What’s the first book you remember reading? Not the ones you know you read, or ones you know your parents read to you (if they did), but the first book you actually remember reading. Do you remember, still, a section, a snippet of dialogue or narrative, just the cover? Did that book influence your future preferences? It’s Monday, let’s mumble on about that first book.
As a kid, I’m not sure I really read “children’s books.” I mean, I’m sure I did to some extent, but those weren’t the books readily available. The only things we had that could be construed as children’s books were an old set of World Book Encyclopedia from the early 70s, which were obsolete by the time I trawled through their pages for interesting tidbits (and school projects!). The finest addition by far, though, was a children’s set called Childcraft.
For those who don’t know what the Childcraft series was, check out their Wiki or the Childcraft site for a better description than my fuzzy memories can give. I’m not sure we had the entire set of Childcraft books. I could be mistaken, but I believe we had to buy those one at a time using the old Green Stamps program (yes, I’m really dating myself here). If we did have them all, I only really remember the one with nursery rhymes, fables, etc. I loved this book. It had classic illustrations of the time and almost original versions of many of the stories. These weren’t the watered down versions you see today. The stories meant to scare kids into doing right were scary to little 6-7 yr old me.
You can only read a book so many times, however, no matter how lovely and I sought new material. I filled the years afterwards with novels deemed “above my reading level” (a comment by a librarian who refused to loan me books, even with my mother present. It was the first time I ever saw my mother lose her shit to an authority figure – but not the last -and the last time for many, many years that I stepped into a public library). I devoured series like The Hardy Boys and Chronicles of Narnia, Nero Wolfe and Perry Mason, John Carter, Mack Bolan. Mystery, fantasy, science fiction! I even read a few horror novels (Amityville Horror gave me the creeps).
Then I stumbled across one of my sisters’ books. Romances. Many of them had a Fabio cover. Some of them were quite formulaic (hello Harlequin) and forgettable. Others were terribly formulaic yet addictive (hello my fluffy favorite, Barbara Cartland).
And then there was A Rose in Winter (this is the cover I remember).
This book. This book is the first one I remember squealing out loud while reading. I think I even did a happy dance. It’s the first one I remember reading more than once. I probably read it in the early 80s, but I still remember that moment, that one revelation that changed everything. Yes, it’s old. Yes, it was produced in the days of the classic bodice-ripper. Yes, I’m sure there are others out there better or more realistic or less problematic than an old 80s romance, but dayum. If you haven’t read this book, DO!!
To me, A Rose in Winter is Beauty and the Beast meets Phantom of the Opera. Without Erik’s insanity. You get the heroine, infatuated with a young handsome man, auctioned off to marry a masked, supposedly disfigured older man in order to pay off her father’s debts. Of course, her new husband is a kind, patient, and gentle soul under his frightening exterior. Of course, this puts our heroine in a bit of a dilemma since she still cares deeply for her dashing young man. So much drama! So much angst! *swoon*
If you have a used bookstore or thrift store near you, you can probably pick up a paperback for around 25₵ to 50₵. IF you can find it at a new bookstore, you’ll be looking at standard mass market paperback prices (around $8). Amazon carries the kindle version for $6.99. Regardless of how you buy it, just buy it! I doubt you’ll be disappointed.
Back cover blurb:
The fairest flower in Mawbry is Erienne Fleming, the enchanting, raven-haired daughter of the village mayor. Charming, spirited and exquisitely lovely, she is beset on all sides by suitors, any one of whom would pay a king’s fortune for a place in her heart. But Erienne has eyes for only one: the dashing and witty young Yankee, Christopher Seton.
But marriage for love is not to be, for her irresponsible and unscrupulous father, crippled by gambling debts, is intent on auctioning off his beautiful daughter to the highest bidder. And in the end, Erienne is devastated to find it is the strange and secretive Lord Saxton who has purchased her—a mysterious, tragic figure who wears a mask and a cloak at all times to hide disfiguring scars gained in a terrible fire some years back.
But in the passing days, Saxton’s true nature is revealed to her. A gentle and adoring soul, he treats his new bride with warmth and abiding tenderness, yet appears to her only by daylight. She, in turn, vows to be a good and loyal wife to him. And then Christopher Seton reenters Erienne’s world Conflicted by emotions she cannot suppress, Erienne valiantly attempts to remain honorable to her elusive, enigmatic husband but feels herself irresistibly drawn to Seton’s passion, his fire, and his secrets. Entangled in intrigues she doesn’t yet understand, Erienne Fleming will soon have to make a devastating choice: between love and honor…between her duty and her heart.