Monday, April 18, 2011

Different Strokes for Different Folks

I read a great post on Janice Hardy's post called "They're just not that into you." It was about reviews and how to handle them. Reviews, like critiques, are a part of a writer's life and one must develop a thick skin when one has presented creative work to the great wide world. But Janice brought out a great point: not every book will appeal to every reader. Just like in dating, you come across ones that just don't click with you.

But you also find great ones that you absolutely adore and you don't care that Joe Schmo gave it only 2 stars, because this particular book contains the Mysteries of the Universe, or the Best Adventure Ever, or your Favorite Hero/Heroine.

It made me think about an essay I wrote for a scrapbooking page back in 2008 about one of my favorite authors, Essie Summers. I have since shared my favorites with several friends, and everyone returns them unread. WHY? I have no idea.

Obviously Different Tastes.

So here is my tribute to my favorite vintage Harlequin Romance writer in the world.  Maybe you might want to try one of her books. Maybe you never will.

Fine by me. They are out of print and it will make it easier for me to find them on E-bay! Ha, ha, ha!

Essie Summers...My "comfort food" of the literary world. When the week's been rough, or the kids have been extra wild, or Mark's been a bit crabby, or I'm just blue...I can pull out an old favorite and snuggle down for a good read.

"Who is Essie Summers?" you might say. Well, she is and author from New Zealand who wrote romance novels from the 1950's through the early 1980's. My mother used to read them as well as other vintage Harlequin Romance authors while I was growing up. When I got to be a teen and wanted a bit of romance in my reading, my mom would pull out a few shoe boxes from under the bed and I would search through the yellowed paperbacks for something to ease my teenage angst. I loved other novelists like Mary Burchell (London opera world) and Betty Neels (plump English nurses and dashing Dutch doctors). But Essie had something that they never had.

Through Essie, I discovered a wonderful world called New Zealand, long before Peter Jackson was a household name. With her books I have breathed the bracing air of the Southern Alps. I have saved orphan lambs with a bottle of milk near a warm woodstove. I have listened to a different type of "pioneer" tales of whalers, miners and antipodean immigrants. I have experienced life in the "draper's" world, behind a counter in a family department store. Essie's descriptions of Lake Tekapo and Wanaka and the beauty of a sunrise from Akaroa, or a sunset from the Milford Sound, have all thrilled me. "En-Zed" tops my list of 1001 places to see before I die, and I have made my husband solemnly swear to take me there someday...preferably before arthritis sets in.

Her men were bold, but men of honor and kindness, who had a knack of great repartee. Her women had guts, compassion and intelligence. I looked up to her heroines who could hold their own on a sheep station with a ruggedly handsome rancher, a couple of kids (usually nieces or nephews of said handsome rancher), three or four hired hands to cook for and usually the electricity went out at least once. Of course when the soon-to-be-couple snapped at each other, I knew it was just because they were fighting attraction as well as being tired after a long days work. They would often have some quiet evenings sitting on the couch just reading a book by the fire. And towards the end, there would be some great emergency when they would prove to each other their commitment and integrity.  I knew there would be wedding bells soon.

Before I ever fell in love, Essie taught me that a relationship begins with conversation, a meeting of minds and later hearts and spirits. She reminded me that poetry is for both men and women to express themselves. Essie warned me that the path of love doesn't always run smooth, but it does run true. Essie taught me that character matters and an honest man who loves you is worth more than anything the outside world could offer. Everything my mother taught me about love was echoed by Essie. And now that I have fallen in love with my own sweet man, I cherish Essie's stories even more.

If I ever have a daughter, I will share my Essie Summers romance novels with her, like my mother did with me. I remember getting the shoeboxes out from under her bed and her commenting, "If the price tag is about a dollar or less, you know it's a clean read." My sister and I knew that we could read any of them and feel the tingles of vicariously falling in love, without something gross or embarrassing happening. I know I can trust Essie to teach a girl about love...that when Mr. Fantastic comes around, a girl can lose her heart with our losing her head.

Essie has passed away now, and her books are out of print...but that makes my sweet Essie Summers romance novels more treasured than ever.

 So, to all bibliophiles out there, wherever you may be and whatever book is in your hand...

 Happy Reading!

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