Booktopia’s newly appointed full-time Romance Specialist Haylee Nash tells us about her love of the love of love.
In year five, I was given ‘The Talk’.
At school that day, we’d just had a rather clinical explanation of the wheres, hows and what-fors of the birds and the bees, but I wanted details. My mother sat awkwardly on the end of my bed and asked if I had any questions.
“And what’s that?”
“What does it feel like?”
Her answer sounded vaguely painful and distinctly undesirable which, looking back, I suppose was the point. And while I continued to like boys with the same ferocity I’d had since pre-school, I had no desire to do IT.
And then, in Year 9, I read a Mills & Boon. Man, my mum had it wrong! Not only could IT be way more fun than hanging out at the local Westfield or dancing to Christina Aguilera, but the men in these books were so much hotter than any of the boys at the inter-school Catholic dances. And in these books, unlike in the fairytales I’d grown up on, the women weren’t saved by the men, but rather the hero and heroine saved each other. Deep sigh.
In my early years at uni, I put aside Mills & Boon in favour of ‘real’ books – Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, The Consolation of Joe Cinque by Helen Garner, anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Some of which I even read! But when it was time to read a book purely for pleasure, I always picked up a romance – a Jane Green, a Cathy Kelly, a Stephanie Bond. Then it came time to find a topic for my honours thesis.
My friends were writing about the gaps in meaning in poetry in translation, and performances of gender in evangelical religion. I was stumped. So I took a year out and worked in a shoe shop…and rediscovered Mills & Boon. It felt like coming home. I found my thesis topic. Reading and desire in Mills & Boon. I got first class honours and it felt like I was cheating – no essay had ever been so easily written. But that’s what happens when you write about what you love.
The rest is history.
I now fly the flag for all kinds of romance whenever possible. And I only read for pleasure – life’s too short to read for any other reason.
Oh, and the Mills & Boon authors were right. IT is lots of fun.
Haylee Nash has been reading and raving about romance for 15 years. She has previously worked as the Publishing Manager at Harlequin Australia and during her time there launched the Harlequin Teen, Harlequin Spice and local acquisition programmes, as well as Harlequin’s digital-first romance imprint, Escape Publishing. Haylee is now the Romance Specialist at Booktopia.
You can follow her on twitter here.