Beth made me do it*

It’s all her fault, really it is. Because she asked us, her loyal readers, if we remembered the first romance we ever read. So I posted a comment about that. The basic facts:

When: circa 1975
Where: Austria
What: a book called Kalifornische Sinfonie, translated into German from English. I remember the author’s first name was Gwen. I remember quite a lot about the story.

So after that my curiosity was not going to let it go. I hopped over the Amazon Germany and was I shocked to find it, immediately, on the basis only of the title and the author’s first name. This isn’t the cover I remember, but it’s definitely the same book.

Finding the German edition made it possible to track down the original title.
Jubilee Trail is still in print, as are all of Gwen Bristow’s novels. Unfortunately they’ve redesigned the cover.
Jubilee Trail
I think the original (1950) cover is wonderful. I can say with absolute certainty that if I ran into that cover in a bookstore today, I’d be forced to pick it up and walk to the cash register.

As it is, I put a more recent edition on hold at the library, along with The Diary of Mattie Spencer by Stella Dallas. I read this one too, a long time ago, and remember it vaguely.

As a teenager I had a real weak spot for stories of women in dire circumstances traveling west. Mrs. Mike, for example. Most women my age have fond memories of Mrs. Mike. I’m really wondering how these novels will strike me, so many years later.

NOTE; the formatting on this post is wonky. That’s not Beth fault, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I hope you’ll muddle through somehow.

15 Replies to “Beth made me do it*”

  1. Its funny you should mention “Mrs Mike” I had a friend that read that and loved it…..when we were about 13 or 14. I have always been curious about it but never read it. What is it about exactly? Yes I can go get it myself Sara and find out for myself…. but do you think now that we are all pretty good connoisseurs of romance something that was written in 1975 or so might not “give us what we are looking for” in terms of a romance novel? I mean there are certain things I look for and things that make me disgard a Historical Romance Novel…..like too much chattiness whose language use doesn’t seem to fit with the time period the book is set in. Just put down a book called “The Masque of the Black Tulip” by Lauren Willig. It is about spies in England and France during the Napoleanic Wars. Way too much modern chit chat in the parlor dialog. I was so disappointed. The cover was beautiful.
    Cynthia in Florida

  2. I’m glad you looked up the covers – gave me the idea to do it myself. And mine are a hoot.

    So “Kalifornische Sinfonie” means “Jubilee Trail”? And what’s it about?? Cmon, the plot is half the fun of it.

  3. My first was V.C. Andrews Pearl series. It was given to me by my grandmother on my 16th birthday. She considered me a woman then :)

  4. The 1st one I read was by Lynn Kurland. I think the title was “This is All I Ask”. It got me interested in the genre and lead me to reading Diana Gabaldon’s series.

  5. I love Mrs. Mike. I read it for the first time when I was 12 or 13. I have re-read it too many times to count and still own a copy of it. I love that the main characters, Mike and Kathy Flannigan, were real people, and the book is based on the adventures they had living in the Canadian Northwest. The sequel written a few years ago, however, is terrible, and I don’t recommend it at all.

  6. [I]Mrs. Mike[/I]! I taught a literature/study skills class for 7th-graders last year, and we used the book as their first experience in reading a novel critically. I was amazed at how these 13- and 14-year-old girls (it’s an all-girl school) looooved the romance of the story! They had such a good time reading it- many of them finished it far ahead of time. There is a veeeery cheesy black-and-white version of the book that I thought they’d love as well, but they turned out to be much more discriminating than that, and much preferred the book!

  7. Mrs. Mike is one of my mom’s favourite books (that, and Lorna Doone, which I have unsuccessfully tried to read on two separate occasions: once when I was about 13 and once when I was 26). I read Mrs. Mike when I was a pre-teen simply because my mom liked it so much, and I loved it, too. The copy she has kicking around the house has a deep teal cover with duct tape holding the spine together (thanks, Dad!). I never thought of it as a romance novel until now. To me, it was an adventure story with characters that gripped my pre-teen mind. I wonder how I’d feel about it today. I saw the sequel in a bookstore a while back and thought about buying it, but seeing Beth R.’s comment, I’m not so sure I want to burst the Mrs. Mike bubble.

    I don’t remember the first romance I ever read (possibly Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz. There’s an intense lesbian love scene – the first I had ever read – that is forever burned into my brain). I do remember reading Harlequins with my friend Patricia when we were about 12, huddled against the school wall during recess, skimming through the pages looking for the word “breast” (always a giant banner when trying to find the sex scenes), giggling madly and hoping we wouldn’t get caught by the recess monitor. Ah, the memories….

  8. I’d like to think that my spiritual intro to romantic fiction was Anne of Green Gables and the Katy Did series. But they weren’t the technical firsts.
    My technical intro to the romance genre were a couple of Harlequin Presents that made their way into my Mom’s mailbox. I too noticed the link between breasts and sex scenes, and was probably about 9 years old – just what age should a sex scene be introduced to a child anyway? With two young daughters, I don’t want to think about the idea of home-censorship right now. I can picture their covers exactly. “Say Hello to Yesterday” was one of them. More interesting than the watercolour art cover of Anne of Green Gables, I’ll tell you that. Still see it popping up in Value Villages across the land – something in the plot about the woman running away from a husband who never divorced the woman, but had spent years looking to find her again. I do think that I got the idea that women could work in office buildings from those two Harlequins, because one was set in a publishing house and very interesting when it wasn’t getting all mushy with loooove. Again, making me think about what will be handy on my bookshelves when the daughters come looking for more to read than their Dr. Seuss and Disney abridged schlock.

  9. I have to thank my mother for the first romance book I ever read – she gave me a copy of The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer. I still think it’s one of the classics of the genre, and reread it every year or so. The dialog was my favourite thing about it when I first read it, and still remains so. Unfortunately the cover of the edition I have doesn’t look anything like Sophy to my way of thinking, and I’ve been glad to see much more attractive reprints over the years. (By the way, Sara, last time I reread it I bore your comments in mind about the plethora of exclamation marks because I hate them too, and I found about three in the whole book. Is that something which would have changed with the edition?)

  10. Sheena, that’s a good question. I’d love to find a dehyphenated Sophy. Mine is a fairly recent edition, though. Do you know what edition you read?

  11. Jessica’s comment about the movie version of Mrs. Mike started me down a new line of thought.

    Sara, would you ever allow someone to make Into the Wilderness into a movie? If so, is there anyone you would like to see play the roles of Nathaniel and Elizabeth?

  12. Beth — only if I had contractual promises that they’d spend as much time, energy and talent on a miniseries version ala Lonesome Dove.

  13. I ordered Mrs. Mike from scholastic magazine while in grade school. (1968) I loved historical fiction, still do. It was one of those books that taught one many things. Re reading it as an adult blew my mind at what i missed as a young person.
    Be well,
    Erica

  14. i think i picked up Diana Gabaldon when i was ten. yup. ten. i’m a VERY advanced reader. my first harlequin, though, was Wedding in White by Diana Palmer…and i havent stopped since. most of my family thinks its an outrage, including my father. see, i’m only 18, but i know more about sex and romance (on paper at least) than they’d like me to…:-)

  15. My first romance novel was Johanna Lindsay’s, Love Only Once – I then followed up and read the other Malory family novels. I think I was either 13 or 14.

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