Bedside Reading
by Cathy Maxwell

I’ve been writing late into the evening. I’m tired and ready for bed. I climb the stairs. There’s a crack of light under my fifteen year old daughter’s bedroom door.

She’s reading. She has started a book she can’t put down . . . and memories rush back to me of nights I’ve been unable to close a book, turn off the light, and leave the characters behind, nights when the very best use of my time was to stay up until two reading.

Chelsea started reading romance last year.

My mother, an avid romance reader, said, “She’s too young. I don’t know what I think about this.”

I shrug. “During the opening teaser of her favorite television show the characters discussed multiple orgasms. I want her to read about valid relationships: relationships that honor commitment, women who are strong characters with goals, and where sex is a healthy thing.”

Mother thinks about this a moment. “Tell her to read Nora Roberts.”

That was the beginning. The best part of parenting is being a mentor. It’s my responsibility to introduce her to good music, food, entertainment, and, most important, my favorite romance authors. Jennifer Blake, Maggie Osborne/Margaret St. George, Johanna Lindsey, Tom and Sharon Curtis, Anne Stuart, Theresa Weir, Georgette Heyer, the list goes on and on.

And it isn’t just the authors but the books, the stories.

“Read SURRENDER IN SCARLET by Patricia Camden.”

“Is it good?” Chelsea asks.


“What about this?” She holds up a Karen Robards. TIGER’S EYE.

“Must read,” I tell her.

Then there is THE WOLF’S HOUR by Robert McCammon. I mean to give it to her but end up re-reading it myself. Same with Spencer’s HUMMINGBIRD . . . and Kinsale’s PRINCE OF MIDNIGHT, Woodiwiss’s SHANNA and THE WOLF AND THE DOVE. Classics, I tell her, and she dutifully reads. The bookshelf in her room is full.

“What do you have to read?” Chelsea asks, rummaging through the books in my office. She spies the pile I purchased that afternoon from the book store. Pamela Morsi’s NO ORDINARY PRINCESS and Robin Lee Hatcher’s DEAR LADY disappear into her room.

When I wanted to read Bonnie Tucker’s HANNAH’S HUNKS. I couldn’t find it until I got down on my hands and knees and dug around under Chelsea’s bed. I discover my planned reading for the last two months under there.

We read other things of course. I’d walk barefoot across cut glass to read Florence King and I’m still mourning the death of Mike Royko. Researching my next book, I read VANISHING CORNWALL by Daphne du Maurier which kicked off a du Maurier fiction streak. Then there is Dick Francis and Bernard Cornwall. Chelsea has been feasting on Ray Bradbury. A school assignment of FARNHEIT 451 has sent us both pell-mell after his short stories.

It’s something we share, this love of a good tale. It’s common ground for when the parent/teen stuff gets to be too much. Here is a way of teaching her the values I hold important without the lectures. Through Hatcher, Roberts, Spencer, and all the others, she learns what makes a relationship work, that making mistakes isn’t the end of the world, and that like Scarlett said, there will always be a tomorrow.

One night, she appeared at my office door, WHITNEY MY LOVE in her hand. “I just love happy endings,” she said with a satisfied sigh . . . and I understood exactly what she meant: the hero and heroine are safe in each other’s arms, the villains of the world receive justice, and love gives meaning to life.

I wish for each of my children lives full of such happy endings.

So, I don’t knock on Chelsea’s door and tell her “light’s out.” Not just yet. I can let her have a half hour more, and I go to my room to unwind and lose myself in a good book.