I’m Addicted to Love

September 2, 2011 at 8:04 am 2 comments

I have this theory that so far has proven to be quite possible that Iris Johansen is actually a gateway drug to the amazing and life-altering addiction that is the romance genre.

It’s a bold statement, I know.  One, I am saying romances are addicting.  Two, I am blaming Iris Johansen, but again I want to stress that this is just a working theory.  See, you pick up a Johansen book thinking everything is innocent enough–after all she writes mysteries, you say. Mysteries are a completely legitimate form of literature.  Agatha Christie wrote mysteries. Yes, you should be perfectly fine.  What could happen? I mean it’s just reading for goodness sake.


The next thing you know Iris Johansen leads to Linda Howard and Linda Howard leads to Nora Roberts and Nora Roberts leads to Julie Garwood in a chain of increasingly romantic plots.  They start out mysteries and end up romantic suspense.  And after a while you start to crave the passion, the romance, the fire, the possession.  You need a new book, a new author, a new hit, and so you slowly begin to fall deeper and deeper into the romance culture.

Look both ways before crossing the aisle

By the time you get to Garwood, there’s no going back.  Julie Garwood’s romantic suspense novels really hook you in. Her great mysteries keep you craving more, so you start on her backlist, but as you move further and further down that list, you realize that you are also moving genres.  Romantic suspenses slowly become historical romances.  And you find yourself walking past the mystery aisle in the bookstore.  Creeping furtively towards that shrouded back section—lured there by your own addictive need for more passion, danger, love and those brightly colored covers, dangerous men and spitfire women. One day you are safe and sound in mystery, the next you are in romance.  And as anyone who has ever been hooked knows: you never recover from the romance genre.

Within the historical romance subgenre you move from medievals to Regencies to Victorians.  Scottish lairds, dashing dukes, innocent ladies, and compelling hoydens.   Next thing you know you are reading contemporary: Crusie, Phillips, and Gibbson.  From there it is only a short fall into category romances. Harlequin Blaze titles like Slow Hands appear on your bookshelf along with classics like Pregnant by the Boss! and Secretary by Day, Mistress by Night.  By then you are good and hooked, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Moreover, there is nothing you want to do about it or even should do about it.

It starts so innocently.  One day you pick up a mystery, and the next you are deeply involved in the romance subculture, which is why when you, my sweet, innocent friend, ask me for a book recommendation, I tell you to try reading Iris Johansen’s The Ugly Duckling.  It was my gateway into the best thing that has ever happened to me—despite my previous drug metaphor—and it really is a gateway into romance for the romance-illiterate.  The plot is suspenseful, the tale of a vengeful mother on a quest to bring down the men who took everything away from her: her husband, her daughter, her identity, her security, and even her face.  Readers emphasize with Nell Calder, relate to her and her pain and burning desire for revenge, and in this emotionally and thrilling plot of danger and intrigue, Johansen cleverly weaves romance.   The Ugly Duckling doesn’t start out as a romance, but by the end, you mainly remember the narrative’s searing, possessive, passionate, steamy, uncontrollable, shudder-inducing romance between dangerous Alpha hero Nicholas and determined Nell.

I have recommended The Ugly Duckling to six people in the past four years—numerous others in the nine years since I first picked the book up in middle school.  Of those six people, four of them have actually read it, and out of those four, three friends now read romance novels exclusively.  I blame—or credit—Johansen with their addiction to romance.  She manages to include the best of both mystery and romance in her novels, tempting unsuspecting readers into one of the biggest genres in publishing and tricking narrow-minded readers into accepting a romantic plot.

When I first started The Ugly Duckling, I laughed at the thought of reading romances.  They were low, embarrassing, bad.  I scoffed at the notion that intelligent people would read such trash.  Johansen’s book led me down a path that changed my mind and now my life.  Therefore, I suggest The Ugly Duckling to you.  I go by the old phrase, “the more the merrier,” especially when it comes to people reading romance novels, and I won’t ever underestimate the power Johansen has as a gateway drug again.  Maybe it will lead you down a similar path to the best addiction of your life.


Entry filed under: Ramblings on Romance, Suggest Me Something: Lists. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Spencer  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Romance novels are my drug, plain and simple. However, I will rationalize it by saying 1. they never hurt anyone (unless you count the disappointed feeling of finishing the book) and 2. I’d much rather this be my drug than something I have to snort, shoot, or drink 🙂 That being said, I need another hit!!

  • 2. jeanniemv  |  September 14, 2011 at 2:39 am

    mysteries are my drug of choice for years but my co-worker introduced me to a new fix – scottish romance novels which then lead to historical romance to regency romance and now back around to romance mystries. wow….mystery and steamy sex? who knew?


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