Sunday, February 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom's birthday is always a special day in the Castle family. It should be, considering the number of years she spent making her three kids eat vegetables, driving us to various school activities in lousy weather, taking her life into her hands to wake me up on school days, and generally taking excellent care of her unruly brood. That includes Dad, by the way:-) I wanted to share her day with all of you today, though, not only because she's an awesome person who deserves it, but because I probably wouldn't be writing what I do if it weren't for her. See, my mom is the Original Romance Junkie. And I don't only owe her my existence...I probably owe her my career. Oh my God, I can already her her gloating out there somewhere. Yeah Mom, you were right. You always said I should write a book. Annoying, but you were right:-)

My house was chock full o' romance for as long as I can remember. I know I've already told the story of my early reading revelation around here, so I won't repeat myself. But with a kid who could read like that at age three in the house, it was only a matter of time before Karen Castle's eldest child's interest was piqued by the multiple paperbacks scattered around the house. And they were so pretty...all those bare-chested warriors and gorgeous women trying desperately not to wear their flowing dresses. I believe, though, that I first became interested in romance because of the monthly boxes.

What boxes, you may ask? Actually, a lot of you can probably guess. See, mom belonged to the Harlequin book club, and every month, the new releases from the lines she preferred were sent to the house along with a free gift. What was the gift? Well, every month, Harlequin also sent along a new wine glass. It took me a lot of years to figure out that this was really pretty funny. After all, it plays into the stereotype of the romance reader...though I'll tell you what, those glasses survived longer than most of the other ones in the house did (my dad is a notorious glass-breaker), and I have several in my possession even now. I cherish them, simply because of the memories they bring back. Every month was a surprise, and mom gamely let me rummage through what she'd gotten. At some point, there was a book about some sort of mer-man, kind of different than the rest. That one, I read. My first Harlequin. And she and I both enjoyed it.

I didn't realize, way back then, how cool it was that my mother was allowing me to read romance. It didn't seem out of the ordinary to me, just a nice thing that Mom and I had in common, an interest we could share. I see now that she was quite open-minded about the whole thing. And rather than hiding those wonderful stories away, almost ashamed, the way some people still are about their reading preference (as if it were embarrassing not to be reading something with more, I don't know, gravitas or something), Mom decided to open up a whole new world for me, the natural extension of the fairy tales I had loved as a child. "That's a good one," she'd tell me, tossing me the latest Johanna Lindsey or Julie Garwood. I'd read it. We'd discuss. And I have to say, I don't ever remember her taste being off. She knew her stuff. Still does, in fact:-) It was great day for me when I recommended someone she hadn't tried yet.

Years have gone by, many things have changed; the boxes quit coming long ago, and Fabio appears to have found other career options to pursue. But some things are eternal, it seems. Those Harlequin glasses, for one. And the piles of books, scattered around her house, tucked into every nook and cranny. "How's this one?" I always ask, waving an intriguing-looking paperback in her direction. If she tells me it's a good one, I take it as gospel.

She tells me mine fall into that category. I couldn't be prouder. Happy birthday, Mom...and thanks for being not only a great parent, but a generous reader, and now, a treasured friend.

And thanks, everyone, for letting me share Mom's 56th with you. Uh-oh, I can hear her yowling somewhere...I meant 26th, Mom, sorry!

So now it's time for the question of the day: how did all of you get introduced to reading romance? Did someone share, or did you find it all on your own?

-Kendra

P.S. That cute (and passed out) kid in the picture is my middle baby, Connor, when he was just a little smaller. He's gotten a little taller, but he still hangs on his Gramma like that.

13 comments:

  1. Kendra~

    What a wonderful post! Your mother sounds fantastic. Happy Birthday Kendra's Mom!

    You are so lucky Kendra. My mom didn't read but my dad was a big-time reader, so I was the three year-old reading Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins, Robert Ludlum and Wilbur Smith. I can't tell you how many books I had taken away from me at school. I guess I'm lucky that Mom had no idea what I was reading so they weren't taken away at home as well.

    I read my first Romance in 2000, I think it was Jennifer Crusie's Fast Women that I'd picked up at Target. After that, I was hooked and I never looked back.

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  2. Hi Kendra, and Happy Birthday to your mother--who is only three years older than me!
    My mother didn't live to see me publish my first book, or even come close, since she died in 1977. I wish she was here now.
    Mom didn't read romances, but she passed on her tendency to boy-watch to me. She thought Johnny Cash was really cool, and there was a tall, dark, handsome guy who worked in a cheese shop in the mall who, as she put it, could sell her anything.
    The romance reading I did was mostly Mary Stewart, whose books I inherited from my great aunt, and Georgette Heyer novels, which were the only romance novels my older sister considered fit to read. Since then I've read others, but they are still my favorites.
    And yes, Kendra, you need to read them!

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  3. Morning, ladies! And thank you, from Mom, for the birthday wishes! I just told her she needs to come over and check out this post:-) She's enjoying a morning in bed, as it should be.

    Robin, LOL at having books taken away from you at school. Those are some great authors! The nuns have no appreciation for the precocious reader:-) I don't think I ever brought a romance to school, just tore through them at home. School was for stuff like Christopher Pike, which really was sort of teenage trash of the paranormal variety, but oh, how I loved it. "Remember Me" was a favorite.

    Hi Cheryl! I wish your mom was around to see what you've done. It sounds like she would have appreciated it! Agreed that Johnny Cash was and still is pretty cool. Gotta love The Man in Black. It's awesome that you got an older sister with discerning taste in her romances...those first ones that hook us always stay with us:-)

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  4. Hey Kendra,
    Happy birthday, Mama Castle. The two of you share the same pretty smile! My mother and I used to swap books endlessly, with my romance reading beginning with Danielle Steel. My mother-in-law was also a great reader, and when we lived close by, boxes of books went back and forth between our homes. I'm sad that neither of them lived to see my books, but I know they are proud. I dedicated LOS to my parents who were after me for years to write a book. Apparently, I was quite good at "fabricating" stories when I was a kid. I have no idea what they were talking about, but I do see my daughter developing a similar "skill."

    Oh, and I get that monthly mailing from Harlequin because I LOVE the Blaze books. No way do I let my 13-year-old read them but my son loves to announce that Blaze has arrived, complete with a plastic cup. I guess they've downgraded from the wine glass days! They know that once Blaze is in the house, I am unavailable for a day or two. LOL

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  5. Happy Birthday, Karen!

    And, Kendra - a merman? Your mom is A-ok in my book! :)

    I don't know how I first came to reading Romance, but I do remember going into the library and picking up any Ann Mather, Anne Stuarts, Nora Roberts that were there. A friend and I would share them in 8th and 9th grades and we even challenged each other to write one. I finished, she didn't.

    Then, of course, came the ones with Fabio on the covers and, yeah, I was hooked. I remember reading Johanna Lindsay's, Julie Garwoods, Jude Devereaux... the list goes on and on.

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  6. Happy birthday Kendra's mom! And a big Sunday howdy to you, Kendra!

    I have to say, I was very puzzled. I kept looking at the photo thinking that it did not look like you based on other pics I have seen, but that it could not possibly be your mother! She looks about 30! Amazing!

    I loved all your memories. How very special of you to share them with us. My mom was never much of a reader. I have no idea where my rapacious need to read came from! But she supported that addiction all my life and is now thrilled at my success. I think she is one of my best salesmen, although as she always tells me, "I don't think the old ladies in the home like books with sex." LOL!

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  7. Sharon,
    You might be surprised. One of my fans is 79 years old!

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  8. Ha ha! So true Cheryl! My mom's exact words were that she does not like to read about sex when she isn't getting any! LOL! But that is probably just her opinion and not the norm as those old ladies have a rowdy reputation! I have a number of fans who are in their senior years.

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  9. Happy Bday,Mom Castle!

    And remember, as Mae West said, "You're as young as the men you feel!" :-)

    I really wish my mom was still around to read my books, which I'm sure she would enjoy, because she too loved a good romance. She loved the old Gothics by Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney, and I remember picking up a few of her books as a bored teen. I quickly became HOOKED! And yes, Cheryl, Mary Stewart remains one of my all time favorites.

    AC

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  10. Chiming in late here.

    What a good thing it is, to love and cherish your mother. I'm sure your blog made her day.

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  11. Thanks, ladies! Sorry it took me a bit, grocery shopping turned into quite an expedition:-)

    Marie, God help me if my daughter inherits my "skills." Though I think she got some of them, so I'm in for it! That's awesome that you get the monthly Boxes O' Blaze. Your daughter will probably get into them eventually!

    Judi, I knew you'd approve of our having been hooked by a merman! That was a big novelty at the time, and I loved it. And ooh, Jude Deveraux! A Knight in Shining Armor was one of my early faves.

    Sharon, I think you just made my mother's day:-) She made a screechy noice when I told her I'd actually been honest about how old she was! That's awesome that your mom talks you up. And I agree with Cheryl, she'd probably be surprised at just how many romance fans are in that home!

    Cindy, LMAO at that quote! That's perfect! And now I suppose I'll have to add Mary Stewart to my enormous list.

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  12. MM, I hope she did...I believe she's out enjoying some Cheesecake Factory as we speak!

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  13. Super birthday post to your mom, Kendra! My mother never told me she read Lady Chatterly's Lover at her high school library in Canada, they were more progressive up there, until I told her about my reading Coffee, Tea, or Me and Tender Loving Care when I was in junior high. :) But my mother was a Star Trek fan and loved Dracula as much as I did, so hats off to progressive moms! Happy birthday to yours!

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