And today we’re moving into the 1990s – the fourth in a series of articles where RNA authors look back at their favourite romance reads through the decades to celebrate 60 years of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Today I’m delighted to welcome Jeevani Charika – you might also know her as Rhoda Baxter – recalling the book that changed the whole course of romance writing…
Here’s the thing. I didn’t read much romance in the 90s. I read mostly fantasy (when I read any fiction at all – because at university for most of the decade, where I was busy doing student stuff). So why did I choose the 90s? Because of one book – Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.
I had this book thrust into my hand during a biochemistry lab practical by a friend who loved it so much that she nagged me to read it. It had a picture of a woman smoking on the cover (we were allowed covers that were not pink and cartoony back then). I was sceptical, but I read it and LOVED it.
I wasn’t the only one. It spoke to a whole generation of young women who saw themselves reflected in Bridget one way or another. It had humour that chimed with our own. It was also a love story with a hero who was a nice guy. At the time, it was a phenomenon. It sold so well that it created a whole new genre – ‘chicklit’ as we know it.
Although chicklit is considered to be a nineties phenomenon, a lot of the books that I consider to be chicklit classics came out in the early 2000s. But the book that paved the way for them all is firmly from the 90s.
I love a rom com, especially one that deals with deeper themes in the background, as chicklit books often do. I used to hate the pink covers with the swirly writing, but I’ve got used to those now too … and we seem to have moved on from candy pink these days anyway. So thank you 1990s for Bridget Jones. Without her I would never have realised that romance was my kind of genre.
Thank you Jeev – do you know, I was strangely never a real fan of Bridget Jones as a book, but I loved the films (quick chorus of “All By Myself” anyone?)! And I see this one was a runaway winner in Tuesday’s poll on the RNA twitter feed – today you can vote for your favourite from the 2010s, with all the daily winners competing for “winner of winners” on Saturday.
So what were the other 90s contenders? Well, there was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres (never did manage to finish that one – but loved the film!); the wonderful Chocolat by Joanne Harris (goodness, was that really the 90s?); and Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, which was my personal choice, but perhaps not entirely because of the romance.
I always think of the 90s as my Maeve Binchy years – together with quite a few of the aga sagas of Joanna Trollope. And those were also the years when so many new and exciting authors began to emerge, all writing books that made me a romance reader – Jill Mansell (of course), Erica James, Cathy Kelly, Carole Matthews, Catherine Alliott, Katy Fforde, Judy Astley…
Join me again tomorrow, when Miranda Dickinson will be choosing her favourite books from the 2000s…
About Jeevani Charika
Jeevani* writes multicultural women’s fiction. She was born in the South of England, but spent much of her childhood in Sri Lanka, with short forays to Nigeria and Micronesia, before returning to settle in Yorkshire. She studied Biochemistry and Microbiology at Oxford and ended up working in university technology transfer. All of this, it turned out, was an excellent preparation for becoming a novelist.
She also writes romantic comedies under the name Rhoda Baxter. Her books have been shortlisted for the RoNA awards, the Love Stories awards and the Joan Hessayon award. She is a member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.
Jeevani loves all things science geeky. She also loves cake, crochet and playing with Lego. You can find out more about her (and get a free story by signing up to her newsletter) on her website.
(*Jeevani is pronounced ‘Jeev-uh-nee’. Or just call her Jeev…)
You can find out more about her (and get a free book by signing up to her newsletter) on her website.