When the weather’s hot and humid, there’s nothing like retreating to the cottage for a few days (or weeks, if you’re lucky!). Somehow, life’s pressures mean that my reading is squeezed in between everything else I should be doing: laundry, housekeeping, dinners, chauffeuring, kids and the rest.
But I spent four days last week at the family cottage in Muskoka last week and it was a lovely break. No computer, no internet, no cable. And unfortunately, for me, no books, because in the rush of making sure everyone else was packed, I forgot any reading material for myself. But never fear, because I come from a family of readers and none of us venture far without something to peruse! So I rummaged through the bookshelves and in between the P.D. James and Robert Ludlums, I came across some Harlequins (not even ‘Presents’ or ‘Romances’ – just Harlequins!) from the 1970s and early 1980s.
I’d like to say it was research but it was just fun to see how much and how little things have changed in romance novels. In the evenings, I read “Master of the House” by Lillian Peake, which was published in 1974. What a hoot! Petra and Alaric had a suitably tortuous road to the altar and proof that alpha males with large National Trust houses are appealing no matter the width of their plaid bellbottoms and wide-lapelled corduroy sports coats.
I’m also very glad I submit my manuscripts electronically otherwise my editor would really wonder just what happened to pages 137, 138 and 139. They have the look of being well-penciled, blown off the dock into a lake, hung to dry on the clothes line next to the bathing suits and towels and then smooshed back in order once they were dry.
Probably because that’s exactly what happened to them.
Because while I’d forgotten any books, I had brought a new manuscript to edit. I was going great guns when I got up to undo a recalcitrant life jacket and forgot to put my chosen paperweight (aka a hunk of granite plucked from the shore) on my latest work in progress. Luckily, six year olds think chasing Mommy’s writing down through the shallow water is lots of fun and all the pages were eventually recovered, sodden but essentially reparable. Eat your heart out, Margaret Atwood, eat your heart out.