I have made many great books in my life, but these are the books which have had a lasting effect on me as person and a writer.
This is the very first adult romance novel I read. I was about to turn fourteen and remember being swept away in this all-consuming story of adults with unhealed hurt and unforgotten love, teens discovering love for the first time. Alice and Hayes have stayed with me for … seventeen years… Okay, now I feel old! I remember blushing at the intimate scenes, being heartbroken when everything fell apart and a rush of joy at the end and… Oh! That epilogue! I think it’s safe to say without discovering romance in these pages I wouldn’t be a romance writer.
Maribeth and Tommy are possibly my favourite characters of all time. My eldest sister lent me her copy of The Gift on a train ride when I was fourteen. It opens with a tragedy for Tommy and I was lost in the 50’s as Steele swept me into Maribeth story. She’s abandoned by her family for something we shrug at today. I own three copies of this book and their romance and their journey will forever hold a special place in my heart. I finished reading The Gift and I knew I was going to be a published author. It was my calling.
In my teenage years I wrote novellas along the same lines of Harlequin Series Romance. Then I discovered Angels by Marian Keyes. Maggie Walsh’s story was fresh and funny, but she dealt with real life. She tipped her life upside down and handled something as serious as her husband’s affair by running off to the land of make believe, Los Angeles… And the ending! Oh it completely took me by surprise but I loved it. I love Marian Keyes. I was a little late catching on to chick-lit but it completely transformed my writing style and it wasn’t long after reading Angels I began writing my first novel.
Family Magic by Patti Larsen
About eighteen months ago I was asked to review a book. I opened the first page and I can’t tell you how much I dreaded reading this book. I’m thirty and a strictly romance kind of girl. It was young adult paranormal and it’s written in first person… ah, I can’t stand first person! But … I LOVED IT! I couldn’t put it down and now I’m completely swept up in Sydlynn Hayle’s world that I spend hours speculating about what’s going to happen in the next books. So these days I read anything that captures my attention. It doesn’t matter what genre because you just don’t know what amazing books your missing if you have a genre prejudice and as for first person…? Tainted Love is written in first person. Family Magic changed me as a reader and a writer.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I don’t know what to tell you about Lou and Will from Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You except it’s been a year since I read this book and I’m still reeling from their story. I downloaded the sample on my phone and was swept away. So I bought the book and continued reading Lou’s struggle outside her comfort zone with Will who’s in a life he doesn’t want. My battery died on my phone while I was walking through town, still reading, so I walked into the nearest book store and bought the book again! I didn’t take my head out of it until I finished. I’ve never cried reading a book, but I sobbed through the last chapters. Me Before You taught me it’s okay to take a sensitive subject such as assisted suicide and take your readers on an emotional journey of a lifetime. It’s okay to break the rules for the sake of writing a better story. It’s okay to make your readers cry.
I know, it seems a little corny to put my own book on this list but before I wrote Tainted Love I knew very little about the world of Domestic Abuse. I was researching for another storyline in the Valentina Secrets series and although I knew Faith’s story, I shied away from writing it because at the end of the day we’re told to write what you know and to be honest, I didn’t think I could. But Faith, bless her, eventually she took over my fingers and wrote her story herself, haha!
Once Tainted Love was released readers began telling me they identified with Faith and could relate to her story. I began to see how prevalent domestic abuse still is in today’s society and just because we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Advocating for victims and survivors, and raising awareness of domestic abuse is something that is close to my heart. I donate 50% of the royalties I receive from the Valentina Secrets Series to charities supporting victims of domestic abuse and it’s all down to Faith McKenzie. She has changed the very core of who I am.