteca are pretty much unknown outside of Mexico, I went for the one that’s more easily recognizable. Makes sense?

    Bronwyn, Angel is indeed an amazing hero *grin* that’s why he’s a keeper!

  17. Wow, there’s so many books and authors to chose from, isn’t there? I can see my bank account is going to take a battering after I finish up my ‘wanted’ list LOL.

    Pat – I completely forgot about Laurie McBain! Devil’s Desire was one of the first romances I proudly bought with my pocket money 😀 And I still luuuurve Moonstruck Madness, one of my all-time favorites.

    JSL – I hear what you’re saying about the covers . Anne Gracie’s recent books have the most gorgeous lettering, plus elegant accessories -a shoe, a fan. Simply beautiful. Also admit I’m a bit of an addict to Loves Romances’ Best Cover contest (especially the Worst category – makes me scream with laughter everytime I read it!)

    :::sigh:::: Angel. Must read him again…

  18. Enid Blyton. Yep, I think I read every single Secret Seven and Famous Five book in existence when I was a kid. I loved the adventure of the stories but in my mind I always paired up the characters as well (a bit harder with the FF as three were siblings and one a cousin) but if I implanted myself as one of the characters (as we tend to do when we’re reading) then I had no trouble with pairing myself with whichever male I wanted! 😀

    Okay, so when I matured a little I discovered romance books and I think Susan Napier was one that I avidly searched the library for. And Mary Wibblerley (English author for M&B.) I know I’ve read alot of the books you have all mentioned, i.e. the Woodiwiss, Cartland, Heyer, etc., but back then I didn’t always remember the author’s names (show me the covers or let me read a snippet of the book and I could probably tell you which ones I’d read.)

    All of the above, and more, influenced my reading pleasure and probably steered me in the direction of what I wanted to write, but the author who has probably most influenced me since I DECIDED I wanted to be an author myself is Linda Howard. There aren’t many of her books that I haven’t acquired over the years and there’s just something so intense about all her characters that makes me sigh and push myself that much harder as an author to reach that level.

    When I grow up (stop sniggering, Jan Colley!) I want to be able to say I write stories with the intensity and characterisation of a Linda Howard and the creepiness of a Barbara Erskine and with a touch of Jenny Crusie’s humour to blend into the mix. Not too much to ask, is it?

    Great discussion, Paula!

  19. Gosh, this is a blast from the past …. I kicked off my romance addiction at the tender age of 12 on my grandmother’s Presents – Violet Winspear, Anne Mather, Charlotte Lamb, Mary Wibberley et al. Then, similar to Paula’s clueless school librarian, at high school our librarian stocked Charlotte Vale Allen books which were, to my innocent eyes, pretty darned raunchy. When I grow up I want to write like Linda Howard or Justine Davis. sigh.

  20. Sharyn, Justine Davis wrote the first Desire I ever read — Private Reasons — which steered me to immediately seek and devour copious quantities. I still love that book. It has a straightlace single-father accountant hero (who’s never owned a pair of jeans) teamed with a free spirit heroine who trains horses and sets about teaching him how to relate to his daughter. So much there that I love, even without her superb storytelling skills.


  21. Oh man, Justine Davis!!! *looks at her keeper shelves* Yup, she’s there too. *grin*

  22. ooh, my first Desire I ever read was Eileen Wilks’ The Wrong Wife. Adored her writing, bought her backlist (all of one at the time LOL) and got hooked on the line from then on!

  23. Sharyn – the first Presents I ever read was also by Violet Winspear. I actually have no idea who wrote the first Desire I read :X.
    Somewhere in between that, I also read Barbara Cartland – and back to covers, I liked hers. Or, the ones I saw. Stylized and artsy, with the watercolor quality.
    Paula – I googled the cover contests – and the worst covers – oh my! I can’t wait to see the nominees for ’07 😀

  24. Did someone mention Violet Winspear? I love her books. They are classic Mills and Boon. I recently bought “The Honey is Bitter” (1973) and 5 other of her books on eBay. I can’t wait to re-read them.

    I also love Susan Elizabeth Phillips for her humour and for taking unsympathetic characters and making you care about them.

    And Nora Roberts has always been a favourite of mine, whether it’s her category novels or her single titles. More than any writer I know, she takes emotionally broken characters, heals them and puts them back together, then wraps her stories up with a great big bow. Does that sound over the top? I guess it does but it’s how I feel about them.

  25. Love that analogy, Maxine. It works for me!

    Wow, Azteclady, what an interesting lineage you have there. I guess that means you are a French and Spanish speaker then (not forgetting English!)

    Yvonne I completely forgot about Enid Blyton, I devoured those at a great rate of knots, and the Black Beauty books, and the Wilbur Smith books. I guess I am a late starter to romance cos a lot of the names you guys are throwing into the pot, I haven’t read. I hope we keep this blog or I’ll have to make copious notes!

    Paula, Eileen has a nice style, doesn’t she? Did you read her Mantalk book?

  26. Maxine, I sooooo agree with you on Nora Roberts! She’s not the only one who does this, but the niftiest part–for me–is that while she does often, she finds ways to make it fresh, each time.

    Jan, once upon a time, I would have added French, but that one is fairly rusty by now *grin*

    I just read my first Eileen Wilks–part of the Fortune’s Children continuity, in one of those odd coincidences–and really liked her writing. I’ll be looking for more of hers now.

    So many books, not enough money! *chuckle*

  27. I can’t rember how old I was when I started reading “romance”. I have an older sister soi the rauchier books of Jackie Collins were readily available. I got hooked on Lucky Stantangelo and some of the going ons in Hollywood I now have 23 of her 24 books and also 4 movies/shows that have been made from her books.

  28. I so remember books I read by Jude Deveraux and Johanna Lindsey and Violet Winspear in my early days of reading. Keepers for me are Sandra Brown’s Texas Trilogy-Texas Chase, Texas Sage and Texas Lucky.

  29. Robynl, I’d forgotten about Sandra Brown’s Texas trilogy. They were a great read.

    Azteclady, yes, Nora makes it fresh every time. I don’t know how she does it.

  30. Maxine – The Honey is Bitter is the first harlequin book I read, and I still have it – so exciting you mentioned it! 😀 I also love Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I own all but two of her books. (I didn’t like them as much but… I see me buying them in the future just to have them :P).
    I’m torn between looking for these older authors… and not. I discovered Diana Palmer last year, and had the brilliant idea of reading all of her books. (This is before I knew how many she had written, and because I’d taken a challenge to read 100 books in ’07). Now, I’ve read all but 12 or so of her books, and can’t get them. If they’re available, they sell for $80-$120, etc. I’ve also taken to collecting all of her books possible – which is tough, especially since I’m finicky about books. However, I’ve been getting DPs second hand, all battle scarred.

  31. My interest in reading and romance novels began early. I would bike over to the library and immerse myself within the books and then bike home and read even more. Anne of Green Gables was what I started with and went on to love Daphne Du Maurier, Helen Forrester, Enid Blyton and Janet Woods, Audrey Howard.

  32. Love the Sandra Brown Texas! trilogy, esp Chase.


  33. JSL, now I really want to go and re-read The Honey is Bitter.

    You know what’s crazy? My husband and I owned a small used bookstore for about 8 years until we sold it 5 or so years ago. I can honestly say it was one of the best used bookstores I’ve ever seen as we both loved the books and kept them in good condition. But did I ever collect the older romances for myself? No, not me. It’s only now that I realize the value of such a collection, which has nothing to do with money.

    One good thing is that I found quite a few Mills and Boon hardcover books from the 1940s etc, that were used as library books back then, and I gave them to the Romance Collection at Melbourne University. Some people would have thrown those old books out but at least they are being preserved for history now.

    Oh, and another good thing about owning a used bookstore, my husband knows all the romance authors when I speak about them or their books, and he knows all the lines. He’s more than proud that I am one of those authors now. 🙂

  34. I never knew that about you, Maxine. (that you owned a secondhand bookstore, not that your dh thinks you’re gorgeous and is proud as punch…) you know, if I could do anything other than write romance, it would be to own a second-hand bookstore.

  35. Jan, I didn’t get to work in the bookstore too often as I had my other day job and there just isn’t enough money in used bookstores to make a decent wage (it’s changed now with online used bookstores etc). But it kept my hubby off the streets 🙂

    I used to go there every Saturday and help out, and I’d work there during some of my holidays so my husband could have a break. And it really was a labour of love. I used to walk around the store and look over the shelves and I’d see books by all those wonderful authors I admired. Just books after books after books. Aaah, heaven.

    Of course, we had a lot of other genres but romance books took up at least half the store.

  36. Oh Maxine, that’s my dream retirement! Owning a used book store *wistful sigh*

  37. One of the first romance novels I read was by Cathy Gillen Thacker, called Hot chocolate honeymoon; this was from Harlequin American Romance. It was a really sweet romance story. I got this from a used book store and this is how I started reading romance novels.
    Hi Paula I read your book in September and I loved, looking forward to read your story in the series. One author I love to read is Catherine Mann’s books especially, the series Wingmen Worriers. The mixture of suspense and romance is fantastic. Debbie Macomber’s Books are another favourite as well especially The Snow Bride

  38. When I started reading for myself after my kids were old enough that I wasn’t constantly reading to them some of the authors that made me love to read romances were Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Lavryle Spencer and Jayne Anne Krentz.

  39. Maxine, that is so very nice! I wonder if someone else did that with a local university… like I said I embarked on this quest to read all Diana Palmer books- and there’s this agreement between most of the universities and many metropolitan libraries in the states to trade/provide books to each other. Only one has all these Diana Palmer books I can’t get – but it’s “library use only.” [And the university is 3 hours away.]
    Enjoy The Honey is Bitter 😀

  40. Avi, I love that you started reading romance from visiting a USB and that you now have favourite authors whose books you look out for. Catherine Mann’s Wingmen Warriors are awesome, aren’t they? (So is Catherine.)

    Maureen, a wonderful list of favourite authors. I have books by them all in my keepers cupboard.

    JSL, I read an article in the last few days on a blog…somewhere…about romance as collectables. What better thing to collect than books, I say.

    Happy March peops,

  41. Teresa W. Says:

    I have many books on my keeper list. Most of them are autographed by the authors. My favorite author is Sherrily Kenyon, love her Dark-Hunter series. As an avid fan of all genres I’m always looking for new author to read!

  42. Nathalie Says:

    Any book by Shirlee Busbee and Laurie McBain is in my keeper list!

  43. Thanks everyone for such a wonderful post and some wonderful best books 🙂 I’ll be reading for the next hundred years to get through them all LOL.

    Nathalie – oh, yeah, two of the greats!

    Okay, barrel rolled… and it’s #3. Congrats, Aztec Lady! Email me with your address and I’ll get your prize out asap!

  44. Woohoo. Congrats, Aztec Lady.

  45. azteclady Says:

    Wow… thank you, Paula! *happy dance*

  46. Congratulations, Aztec Lady! Enjoy your reading!

  47. Congrats, azteclady!

  48. Congrats, azteclady!

    I remember the Silver Brumbies…still have a couple lurking on my shelves. At about the same age I loved Mary Patchett (sp?) and H.M Peel.


  49. azteclady Says:

    It’s here, it’s here!!! *happy dancing* I have it in hot little paws *gleeful cackle*


    Thank you so much, Paula!

  50. You are quite welcome, AztecLady . Enjoy!

    Paula x

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