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Marsha Zinberg PhotoIf you’ve spent any amount of time swimming around the pond, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that more than a few of us have mad love for Harlequin.  We read ’em, we review ’em, we love them with the kind of slavish devotion usually reserved for stalkers.  So when we learned that Harlequin editor, Marsha Zinberg was doing a blog tour in honor of Harlequin’s Famous Firsts collection, we jumped at the chance to have her stop by for a visit. OK, in truth we just about fell all over ourselves.  But Marsha is made of some stern stuff, and we’re happy to report we didn’t scare her off with our borderline rabid fan girl behavior.  So, without further ado – here’s Marsha sharing with us the romance novels that got some of Harlequins “Famous Firsts” on the path to romance super-stardom!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the creation of excellence or the achievement of success usually stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before.

There was little hesitation when I asked the Famous Firsts authors about the books that had turned them on to romance, or the authors that they had particularly loved. As you may have guessed, I fell under the spell of Jane Austen in high school, and a much-thumbed school edition of Pride and Prejudice still holds pride of place on my bookshelves.

I discovered that I shared that early delight with Stella Cameron, who also loved the Whiteoaks series.

For Carla Neggers, it was The Moonspinners, by Mary Stuart, which she read when she was twelve. A short dozen years later, she had produced her own first novel.

Anne Stuart was only ten when she fell under the gothic spell of Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt. She asked her grandmother for the hardcover for Christmas, and thus began her romance reading career!

Joan Johnston loved Jude Devereux’s Velvet series. She was thrilled to be the winner of an autographed copy of Velvet Angel when it was raffled off at the second annual Romantic Times convention. She only had to pay the postage! She also mentioned that Roberta Gellis’s Rosalynde series taught her to bring dimension to her characters by having them say one thing and think something else entirely.

Famous Firsts SaleKathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove hooked Debbie Macomber. She also loved early Harlequin romances by Ann Mather and Violet Winspear.

Linda Lael Miller wasn’t a southern girl, but she fell hard for Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. (Another favorite of mine, too!) And Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love followed close behind.

Lori Foster claims that school never gave her a huge love of reading, but historical romances, such as those by Johanna Lindsay, really engaged her. Then she moved on to early books of Linda Howard and Jayne Ann Krentz, and the rest is history…..

Her journalism background caused Vicki Lewis Thompson to approach an early romance by Tate McKenna as a research project. What was all this fuss about romance writing? Could she do it? She sure could, and she sure did.

Now here’s a lovely story that I just learned. Lindsay McKenna met her husband in 1972, when she was in her late twenties. Her husband-to-be took his betrothed to Genevieve, Ohio to meet his mother, and the thing she most wanted to share with her soon-to-be daughter-in-law was her Harlequin romance novels. She was particularly fond of doctor/nurse stories. Lindsay dutifully took home ten or fifteen, read them, enjoyed them, but thought she could do better. So she decided to try writing one herself. She credits her mother-in-law with introducing her to the romance industry and starting her career!

What romances do you consider “classics”? Please share your favorites with me. I’d love to know what book or author initiated your romance reading habit!

Please be sure to come visit me at Pink Hearts on Thursday, June 18 and at The Misadventures of Super Librarian next Monday, June 22! I’ve had great fun on this tour and your comments have been fascinating.

My previous blogs stops include: Bookbinge, Plot Monkeys, Blaze authors blog, Romance Junkies, Romancing the Blog, Dear Author, Cataromance, and Teach Me Tonight – a different Harlequin Famous First story at every blog.

Don’t forget that you can enjoy 16 free Harlequin novels by downloading them at www.HarlequinCelebrates.com.

Famous Firsts GiveawayContest Alert! We’ll be giving away two Harlequin tote bags, filled with eight (!) books by some of Harlequin’s Famous Firsts!  Share your favorite classic romance in the comments, and one lucky winner will be chosen at random.  Contest ends Monday, June 22!