My First Smut

My First Smut: Catnip, meet Natalie

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, Natalie (smut-lover extraordinaire) talks about her journey from 1980s Harlequins to all the great historical romance being written now.


I am a 4th generation Romance Novel reader, so I come by it pretty honestly. Maybe because of this, it’s hard to identify my first official smut. I had always read romance in some age-appropriate capacity. I first saw Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 6th grade. During Jr. High gym class, I would sneak into the locker rooms to read Lori Wick and Gilbert Morris (these are very clean, sweet Christian young adult romances). But for argument’s sake, I usually identify Harlequin Romance #2951 Strictly Business by Leigh Michaels, published in 1988 as my first adult Romance Novel. I was 15 when I read it. It’s a delicious plot about two friends who are running a fragrance company together. Friends to Lovers. Natalie, meet Catnip. Catnip, meet Natalie.

I found the book stashed deep in a book shelf at a relatives house while visiting one summer. I snuck the book back into my borrowed bedroom and read it at night after everyone went to sleep. Once I was a married grown-up and beyond being punish for reading smut, I confessed to this. And, to my delight, the book was given to me as a gift. I will treasure it always.

In college I read lots of Jill Mansell and Lauren Willig, who are on the softer end of the explicit spectrum, usually housed in the Fiction sections rather than Romance. Then, when my husband and I were dating, he took me on my favorite date: there is this special spot in Buffalo Grove, Il where The Cheesecake Factory shares a parking lot with Barnes & Nobel. I know, the man knew how to win me. He made me pick a book out in the Romance section because he thought it would be dirty and fun for “us.” Little did he know what he had started. I picked out Duchess in Love by Eloisa James and was blown away. I began to inhale every Historical Romances I could get my hands on. And the rest is history.

I have learned so much from Romance Novels. How to advocate for myself in a relationship. What a solid, equal relationship looks like. How to be comfortable in my own skin. And honestly, a lot about sex too. Growing up, there wasn’t really a stigma on sex, but it was considered so private, that I entered adulthood not really knowing more than the mechanics taught in sex-ed. Reading Romance Novels helps people learn that what our bodies are doing is normal and should be celebrated. I continue to learn about the genre though listening to all kinds of podcasts that discuss the art of writing romance, taking deep dives into the genre, and just gabbing about plots.

I love talking about Romance so come and find me on Instagram, Goodreads and even Etsy! I’m also hosting a Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long on Discord and would love for you to join me!


Thanks Natalie! We totally agree: cheesecake and smut make for the best date ever.

PS: Y’all, Natalie’s Etsy shop has a bunch of super-cute romance swag.

Have an early smut experience you’d like to share with us? If you’d like to see your story featured, send us an email or fill out our questionnaire and we’ll post it in an upcoming week.

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