This week’s If You Like comes courtesy of Christine, on a topic that certainly rings a bell for me: books you discover and then wonder what on earth took you so long.
I recently had a conversation with someone about coming in late to a book that has been around for years. She has just started reading Outlander. When I read Outlander, in 2010, I couldn’t believe I had never read this book before. It was like, where have you been all my life? Or, rather, where have I been for the last 18 years? (or maybe it’s that I was 11 in 1992 and it would’ve been really inappropriate for me to have read it then) Here are some other books that it took me a long time to find.
– The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – published 2005, read 2008
I’ll start with an obvious one. When I read Pink Carnation, I absolutely couldn’t believe I hadn’t found this series before. It covered just about every genre I love – historical fiction, spies, romantic comedy. I fell in love.
– Harry Potter – published 1997, read 2001
Back in 2000, my little cousin was raving about a book she was reading. I had no idea what she was babbling about – wizards, scars, Volde-who? I just thought it was cute that she was so into it. A year and a half later, the first movie came out. My roommate had the first two books so I thought I’d give it a shot. I finally understood why my cousin had been so excited.
– Susanna Kearsley – Mariana first published in 1994, read in 2012
I know a lot of people on this site rave about Susanna Kearsley, and it’s completely warranted. Her books are fantastic. Unfortunately, not all of them are currently in print in the US. I use Mariana as the example because it’s her oldest book that is currently available in the US. The Splendour Falls, first published in 1995, will be available in the US next year and I’m so excited. I’ve been waiting to read this one. My first Kearsley was The Rose Garden, and since then, I’ve read all the ones that are available here and each one is unbelievable. The history is incredibly well-researched, to the point where I really thought all the characters and events were fictional, only to learn that, in some of the books, she had inserted her own characters into the lives of real people. She brings characters alive and you feel like you actually know them. I want to hang out with some of them.
– Daughter of the Game/Secrets of a Lady – Tracy Grant – published 2002, read 2010
This book was first published as Daughter of the Game, then re-printed as Secrets of a Lady. The sequel, Beneath a Silent Moon, was published in 2003. I read both in 2010 and loved them. Also historical fiction, with spies and a bit of romance, but darker than the Pink Carnation series. After the first two books, Tracy got a new publisher and the rest of the series was published under the name Teresa Grant. The names of the characters, and some of the details, have been changed, but it’s largely the same series. The character name change took some getting used to (I still think of them as Charles and Melanie), but the books are the same great quality. Wonderful, vibrant historical settings, and great mysteries.
– The Firm – published 1992, read 1996
I haven’t read a Grisham in years (mostly because I felt there was a noticeable drop-off in quality) but the first four were amazing. The Firm was my first, followed quickly by The Client, The Pelican Brief: A Novel, and A Time to Kill. Heart-pounding thrillers, great characters, books I could read over and over again.
– The Ring – published 1980, read 1996
I read a lot of Danielle Steel in high school. I loved the historical fiction, wasn’t so crazy about the contemporary ones. The romances were always over the top and sweeping, the historical settings were always time periods I was interested in, and there were just so darn many of them! You knew exactly what you were getting into with a Danielle Steel book. I even wrote my AP English final paper about Danielle Steel. I don’t think my teacher was too crazy about that. I devoured these books. The Ring came first for me (after I saw the made-for-tv movie), followed by many many others. I spent the summers of 1997 and 1998 reading every historical Steel book that had been published up to that point that the library had. Over time I outgrew the books, but there are a few, like The Ring and Message From Nam, that will always hold a special place in my book-loving heart. And along a similar line…
– A Woman of Substance – published 1979, read circa 1997
Sweeping historical family saga?! Why couldn’t I have been born sooner so I could’ve read this when it first came out?! Another series of fantastic books. This book kicked off a huge Barbara Taylor Bradford kick that lasted years, but, unfortunately, I felt a drop-off in quality in her books as well. The original Emma Harte trilogy was the best. The ones that came after in the series were not so great., but I read them anyway. There were also a handful of stand-alones that I loved.
What books did it take you years to discover? And when did you first read a Pink Carnation book?
I feel vaguely smug that I discovered Outlander and the Kearsley books right when they came out, but there are a number of others to which I came late. To add my list to Christine’s:
– Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series, starting with It Had To Be You (published 1994, read 2007). My sister had been telling me for ages that I had to read these…. It took me a while, but I quickly made up for lost time.
— Elizabeth George’s Lynley novels, starting with A Great Deliverance (published 1988, read 2002). So much better than the PBS adaptation!
— Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare and Russ Van Alstyne mysteries, starting with In the Bleak Midwinter (published 2002, read 2009). I owe this one to social media buzz. Once I read that first book, I rushed out and bought all the others to date.
— It feels like it took me a very long time to discover Kristan Higgins’s contemporary romances, starting with Just One of the Guys, but now that I look it up, I discover that I was only two years late to the Higgins party: the first, Fools Rush In, came out in 2006 and I discovered Just One of the Guys in 2008, thanks to an All About Romance review. (Thanks, AAR!)
Which books did you come late to?