Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tender is the Storm


Sharisse Hammond had no intention of giving herself to some rancher who had sent for a mail-order bride! She had gone West only to escape the New York society marriage her father was arranging. Lucas Holt's intentions were also less than honest. But their plans to use each other were soon complicated by unspoken desire. He never expected her to be so stunningly beautiful. And she never expected to want any man so much.

'When it’s dark, I turn on the music, I light the candles. There is no timetable for us, for the fantasy that we will make come true.'
Fabio (below)

There were many elements that came together during my childhood which have contributed to my passion for great imagery of the male form. One that recently came back to me was romance book covers. Now I've never read a romance novel, not there's anything wrong with that, my tastes just tend to run towards suspense and mystery. My night table tends to always have a Stephen King or James Patterson novel on it.

My mother read romances, especially historical ones. She didn't just read them, she devoured them in mass. When I was growing up, my mother always had a book in her hand, sometimes a small Harlequin Romance soft cover, other times a huge hard cover from the Library. My mom read so many, it was hard to keep up with the demand. She scoured flea markets and on-line ads, old book stores and thrift stores, grocery story book trades and friends to keep up with her pace.

It wasn't uncommon for my mother to read a book a day, she carried it from bedroom to living room, from kitchen to porch. Every vacation, a dozen packed amongst her clothes. My mom read so many she used a pencil to write AB inside each book to keep tabs and help her remember that she read it before. Without the AB, it sometimes took a few chapters for her to remember she'd read it before.

Our house often looked like an used book store. The paperbacks outgrew the many book cases in our home before I was born. They were piled on her nightstand, in piles on the floor by her bed. They filled the spare room, the file cabinet and in every drawer and corner. She did give them away, traded them in and donated them, but not matter how many left the house, it seemed more came in.

I occasionally took a pile to my bedroom, quietly, ensuring I wasn't seen. My goal wasn't wasn't to read, but enjoy the cover the art. It seemed on many of the covers, the art depicted the woman in control, fully dressed in some beautiful gown. Her lover was either shirtless, or having his shirt ripped off in the heat of passion. The women on the covers always appeared in the throws of passion, looking for her dashing hero to satisfy her throbbing needs in a frenzy of passionate lust.

It seemed the covers, and the books, got racier as I got older, some I saw after I moved out, on the bring of soft porn. The covers and the stories a stark contrast to the surface life my mother lead. She wasn't a woman who sought risk or adventure, but one who chose a more private and quiet existence. She didn't like to travel, especially not out of the country, nor she appear to have a passion for hobbies other than ones she could sew or create in her craft room.

When I got older, I saw these book, like the countless Hallmark and Lifetime movies she watched were her escape. She escaped virtually into the romantic and adventurous lives of the characters and their stories. I remember trying to get my mother to read The Firm, but a few chapters in, she was bored silly. Even with the suspense John Grisham created, there wasn't enough romance and heat to hold her interest.

After my mother died, one of the first things my father asked me was to help him get rid of all 'those books'. It wasn't her personal items, her clothes or personal hygiene items he thought should go first, it was the books. It made sense in a way, as they were everywhere, it was hard though, as they, like my mother, were everywhere. Piling those books into boxes changed the look and feel of every room in my parents house. I wondered if this was my father's reason, they were the most impactful and physical symbol of my mother's existence within the home.

I packed up close to a dozen boxes, checking out each cover, one last time. My siblings and aunt packed up dozens more boxes, ignoring the covers, but getting a few chuckles from a few of the titles. Tender is the Storm.

Ok, not a romantic novel cover, but romantic (and sexy) nonetheless

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought you might enjoy this description of a book cover, taken from the very funny novel Blue Heaven, by Joe Keenan:

Behind her, one hand placed roughly on her pale moonlit shoulder, stood a tall bare-chested fellow who, judging from his appearance, owned not only the castle but one of the few Nautilus machines available in nineteenth-century Cornwall.