My First Smut is a recurring feature where we talk about our formative smut experiences. These short confessionals may include such details as: What book did you read? How old were you? Were there other people involved? What made the experience special? What role does smut play in your life?
This week, after a long hiatus, My First Smut returns with a guest post by romance novelist Susan Craig. (You can find our reviews of her books here.)
Thinking back…wayback… to my first introduction to romance novels.
I was twenty-two years old and living on the South side of Chicago, four houses down the street from the tiny elementary school where my husband taught. I’d taught there too, until our daughter was born. Now I was a stay-at-home mom caring for a beautiful little girl.
Very stay-at-home. We had no car. In those days, we took the bus anywhere further than a walk away. It was easy. No need for schedules. You simply went to the stop and waited. Within fifteen minutes, your bus would come. But in the cold December weather, even with excellent public transport, I was not inclined to do much travelling with a baby.
So my daughter and I spent most of our time alone in our second floor walk-up.
My husband taught Monday through Friday and then worked every Saturday for the neighborhood butcher. His pay was $5 and enough meat to last us for a week. Sausage ends, the final narrow end of a bacon slab, and fresh calves liver. Sometimes a few chops or some ground beef. The butcher and his wife took good care of us. We were as happy as two people can be, but when we were apart, even with my beautiful little girl, I was lonely.
The butcher’s wife was the stereotypical German housfrau. She was as tall as her husband, with grey hair pulled back in a bun, and strong. With her sturdy hands and solid-fleshed arms she threw huge pieces of uncut beef around like you or I would throw a chicken carcass. And her heart was golden.
One weekend she invited out little family over for Sunday dinner. Old fashioned beef stroganoff. Amazing. Lots of cooked vegetables. Chocolate cake for dessert and later, crackers with corned beef spread as we sat at ease in their cozy living room. She and I chatted while the guys watched television, and I said something about needing to get a library card when the weather warmed up.
“You like to read?” she asked.
“I love to read,” I said wistfully. “But our library is mostly our old college textbooks. Right now I’m reading Lord of the Rings for the seventh time.”
“It must be good for you to read it so often.”
“Oh, it is, but it’s also the only fiction I have around.”
She nodded and conversation moved on. Eventually we bundled up for the walk home.
“Ralph will drive you,” she informed her husband.
“Yes, of course,” he said, rising to get his own coat.
“Wait just one minute,” she said. She left the room and returned with a large brown paper grocery bag. It was full to the very top with paperback books. “You read these,” she said, pushing the bag into my arms. “When you finish, bring them back and I will give you more.”
“Thank you,” I said, barely noticing titles or covers. Something new to read!
When I got home, I unpacked the books onto our ancient walnut sideboard. The entire bag was full of romance novels. Books by Dame Barbara Cartland, Iris Danbury, Jean S MacLeod and more. Harlequin romances and old Mills & Boon novels. Some had pages yellowed and brittle with age. Some were new, the covers barely creased.
So I read. And read. And re-read, and pondered. At church the next Sunday, I returned her bag of books, having read every single one at least once. That afternoon, she dropped by to bring me another bag full of timid English governesses and masterful Greek or Spanish men, living in a world where every household had servants, and every heroine was virginal.
I still remember some passages from that first introduction to the genre…
“He bit into the peach with his strong white teeth.”
“He hung his shirt neatly on a tree branch and went to help his men unload the wagon. She watched from the shelter of the trees. His skin was bronzed and firm.”
“The dueno spoke. ‘After she has been thoroughly loved a woman needs two things: Something cold to drink and her privacy. Here is iced juice, and no one will disturb you until you ring.’ ”
I was hooked. I’ve been reading romance ever since.
Susan Craig is an author, blogger, nature-junkie, and believer in Happily Ever After.
She went to graduate school, full-time, at thirty-six years old, with three children at home, to get a neurobiology Ph.D. After ten years doing brain research, she switched to teaching high school, then teaching college, then being a university dean—each time moving across country to do so. Twice she and her husband have completed whole-house renovations. After all this, amazingly, their marriage and their love are still intact.
Susan began writing romance, because she wanted to do something completely different than her day-to-day life. She hadn’t written fiction for years—not since the Nancy Drew mysteries she and her friends spun off in seventh grade.
Today, Susan enjoys using her imagination to create stories of love and romance where the only thing sacred is the Happily Ever After. Beyond that, all bets are off… Susan loves skirting around expectations and bringing a fresh twist to her characters.
Admittedly, her heroes are usually tall, strong, and devastating, but they are unlikely to be billionaires. And her heroines might fall for the wrong man. They might not always be assertive enough to satisfy the gender role police, just as her heroes may not always be politically correct in their attitudes and behavior. “Face it,” she says. “How many truly perfect men are out there? I write fiction, not fantasy.”
A Midwesterner by birth, Susan currently lives on a lake in the beautiful state of Texas with her wickedly funny husband and their two mixed breed dogs, Tanner and Lady.
Thank you to Susan for sharing such a lovely first smut experience!
Have an early smut experience you’d like to share with us? If you’d like to see your story featured, send us a note and we’ll post it in an upcoming week.