Monday’s post on Tuesday does not count as late if Monday was a holiday. Not sure if a holiday counts as such if it’s as disgustingly hot as this one was, but I got to spend Sunday with my good friend, Mary W, and her hubby :waves hi: so that definitely gets holiday points.
In preparation for the visit (and because it had long since fallen into ‘high time’ territory) I hauled a mostly unused bookcase into my office and busted my special keepers out of the storage box where they’d been since the big move and got them out on display.
Getting these old favorites out of mothballs and out where they can see them gave me a jolt of energy. This is why I read and write romance. If some of these books look well-read, it’s because they are, studied as much as read for pleasure. Those Valerie Sherwood books? Saved my bum in a pre-Revolutionary history final in college, where I needed to detail the contributions of three ethnic groups other than the English, that were essential to the survival of the colonies on an economic level. First two that came to mind were easy; indigenous and African, one group here already, and the other not here by choice, but both contributed much. Then my mind skidded to a halt. Sure, I’d studied, but could I remember any of that? Nope, what my brain wanted to hang onto was that scene in Bold Breathless Love, where the heroine escapes her abusive husband by ice boat on the Hudson Riv…waaaaait a minute. Creepy abusive husband dude was Dutch, and so was the ice boat, and ice skating, and those were pretty darned useful, because otherwise, there is zero river commerce during the winter months, and then how are we going to get goods from producer to consumer, hm? Ice, ice, baby. Bonus points for those who know the legal name of the gentleman who popularized that phrase is Robert Van Winkle.
There’s a lot to be said for getting in touch with one’s bookish roots, and it’s a practice I highly recommend. Though I haven’t been reading a lot of current historical romances lately, merely seeing these books on shelves made my reader heart go pitter-pat. I want to reread that one and that one and that one, and ooh, that one. The array of settings and eras here dazzled me then, and it still does. 19th century Russia? English Civil War and Restoration? Georgian England? Colonial America? Yes, yes, yes and yes. This is a shelf full of unicorn chow, and I couldn’t be happier to have it out in the open again.
The book I’m holding in today’s picture is Call Back the Dream, by Barbara Hazard. It’s the first book I ever wrote a fan letter after reading, and I still remember being gobsmacked when Ms. Hazard actually sent back a personal reply. Not light reading, by any stretch of the imagination, and those brave enough to crack that gorgeous Elaine Duillo cover are going to need Kleenex and possibly counseling, because man oh man, the emotions here, and they are directly dependent on the historical world in which Camille and Alexander, the lovers depicted in said illustration live.
No rubbing of elbows with the movers and shakers of the time, but two star crossed lovers from different classes that society has decreed do not mix. Camille is the daughter of a vicar, Alexander the son of an earl, and those readers with some familiarity with the way things worked in the middle of the eighteenth century know this is not going to be an easy road. It’s not, and that’s what makes it a darned good story. Marrying other people? Well, duh. Secrets and lies? Um, yeah. Matters Need to Be Dealt With because those crazy kids and their radical ideas do not jibe with the Way Things Are Done. There’s breeding to consider, in both senses of the world, and the road to happily ever after takes Camille and Alexander fifteen freaking years to traverse. Yeah, baby.
Make no mistake, they make it to their mountaintop, but there are Ramifications, which Ms. Hazard further explores in the sequel, The Heart Remembers, which puts Camille and Alexander’s natural son, Jack, in the spotlight, after he finds out the way his family tree is really rooted, and he does not take it well. I’ll be rereading that one after I reread Call Back the Dream. I did write Ms. Hazard back and ask if there was going to be a third book, to bring certain events full circle, and, though she allowed I was right about certain things, wasn’t sure if the book would be written. To my knowledge, it has not, and, believe Ms. Hazard is not currently writing, unless it is under a pseudonym. If so, I want to know what it is, because I will read those books.
These books get unicorn chow points because, double-digit years after first reading them, I remember, vividly, specific scenes. Camille’s first appearance, doing laundry on a hot and humid day, the books (Pamela, by Samuel Richardson) Alexander left for Camille to read in secret, The Fire. Those who have read this book know what I mean, and those who haven’t, you’re in for a treat.
That’s the kind of book I want to produce, so that’s the kind of book I need to make sure I’m taking in, as often as possible. Reading these books reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing, and makes me want to do everything I can to earn my own books a space on that shelf. Ms. Hazard, wherever you are, I’m leaving a light on for you and setting a place at the table.