Today I was reminded why I started reading and writing romance.
Last week I remembered the plot of the first romance novel I ever truly loved. I didn’t recall the author or the title but I did remember the image on the cover. I spent two days searching the internet for this one solitary image. Talk about a needle in a hay stack! On one of the message boards I frequented, someone suggested I check fictiondb.com. I mentioned on facebook that I was pretty certain it was a Harlequin, released before 1990 (I was around eleven or so when I read this book) and was thicker than the other category romances I had read. Kay Springsteen suggested it might be a Superromance. I headed back to fictiondb.com and started in 1986, clicking on every book they released that year.
Until finally…I found what I was looking for!
Voices on the Wind by Sandra Canfield, Harlequin Superromance #252 (1987)
Well, after my slightly maniacally obsessive searching, I found a copy of this book for less than a dollar! I waited impatiently for this book to arrive. Finally, it did!
Thankfully, Peanuts Stinkerbell decided to take a beautifully long nap today, and I set about devouring this vintage Harlequin. I was both excited, and nervous. Would it live up to my memories? Twenty plus years have passed since I first read this, and I have had years of training as a writer. Would this favorite book fall short? Would I find things in the writing that disillusioned my memories for all time?
Well, I’ve finished the book now and I can say, without a hint of reservation that I was far from disappointed. There was one scene that would now be considered a cliché by current standards (character described herself by looking in the mirror, which is a big fiction no-no now) but the rest of the story had me on edge, just waiting for the next page.
Voices on the Wind is the story of Burke and Jill, two lawyers with a prestigious Boston law firm. The book opens with Jill receiving the news that Burke was back. He’d taken a leave of absence after the death of his wife Nicole. Burke suffered survivor’s guilt, and blamed himself for his wife’s death. Jill was happy her friend was back, and when she sees him after those long 18 months she begins to feel a surprising attraction.
Burke, too, is glad to be back with Jill. She was the one friend who he had always felt comfortable with, whose honesty he had always admired.
Now he was starting to unwillingly admire her eyes, her hair…her body.
Burke fights his attraction for her until he can’t holdout any longer and they act on their attraction. Burke begins to realize that his late wife wouldn’t want him to spend the rest of his life alone and he becomes more comfortable in his relationship with Jill.
Jill’s older sister also plays a large part in this book. She’s sixteen years older than Jill and finally found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. But someone threatens that happiness when they demand money for keeping her secret from so long ago…this blackmail eventually affects Jill in a dangerous way toward the end of the story.
Sandra Canfield did a wonderful job with her characters and her plot and I am glad I went nuts trying to find another copy of this book. And I can see where this first favorite book of mine has influenced my writing today. The transitions between scenes in her book and my romantic suspense manuscript were strikingly similar (Such as “The next morning dawned cold and bright…” from my own romantic suspense and “The next day dawned blue and beautiful…” from chapter two of Canfield’s novel) as were her villain set-up and mine. Both her villain and mine start off rational and devolve into madness. There were other striking coincidences.
Odd, considering more than twenty years have passed since I read this book.
It makes me wonder, for other romance writers out there—what one book has influenced your writing—voice, plot, style, etc.—the most? Is it an old book like “Voices on the Wind’’? Do you still have it? Do you reread it occasionally?
***Sandra Canfield wrote for Harlequin and Bantam, and was a multi-award winner during her career. She was born in 1944 and died in 2003. Other titles include: