How a book saved my life…

As I’m writing this post, I’m suffering from a huge book hangover. (“Suffering” in the best possible way.) Be warned.

reading gif

This morning I stumbled on a Two Nerdy History Girls blog post about a doll. Not just any doll, though. A Well Loved Georgian Doll and Her Wardrobe, c.1790. The thing about this doll is, not only did she survive intact from 1790, despite being designed and utilized as a child’s plaything, but so did her extensive wardrobe.

Reading the post slammed me right back to the age of ten, when Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess was one of my favorite books. Do you remember that story? Sara Crewe is brought to London by her wealthy father, who leaves her at a boarding school and returns to India. To keep her “company”, he buys her the most extravagant doll, with velvet dresses and lace underthings an even a fur coat – just like the doll in the post!

Back in the day, that book carried me away to Victorian London, to a lost little girl living in a garret, and by the way fueled way too many rescue fantasies.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit that last bit in public.

At any rate, a simple blog post brought back a flood of feelings for a book I haven’t though about in years. Which started me thinking about other books that have stayed with me, or turned up in key moments. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which taught me to love historical fiction. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which showed me the possibilities inherent in one man’s imagination. The Vampire Lestat, which sowed the seeds for ideas I’m still working through.

I’m old enough to have a head full of gray hair, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities for one  book to change the course of my life. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I’ve got many, many key memories linked to the books I was reading at the time. My 20s, when I devoured Michener and The Thornbirds, and Dune. My early 30s, when I attempted to raise my brow with literary fiction(ish) books like A.S. Byatt’s Possession. My 40s, when I basically realized I didn’t have to impress anybody, and allowed myself to indulge my love of genre fiction.

(Thank you Janet Evanovich. You rock.)

Beyond the big, broad strokes memories, I have some very specific connections. The sweet, cozy romance I read one harrowing night in an ER while waiting for a kid to be admitted to the hospital. (And I honestly don’t remember the name of the book, but it kept me from losing my mind.) Sitting in front of a huge stone fireplace on the Sunday evening of a Gregorian chant retreat, absolutely devouring Dead Until Dark, the first Sookie Stackhouse mystery. And before you laugh at my choice of reading material for a chant retreat, that was the book that made me say, “I want to DO that.”

And so a writer was born.

More recently, there was the time I went for a pedicure and decided to play Kindle-kamikaze, where I scrolled through, opened a book at random, and started reading. I picked a book called Scrap Metal by Harper Fox. I still don’t remember when or why I downloaded this book, but at the time I was somewhat startled to realize the POV character was just as male as the man he’d got down on his knees in front of. Scrap Metal was the first m/m romance I ever read, and it opened me up to a whole new world of fiction.

Which brings me to my current sorry state. I am SO hungover, you guys. Was up till all hours, reading one of the best books ever! Just thinking about it gives me little shivers. Also, tbh, I needed the distraction after spending most of the evening dealing with teenager drama. Mom needed a mental health break, and this book was the perfect answer.

The book? A Gentleman’s Position, book 3 in the Society of Gentlemen series by KJ Charles. You could read this one as a stand-alone, but really, one of the great pleasures of the series is how the stories are linked. Events that happen in one book are retold in the next, from different characters’ perspectives and carrying different levels of impact. It’s fascinating and elegantly done and adds so much to the stories overall.

If I had more space between these books and this post, I would have done something on how the trilogy, along with the prequel The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh, comprise a masters’ class in plotting. Not only are the stories interwoven, they’re constructed around actual historical events. For me as a reader it felt effortless. None of the seams showed.

As a writer, it blew me away.

I guess a more accurate title for this post would have been How Books Saved My Life, because they have, time and again. I’m going to let the original stand, though, because on any given day, there’s been ONE book that’s made a difference.

What book is that for you?

(And Nan, thanks for the tag.)


9 thoughts on “How a book saved my life…

  1. I LOVED this post, Liv. It’s so fabulous to get the potted history of your life through books. I have read and loved many of those you cite. (I still remember devouring The Thornbirds as a teenager many many moons ago.)

    And, thanks to you, Scrap Metal was one of the first m/m romances I read too — and loved/LOVE it so much. Along with all Harper Fox’s books.

    I have been waiting for A gentleman’s position to be released — I’m so glad to hear you love it. I adore the first one (A fashionable indulgence) and have been really looking forward to Richard and Cyprian’s story. I will let you know when I have read it (although won’t be for ages, because kindle-ban…).

    1. livrancourt says:

      I’m so in love with those three books. I swear, I might have to reread the set, just to study how she worked them all together. Thanks for your kind words!!!

  2. Wait, Liv, you haven’t reread them yet? And don’t forget the short with Silas and Cyprian! I waited until two days before A Gentleman’s Position dropped and read the others right up until it hit my Kindle (or rather, I finished a little less than an hour early and declared it “Bedtime!”–I’ll be in trouble when my kid can read clocks).

    Master class is right. I want to pick KJC’s brain to understand how she outlined. There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of stories told with at least partially concurrent timelines! That business is hard to pull off without being confusing, but she managed it so beautifully. The series functions as a single immersive experience, and I can’t wait until I can justify reading it again!

    1. livrancourt says:

      I think I might have sobbed a bit after reading the interlude story, because Cyprian broke my heart and I didn’t think I could stand waiting for AGP. And yeah, to me the best thing about the series as a whole is how high it sets the bar. I’m not sure an ordinary mortal like me could ever pull something like that off, but it gives me something to reach for.

  3. All of this. But most especially, “I basically realized I didn’t have to impress anybody, and allowed myself to indulge my love of genre fiction.”

    There is a lot to love out there. Some of it pretty impressive.

    1. livrancourt says:

      Right? When I was writing the post, I started listing all the genre authors I love, but I had to stop because the list would have taken over the post. 😉

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