Your First Historical?

976962Do you remember the first book of historical fiction you ever read?

For me it was I Was There With Ethan Allen And The Green Mountain Boys. I don’t remember how old I was. Probably third or fourth grade and I can’t recall anything about the story except that it placed a boy about my age into the excitement of a dramatic moment in history. The whole premise of the series was placing a boy (not a girl) in a dramatic moment in history.

I tried to find something about the book, but it seems to have disappeared. If it has been re-released it lost the I Was There With part of the title. (This is not the correct book cover either)

Houghton_AC85.Aℓ194L.1869_pt.2aa_-_Little_Women,_1878_coverThe next historically set book I fell in love with was Little Women, definitely a book to win the hearts of little girls. It did not have the excitement of the Green Mountain Boys, but I cried buckets when Beth died and I wanted to throw the book against the wall when Laurie doesn’t wind up with Jo. I think I was hot-wired for Romance fiction even then.

200px-Cherryamessn1I was also a voracious reader of Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames (anyone remember Cherry Ames books?). While technically not historicals, they took place in a time period that seemed a distant past to a little bookworm like myself. I loved that Nancy Drew drove a “roadster” and that Cherry Ames traveled to exciting places. I still remember a scene in one book where Nancy and Ned get caught in quicksand and Ned lifts her out. In Cherry Ames, I remember that head nurses were always scolding her for wearing rouge, but, you see, her cheeks were just naturally rosy.

A huge appeal for me at the time in the Nancy Drew books was her relationship with Ned Nickerson. Whenever Ned showed up, I perked up. Romance, even then. Cherry Ames had the occasional romance and I liked that part of her stories as much as the other parts.

Wuthering_Heights_1920I don’t remember reading a great deal of historical books in my teen years. I read what was assigned in school and that is how I read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Both made an impression on me, because, unlike all of the above books besides Little Women, I remember the stories, but I’m not sure I can say I remember them fondly. There was cruelty in both books and I didn’t like it. And, even at a tender age, I scoffed at Jane Eyre winding up in a ditch and then getting rescued by–who else?–long lost relatives.

Somewhere in my teen years I also read Pride and Prejudice, but I only vaguely remembered the story.

Invisible_ManIn college I majored in English and I focussed on English Literature as opposed to American Literature. I am woefully unread in F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and John Steinbeck as a result. I did take a Black Literature course (that is what it was called in those days), for which I am profoundly grateful. I was introduced to writers I never would have read – Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin. I also read a fair amount of Thomas Hardy in college and was in the midst of an independent study imagescourse on D.H. Lawrence when my college experienced its own dramatic moment in history. It closed early after the Kent State shootings.

It took me some time to discover Regency Historicals, but once I did, I knew I’d found my home!

What was your first Historical?

And speaking of Historicals, come join the Harlequin Historical Spotlight over at eHarlequin. We’ll be chatting all month.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.

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10 Responses to Your First Historical?

  1. ki pha says:

    Wow, trying to remember what historical I read as a kid is not coming to mind that easily. I did read the Secret Garden and there was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett as a kid. Are they historical?

    But in my teen years I also read alot of what the school gave me, which I definitely enjoyed.

    The Clay Marble by MinFong Ho was one I absolutely loved and is close to my heart because it relates to my own family’s story (Vietnam/Cambodia war story and refugee). There’s a mini love story mingled within this sad but courageous child war story which got me to write my own war story.

    Then there was Untill They Bring the StreetCars Back by Stanley Gordon West, got me loving mystery and is set pre-Vietnam war. Then there was Kindred by Octavia Butler (time travel!), this one really got me into history because of the antebellum era and contemporary writing style. All The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brian (Vietnam war/ homecoming story) that is written in first person from multiple soldier characters got me understanding how war and PTSD affect them mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

    But I did read my first romance and possibly historical romance in high school with Barbara Delinsky’s Twilight Whisper, I said possibly historical because it’s set in the 60s. But my very first historical romance was Stephanie Laurens’ What Priced Love? (Cynsyter series).

    But if you ask about movies/films I can probably tell you more about that too.

    • diane says:

      The Clay Marble sounds like the sort of story I love to read. I love stories of children conquering adversity!

      I love that you found books that spoke to your family’s experiences!

  2. Rosemary Sutcliffe all the way! And like ki pha, I was and am a big fan of The Secret Garden. I think the scene of Mary alone in the dining room after cholera has struck the household is one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever read.

    First historical romance was the swooningly silly Angelique series, and/or Daphne du Maurier.

  3. alisha woods says:

    I believe it was one of Jude Deveraux’s Velvet series or Stephaine Laurens Cynster series. Was reading contemporary until saw the A&E Pride and Prejudice then started reading historical

  4. I read The Secret Garden at a very early age and it is still one of my favorites. I read Black Beauty when I was six or seven and I still love it. I also read the Little Women books as well. I read Pride and Prejudice at the age of nine and that hooked me on Regency romance. I do remember reading a book about a girl name Jane Addams who was crippled. It was historical fiction, I think. I read it when I was about five. I think the book is still on the shelves in my room at my Mom’s. Now I have to find it and read it to discover why it has stuck in my memory.

  5. Mary Blayney says:

    Thought about this off and on yesterday and cannot recall the first books I read on my own, much less the first historical. The first books that stand out in my mind are Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames though I consider Nancy’s genre to be mystery and Cherry’s to be independent career woman 😉

    First historical is probably Georgette Heyer which is fitting as I now write Regencies. Or maybe Gone With the Wind. Great question that I can’t answer! Or maybe Captain Blood and Scaramouche or Scarlet Pimpernel and for sure Tale of Two Cities is in their somewhere.

    So you see the list goes on and on. I might sit down and make a timeline but will not bore you all with that!

    • diane says:

      Cherry Ames was definitely “independent woman!”

      I must confess (although you know how poorly read I am compared to you and almost every romance writer I know) I never read Gone With The Wind. Did read A Tale of Two Cities, though. And Les Miserables and The Count of Monte Cristo. Not The Scarlet Pimpernel, though. That was another iconic book that I would have loved but never heard of!

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