Asking me to pick a favorite romance novel is like asking me to pick which of my dogs I love the most. Im-fricking-possible. So here’s the story of the first romance novel I ever bought.
When I was about eleven years old, it was an odd thing for me to have money. I’m not sure where I’d come up with the few dollars that I was going to use to buy my mother’s birthday present, but I was excited about it.
I went into the tiny bookstore in our tiny mall. B. Dalton Booksellers. I was a little embarrassed when I walked into the Romance novel section. After all, I was eleven. I blushed when I saw people kissing. But I’d read several of my mother’s collection of them, and I knew that she’d love whatever book I could find for her. And also, that eventually, I might be able to read it too. (She kept the spicy ones on a bookshelf that my big sister and I weren’t supposed to read.)
There were several thicker books that I wouldn’t have money for. I looked for her favorite authors, but they all had the thick books. I’d only have enough for one of the skinnier ones.
I picked up a slim volume with a purple spine. The cover, edged in the same purple, had a swarthy, tanned, shirtless man standing behind a pale blonde woman with short curls. She was dressed only in a white towel. A massive ship stood behind them both.
SCARLET BUTTERFLY by Sandra Chastain.
With burning cheeks and a sweaty palm gripping my wad of dollars, I went up to the counter. I put the book face-down, and looked at my feet while the woman rang it up. She drew me out in conversation, and when she found out it was my mother’s birthday, she let me select from a pile of free books too. I got my mother two books with my few meager dollars. I was over the moon.
Me and my first romance purchase.
Mom was delighted with the gift, both the free book and SCARLET BUTTERFLY. As time went on, and I plowed through my mother’s entire collection of Romance novels, I finally read that very first Romance I’d purchased. It became one of my favorites, and I re-read it several times. When I moved out of the house, and my sisters, mother’s, and my reading collections had become muddled and mixed, SCARLET BUTTERFLY came with me.
In October of 2011 I had the pleasure of attending my first writer’s conference. I met several very interesting women, made some life-long friends, and learned so much. One of the coolest people I spoke to just in passing, was a white-haired, elderly lady with a walker. She wasn’t physically strong, but she was sharp and clever. I laughed with her a couple of times over the weekend. I don’t think she wore a nametag, so I didn’t catch who she was.
At the Maggie Ceremony, the GRW chapter presented their awards. They gave several to their chapter members. I clapped, smiled, and tweeted the winners. But then they got to the Nancy Knight Mentorship award. They described the winner’s willingness to help other writers, how sweet, caring, and wonderful this person was, and then they announced her name.
I looked up as my heart skipped a beat. Across the giant white screen at the front of the room was printed the name:
It took a long time for her to reach the stage. After all, a lady with a walker can only move so quickly. But it was her. The person who’d written the very first romance that I’d ever bought.
I wanted so badly another chance to speak with her. To tell her how much I’d enjoyed SCARLET BUTTERFLY. To get her autograph, to tell her how inspiring it was to me to meet her. But I didn’t see her again after that. We had to leave the awards ceremony before it was over, and she wasn’t at the workshop on the following morning.
I may never get to meet her, but I saw her. I put a face to the name on the cover of my dog-eared, read-to-shreds copy of SCARLET BUTTERFLY.
The world may be small, but sometimes it’s freaking incredible.