Thursday, January 13, 2011

What are you reading...Lee McKenzie?

Harlequin American Romance author Lee McKenzie talks about how she got hooked on romance.

I’m currently on deadline to finish a book and when this happens I tend to not read anything but draft manuscripts. There are several reasons for this. For one, I can’t spare the time because when I start to read I will sit for hours, happily lost in a story. For another, when I’m writing I get completely wrapped up in my characters and need to stay focused until the book is finished. I don’t know if this is true for other writers, but it is for me.

Right now, in addition to being on deadline, my newest American Romance—The Wedding Bargain—was released this week and I’ve been doing some promotion, including a telephone interview earlier this week for an article in my local newspaper. When the reporter asked how long I’ve been reading romance novels, I told her since I was a teenager in (ahem) the sixties. My best friend’s mother would read the new Harlequins every month, then my friend would read them and pass them along to me. It only took one and I was hooked, and every month I looked forward to the new books.

If you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ll remember them—books like The Girl at White Drift by Rosalind Brett (April 1967).

“When Jerry arrived, all the way from England, to start a new life on her unknown guardian's farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains he was angry and taken aback to find that she was not, as he had assumed, a boy. Jerry, who couldn’t see that it mattered anyway, deeply resented his attitude, and in no time the sparks were flying between them. But ... a short three months later, how thoroughly each of them had changed their minds about the other!”

In those days the heroines were virgins and the heroes were alpha, and the conflict, often based on misconception and misunderstanding, totally worked for me. And what can I say...I adored stories about young women and their handsome guardians.
This week, after I finished the interview and got off the phone, I thought some more about the early romances I’ve read and realized my answer wasn’t accurate. I did start reading Harlequins as a teenager, but I started reading romance years earlier.

I grew up next door to a woman who was the children’s librarian at my local library, and when I was nine or ten she got me hooked on the classics. The first really romantic story I remember reading was the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maude Montgomery. It took several books for Anne and Gilbert to get together but even for a child, the anticipation was positively delicious.

From L. M. Montgomery, I moved on to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and I identified with Jo every bit as much as I had with Anne. Her uncertainty about her feelings for Laurie, the boy next door, her disappointment when he married her sister Amy, and then her meeting and ultimately falling in love with the professor, Fritz Bhaer. Ahhh. I’ve reread that book more times than I can count.

Numerous other childhood favourites held, for me at least, an element of romance—Heidi and Swiss Family Robinson, to name a few—but Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series was a particular favourite. It’s the pioneering spirit and historic details described in those books that give them their enduring quality—I even read to them to my own children when they were little—but for me the love story became every bit as important. And even though it’s been years since I’ve read them, the description of Laura and Almanzo traveling by sleigh across the lake in the winter is permanently etched in my memory.

When did you start reading romance? The next time someone asks me that question, I tell them I’ve been reading it forever

Lee’s new Harlequin American Romance, THE WEDDING BARGAIN is in stores now! Seductive entrepreneur Michael Morgan is offering the deal of a lifetime, but should Jess Bennett mix business with pleasure when it means risking everything, including her heart?

She’s also celebrating her first foreign sale! WITH THIS RING was reissued in December as a Mills & Boon Desire  in a duo with Michele Dunaway’s BACHELOR CEO. Join Brent Borden and Leslie Durrance for a merry little Christmas in July as they unwrap the greatest gift of

You can visit Lee at her website .


  1. Ohhh...Lee!

    I can't wait to read both these books. Congratulations! Loved your post...I was reading about the same time.

    I think my first romance was GONE WITH THE best friend and I fought over the last copy in the school library. She got nights. I got days [during class] guess who got in trouble? Haven't stopped reading romance since...

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane...

  2. I started reading Harlequin romances when I was 11. By that time I had read all the LM Mongomery books, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and others. I was too young to take out adult books from the library but my mom read Harlequins from there. After she caught me reading them by flashlight under the covers one night she let me read them openly. I have been reading quite a few of those older books this past year as one of the challenges on eHarlequin was to read a book for each year back to the year you were born in. Since I was born in 1948 that was 63 books. I loved some of the older books as they brought a lot of history out as well as romance. Yes the heroes were alpha and the heroines needed taking care of and the kiss at the end of the book was the highlight of the story. The books have gotten more complex and grittier as the years passed by and more diverse. I don't read from every line Harlequin puts out but I read from a lot of them and enjoy most of the books.

  3. Lovely post, Lee. You gave me fresh inspiration to enjoy what I do (and read!) each day. Aren't love stories wonderful?

    Congratulations on this latest release--it's great to see you doing so well :-)!

  4. Little Women still makes me mad. Teddy!!!! How can she not have picked Teddy!!!!!


  5. Carol, I had completely fogotten about all the trouble I used to get into for reading at school! I would try to be sneaky about reading a novel hidden under my math book, but after I minute or two I was in another world and never able to see the teacher coming.

  6. Kaelee, what a great challenge!

    In the early '60s I remember reading a lot of teen romances. I wasn't old enough for the adult department, either, but I could borrow books from the teen section. I remember many of those books were set in New England, often with a young woman who was leaving home, going off to college, falling in love...

    I loved those books, but sadly I can't recall a single title or author. If anyone does, please post them!

  7. Thank you, Terry! It's wonderful to be well!

  8. LOL, hornblower! I remember feeling that disappointment, but in the end I thought Fritz was her true soulmate.

  9. As a kid I loved all the same books you did, Lee.
    In my case the Harlequins came from my great-aunt, who must have shared subscriptions with half a dozen of her friends, because the flyleaf always listed their names and what they'd thought of that story.
    Mary – good.
    Ev – very good.
    That gave me a sense that books are best when they're shared – like a good meal or a spectacular view.

  10. Rachel, what a wonderful tradition among friends who exchange books. Thanks for sharing that with us!