Thea Devine posting today. So tell me if this isn’t a bookaholic’s dream. You’re buying a house and strewn all over the living room floor are books, a hundred or more of them. You’re buying the house from the estate of a recently deceased widow, and you know it had been broken into, but the important things were not taken: the fireplace surrounds, the sliding doors, the books.
Among them was a uniformly bound set of novels by Augusta Evans Wilson —
— who, I came to find out, was a best selling author of her time with her novel, St. Elmo. St. Elmo has to have been the original bad boy hero who had to redeem himself to win his orphaned heroine love. The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies just after the Civil War and allegedly was so popular that people named children, homes, streets and towns after it. and it was also said that Rhett Butler was supposedly modeled on the character.
There were a half dozen of Wilson’s novels, of which I’ve read 3 — St. Elmo, At the Mercy of Tiberius , and Inez, a Tale of the Alamo.
Which led me to think about the other best selling romance authors of their day, some of whom are long-time favorites of mine: Faith Baldwin — who wrote career girl (usually nurses or secretaries) romance; Kathleen Norris (rags to riches, usually set in the Mission section of San Francisco, vividly portrayed); Emilie Loring (hometown girls in New England, richly evoked in a very distinctive voice).
I know there are some I’m forgetting, but I’m so glad I read those long ago authors long before the idea of becoming an author myself was ever remotely possible.
Because of them, I found what I liked to read, and what I wanted to write. From Wilson, and latterly, Catherine Clinton’s The Plantation Mistress,I discovered the pre-civil war south through the women’s eyes, so I’ve been collecting women’s civil war diaries for some time now, just out of my fascination with the time period.
Because of them, I came to love stories of heroines returning to their small town roots. If they’re going down south, I’m there. If there’s a plantation, I’m up all night reading it. I love married-to-the-wrong-guy-but-maybe-not stories; stories especially of wounded heroes and heroines overcoming their pasts and finding each other; heroines caught in circumstances manipulated by someone else for nefarious purposes; ghost stories; stories with conspiracies simmering under the surface that are just hinted at as the solution to the overt problems of the heroine (read gothics).
I just love old books. Love reading the “commercial fiction” from before the turn of the century, even having to plow through the dense Victorian prose and quotations from obscure poets and philosophers. Love finding old books, as I’ve posted elsewhere. Love it all, as witness my bookshelves and desk room floor.
But who’s on my current TBR pile then, you might ask. Well, Gone Girl, Tatiana de Rosnay, Kate Morton, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Karen Rose, A Victorian Household, Carla Neggers, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and Macaria (another of Wilson’s novels written during the Civil War), among a dozen other books. What about you?
So who were your influences, who’s on your To Be Read pile? Do you like old books? Have you read Norris, Baldwin or Loring? Do you have other favorites, old or new?
Thea Devine is working on a new erotic contemporary romance and will be putting five backlist titles on-line soon.